1. Respect for both partners (and their genders).
If you respect your partner, you respect them when they get a little too drunk at a Christmas party. You respect them when they are naked. You respect them when they are crying. You respect them when they don’t look their best. You respect them when they are talking loudly or acting silly or being gross. You do these things because they are a person with flaws and strange habits and imperfections. You don’t get to have lines drawn in the sand about the way they can act, as long as their behavior is benign. The only way you don’t respect them is if they do mean or harmful things, in which case you hold them to the same standards you hold every human being. Because the second you start saying things like “man up” or “ladies don’t…” or “if you were a real [insert gender here]” is the second you should look into dating a Real Doll.
2. Genuine attraction.
All you need to do is date someone once who lets you know, either subtly or in graphic detail, that they do not think you are either a) attractive enough for them personally, or b) attractive enough to present in public, to know that that shit is terrible and should not be pushed on anyone. I am not saying we cannot be attracted to people for reasons other than the physical, but if you straight up do not feel turned on by your partner or do not feel that they are good enough for you in terms of appearance (even if that makes you kind of a dick), do them a favor and don’t date them. No one wants to feel like they’re constantly batting out of their league.
3. Similar ideas about money.
Is there anything that can more messily implode a couple from within than having money problems? If you two are not on a similar track when it comes to how you handle your finances, what your financial goals are, and what you both expect to contribute to the relationship, I can almost guarantee you’re in for at least a few nights of screaming at each other whilst throwing IKEA’s entire flatware catalogue at the wall. The fact is that some people are going to want to spend more, others want to save, and some people are going to be uncomfortable with a huge disparity in income. That’s just human nature. (Did we learn nothing from the monstrosity that was Jack Berger and Carrie? Come on, people.)
4. Corresponding goals for the future.
If someone tells you they don’t want marriage and kids, and that they aren’t going to change their mind, please do everyone a favor and listen to them. Please. There is no ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A to type in while they’re sleeping and magically change their mind. Let’s all nip this shit collectively in the bud, okay? Because there is nothing wrong with someone not wanting the same thing as you, there is only something wrong with trying to force someone to change once they’re already in love with you.
5. An understanding that cheating can be emotional as well as physical.
Spoiler alert: You don’t actually have to touch genitals to have cheated on someone and/or betrayed their trust. If you are having deep, personal, romantic conversations with someone behind your partner’s back, if you are still harboring feelings for someone else, if you are seriously considering other possibilities while still completely attached to your current flame — you are being an asshole and should stop it. It’s insane how many people don’t acknowledge the myriad ways that someone can be cheated on that don’t actually involve sex. Do you really think that your partner finding out that you’ve been exchanging passionate emails with an ex is going to be that much less destructive than having slept with someone else? I mean, in many cases, knowing that there were actual feelings involved make it all the worse, as it can’t just be brushed off as a drunken mistake. Let’s at least provide each other the decency of breaking up with our partners before engaging in Nicholas Sparks-esque gchats with the cute girl from work.
6. Friends and family who are at least decent human beings.
No one is asking that your new SO’s parents be multimillionaires who enjoy championing human rights around the world and having hilarious conversations over long cocktail hours in their mahogany study, but they should at least not be judgmental assholes. And their friends should live up to a similar standard of “not making you feel like someone’s Debbie Downer mother who crashed the party every time you get within 10 feet of them.” No one is forced to like their friend or relative’s new partner, but they are required to treat them like good people who are deserving of a minimum of respect and kindness until proven otherwise. And if nights with your potential in-laws mostly consist of bigoted, passive-aggressive lines of questioning and under-seasoned food, it’s likely not going uphill from there.
7. An earnest desire to be in a long-term commitment.
Yeah, no matter how much romantic comedies are trying to tell us that our only job in life is to wear down that cold-hearted-yet-super-hot guy at the coffee shop until he magically decides he wants a serious relationship, that is just never a good idea. If someone is telling you from the get-go that they are not into commitment, and that they do like you but just don’t want to be tied down, perhaps it is because they actually feel that way and aren’t speaking in some magic code that you have to decipher with your Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. Even if you do manage to taser them long enough to sit still for a decent-length relationship, are you really winning anything? You know that they are not happy with it, and you will have no reason to be surprised if they one day up and leave. It’s probably best to just avoid them as a whole, or let them come to you when they’ve decided otherwise.
8. The exact same taste in entertainment as you.
Sike sike sike SUPERSIKE. It is actually really weird when people are legitimately like, “I could never date someone who has shitty taste in music.” First of all, who the hell is to say that what you deem as “shitty” is some universal litmus test for “interesting or worth respecting?” Like I am supposed to be an inherently unlovable human being with nothing to offer the world — let alone a romantic partner — simply because I listen to the occasional Hanson or Mandy Moore record? You can get out of my airspace, pop culture elitists, and you can take your Radiohead masturbation jams with you.
9. A history of respecting exes on both sides.
As much as we might want our new significant other to go on an unbridled trash talking spree about their ex the second we get with them, it probably doesn’t reflect well on anyone to be super bitter or petty over someone who is no longer in their life. Even if an ex hurt your new boo, harping on it for extended periods of time and going out of their way to say and do nasty things towards them only shows that your current flame is either a) hung up on them still or b) a vicious person who will likely do that to anyone post-breakup. I mean, there was a point at which all of these sweet nothings being whispered in your ear were directed towards the ex who is now getting dragged through the mud by an SUV covered with knives. What do you think will happen to you when it’s your turn?
It sounds so obvious: We should be honest and forthright with people we claim to love. Like, of course. But it’s funny how much we forget that honesty extends to every part of our life with someone — it’s not just “I don’t cheat on them and we’re cool.” Lies of omission count as lies. Not being up-front about the things we want from the beginning count as lies. Deciding that there is only a certain amount of yourself you are willing to show to the other person, or facets of your personality you deem acceptable to expose, is setting yourself up for an inevitable failure (or at least huge problems). Part of being able to trust someone is knowing that, even if the question is uncomfortable, you’re going to get a legitimate answer. And if there are parts of your life you are not willing to be real about if put on the spot, perhaps you should consider your desire to “share” your life in the first place.