Top Dating Deal-Breakers
In the not-too-distant past, my friends gave me the nickname of Miss Fussydrawers when it came to the opposite sex. I was very picky about who I dated and was quick to dismiss those who didn't hit an incredibly high bar I'd set. In fact, the memoir I wrote at age 50 began like this:
This man is wearing jeans with creases. Ironed-in creases. And tassels on his expensive loafers -- like my dad's.
I went on to deride this look as making a statement of sorts: that my prospective date was a yuppie with no style sense -- and I didn't want to get to know him better for that reason. His style was, for me, a deal-breaker.
It seemed to make total sense at the time, but when I read it now it makes me cringe. How could I have been so superficial? Yet it seemed normal at the time, and probably was, given my age.
Deal-breakers have always been part of dating -- out of necessity. When we're young, we need to discover what those boundaries are to mitigate the potential chaos of dating a new person every night. Tall, short, rich, poor, spiritual, atheist? When you're in your teens and 20s, you couldn't care less. If this person is fun and attractive, it's party time!
There seems to be a bell curve when it comes to deal-breakers: The longer we date, the more exacting the list becomes. In our 30s and 40s, our restrictions become constrictions, until they reach a point of ridiculousness. (See this long list compiled by the female staff of the youth-centric culture and fashion website ecosalon. Inappropriate use of flip-flops? Sporting a soul patch? Really?)
Then, after a certain point, it appears as though our long list of deal-breakers shortens, as we come to terms with what's really important to us. My list might have once looked like this:
Laughs at my jokes
Now it really boils down to: laughs at my jokes. (Not completely. See below for my full, middle-aged list.)
It's also interesting to see how our perspective changes over time. What we once viewed as deal-breakers (e.g., his best friend is a woman, he spends a lot of time with his parents) are now viewed as positive character traits. And where I once said I'd never (again) date anyone with substance abuse issues, at this age I know too many of them to cut them out completely. So now I say I'd go out with someone who has this issue as long as they are getting help with it.
Still, certain things remain constant across demographic lines. The popular online dating website eHarmony conducted a poll of 700,000 of its members on must-haves and deal-breakers, and the results were not terribly surprising.
Both sexes agreed in general terms what they couldn't tolerate in a partner, although they ranked these various behaviors differently. Among the deal-breakers: lying, cheating, rude behavior and drug use. Infidelity was ranked fourth among deal-breakers for women, and sixth for men.
Interestingly, men were more concerned about poor hygiene than women. (So much for the stereotype of the sloppy bachelor.) Mean-spirited behavior was more of a deal-breaker for men (fifth place) than it was for women (eighth place), while women said anger management issues was their fifth biggest concern, compared to men, who ranked that concern eighth. Among deal-breakers, women were more inclined to jettison a lazy suitor than men, who ranked that characteristic ninth and tenth, respectively.
Women and men parted ways when it came to completing their final item on the top 10 list of deal-breakers. Women took the high road, saying they can't tolerate someone who is racist, while men took the superficial road, saying that a potential girlfriend being overweight is their final deal-breaker.
On a more positive note, both sexes agree on many of the "must haves," like a sense of humor, an affectionate and kind nature, good communication skills, loyalty, emotional healthiness and honesty.
Differences between the sexes also followed traditional lines. Men put a high premium on a woman who is patient: someone who "can handle life's frustrations or momentary setbacks with a patient and steady demeanor." In addition, men listed "passionate" as the seventh most important quality a woman could have, but passion was not on the top 10 list for women at all. Women listed having a mate who is both fiscally solvent and wants a family -- neither of which were qualities listed by men. Maybe some things never change?
Now when I think about my must-haves, they are less about appearance and more about substantial things like spiritual and humanistic beliefs. To wit:
Kind and good-hearted (almost goes without saying)
Socially adept (I go to a lot of events)
Good communicator (They say if you want to grow old with someone, they'd better be fun to talk to.)
Oh, and leave the six-pack in the refrigerator.
Washboard abs don't matter a whit anymore.
SecondAct asks: What are your must-haves and deal-breakers? Share them in the comments section below.