How To Determine Your Dating Non-Negotiables

If you find yourself single, vowing to not repeat the dating mistakes of the past, it might be time to evaluate exactly what you’re looking for in a relationship.

Determining your dating non-negotiables — dubbed your “Must Haves” and “Can’t Stands” at eHarmony — can give your dating life some focus. You’re defining your values and boundaries, and choosing to not compromise in specific areas.

Here are some ways to help determine your non-negotiables.

Do it now.

If you’re single, now’s the perfect time to assess what you value in a relationship. If you’re currently dating, being honest about your needs and desires can help you evaluate the health of your relationship and its long-term potential. (Remember: it’s easy to convince yourself to overlook certain things at first, but you’ll ultimately be unsatisfied in a relationship with someone who can’t give you what you need.)

Avoid repeating past dating disasters by being proactive about seeking out people who offer the qualities you deem essential.

Dream a little.

What does your ideal relationship look like? What does it feel like? What was missing in past relationships? What do you admire about the healthy relationships around you? What makes your closest friendships work? Once you have an ideal relationship in your head, challenge it: Could you make it work if that “dream date” subscribed to a different faith than you? If he treated you well but never made you laugh? If she didn’t want kids? If the answer is “no,” then you’ve uncovered a dating deal-breaker.

How you spend your time and money can also help reveal your values. You might want someone with a spirit of volunteerism, a similar political mindset, a serious case of wanderlust, or a desire to start a family.

List ‘em all — at first.

Don’t worry about the length of your list at first, just write down everything you do and don’t want in a relationship.

Narrow it down.

Now highlight the things that matter the most to you. You want to create a list of manageable length — eHarmony recommends 10 Can’t Stands and 10 Must Haves, while Patti Stanger of Millionaire Matchmaker fame gives her clients room for just five non-negotiables — that you can remember. These are things you will not compromise on or sacrifice.

Popular non-negotiables include sense of humour, chemistry, good communicator, and emotionally healthy.

Share with a friend.

Share your list with a friend — preferably one who knows a little about your dating history. The friend might be able to give you constructive feedback, or affirm your relationship requirements. Ask your friend to hold you accountable to the list. When you start dating someone new, have him or her check in with you: Is your date able to meet your predetermined criteria?

Be honest with your date.

One of the benefits to online dating is that you can share your non-negotiables with a potential date before even meeting them. If you’re meeting offline, however, confronting a first date with a list of requirements might be a little overwhelming. Use your list to help guide your first conversations about relationships and what you’re looking for. Be on the lookout for red flags. And when the time is right — probably a few dates in — be open with your date about your boundaries and expectations in a healthy relationship. It’s better to discover that you’re incompatible early on than get emotionally attached to a relationship that has no future.

Be honest with yourself.

Sometimes a non-negotiable list can highlight our own weaknesses. You might value honesty in a relationship, but were you completely honest with your last partner as the relationship fell apart? Do you want someone patient because you’re perpetually late? Do you model the same humility, respect and integrity you hope to find in a partner? As you determine what you want in a relationship, be self-aware. What are your strengths? What should you be working on? What qualities would someone be thrilled to discover in you? And what areas should you be addressing now?

What are your dating non-negotiables?