Do a quick Google search for deal-breakers you’ll find lots of smart things to keep in mind while dating. Most common deal-breakers revolve around children, finances, religion and an arsenal of unhealthy behaviors. Some things might be no-brainers: solo parents won’t get serious with anyone who doesn’t like kids. But before stopping at what will break a relationship, dig a little deeper and think about your goals, values and preferences to identify what you do want in a relationship. Deal-breakers? They are your bottom line,meant to keep you moving towards your goals.
I’m a mom of three, divorced for almost three years after a fourteen-year marriage, and I am back in the dating scene. Last year I took a vacation by myself to a quaint town on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota. The goal of the vacation was to get away, spend time contemplating life, soaking up the beautiful summer days and to enjoy eating at amazing non-kid friendly eateries. In between staring at breathtaking views of the calm, clear waters and stumbling upon the world’s best donut (or donuts, I lost track after two), I took the time to ask myself several questions. I wanted to identify what was truly important as I continued to venture into the world of dating. So sitting with pen and paper, I contemplated these five questions:
- What do I fear?
- What do I value?
- What are things I don’t like?
- What brings me genuine delight?
- What are my hopes?
Answering these questions helped me to identify my own personal set of deal breakers. I personally fear being disconnected from people. I fear being in a relationship where I do not feel understood, or that is void of meaningful connection. I value things like being home and available to my children; being rooted in our community;I value honesty, personal growth and my faith. I don’t like lying, or the thought of birthing any more children. I don’t want to be a slave to the stove, or have someone emotionally bail when life gets tough. Learning how other people work, being fully-present with my kids, hiking, and enjoying a really good meal (not prepared by me) are things that bring me genuine delight. And my hopes are to experience rich, healthy relationships, and to continue to grow into my own uniqueness and fulfill my purpose in life.
Now these are all great, poetic, fluffy ideals. But what exactly are the things that must exist or not exist in order to peruse a relationship with someone? In other words, if a certain quality, willingness or behavior does not exist, then I’m not going to reach my desired destination.
I realized that being available to my kids is really important, and I know that getting pregnant and having another child would keep me from being fully invested with my three boys the way that I desire to be; a guy who wanted children of his own was, therefore, one of my top deal breakers.
As specific as it may sound, staying in my current community is also really, really important to me. To move before the kids are out of school would go against my goal of having our family rooted in this community. Therefore, a deal breaker for me would be anyone who is not currently in this community or willing to move in to it.
What if your ex was an alcoholic? After that kind of experience, any abuse or heavy drinking would probably rank as a top-shelf deal breaker. Maybe you value independence, you are going to need to find someone who values it as well.
In addition to knowing your concrete deal breakers, knowing when to investigate them is also important. There are trains of thought which suggest refraining from deep conversations on the first date or during first months of dating. But finding out whether any of your deal breakers are lying in wait before your heart gets involved, might save you some heartache. Deal breakers help you access the relationship from a healthy distance—once your heart or emotions get involved you may not have the ability to be as objective.
The point is this: take the time to really think about what matters deeply to you and then refuse to compromise. I was pretty settled on not wanting to birth any more kids (totally open to more kids from a former relationship). Then I started dating a guy who wasn’t sure if he wanted kids of his own. After a couple of months, he expressed his desire to have children of his own, and I started to negotiate my own deal breaker wondering if maybe, with a husband who was present, maybe pregnancy and the first year wouldn’t be so rough. I started thinking that perhaps with the right guy I would be open to having more children. And then I realized that this deal breaker had nothing to do with the guy and everything to do with me– and I wasn’t willing to compromise. Although he had a number of great qualities, we ended the relationship. I could have conceded, or asked him to give in, but at the end of the day, we have to be true to our own path and encourage others to do the same.
What is your path? Where are you headed? What road would you like to travel on with someone else? As solo parents, our children are really important to us, as is the life we have worked so hard to create. Do hold out for the relationship that you desire, which is going to help you live your values. Being able to identify and date by your deal breakers will help you reach your destination.