I do not call myself a relationship expert. I am, though, a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist and I have worked with a LOT of couples in the years that I have done this work. Through a combination of my own dating as well as observing clients, I have created a list of what I would consider the things that SHOULD be deal breakers.
The sad truth of the matter is that by the time couples come to me for therapy, it’s usually too late. My thoughts go to, why did you two get together in the first place? Trying to fit together the pieces of a puzzle that has been bent, misshapen, and forced together rarely works.
People, we need to start picking better mates for life. Think about this: this is the person who will wake up to you and you to them every day. This is the person who if, God forbid, something happens to you will be in charge of managing your life and taking care of things. This is the person who may become the parent to your children. This is the person who will pick you up when you can’t get off the couch. This is the person who will fix your child’s boo boos. This is the person who will support your goals and dreams just as you with them. This is your person. YOUR person. Life is too short to be playing games and hoping that things will change. Rarely do they change on their own and…coming from a couple’s therapist, can a therapist enact changes in who people are. One major remedy to all the confusion and drama is to pick better! So here is my list of what I think should be our deal breakers and no, “has to be good looking” is not on here:
1. He or she should be in the same relative place that you are in life.
Okay, this sounds a little snobby, but hear me out. It doesn’t matter where you are in life: if you went to college, didn’t, if you are working, or aren’t, etc. What I am saying is find a person who has accomplished close to what you have accomplished.
The way dynamics of relationships play out include power struggles. If you are both around the same level, you will have less power struggles than those who are on opposite ends of the spectrum. No one wants to feel like they are always playing catch up to the other. On the other hand, no one wants to feel like they have to take care of someone else. This also plays into interdependence. Healthy relationships have two healthy individuals that can stand on their own independent of each other, but would rather be together.
2. Your person should challenge you in the way you need to be challenged.
Let me explain…I am a very hardworking individual and I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist so finding someone who could challenge me in the way I needed to be challenged was difficult. I dated very intelligent men who could have debates with me, but it turns out that is not what I needed. I needed someone to step in to see the business side of me that I had tucked away in a corner. My husband saw it in me within hours of meeting me and since that point, whenever I got down on myself or doubted where I was going, he reminded me that I am working toward opening a private practice. He would help me picture the opening day of that practice. He saw my dream, believed I could do it, and no, he did not do it for me…he did it with me.
3. Your person should be okay without you and you should be okay without them.
I am not talking about going out separately on Friday night, I am talking about if they left your life. I love my husband and I feel incredibly safe and secure in our relationship. I know though that if something happened, I could walk away and be okay. Yes, some would argue it is completely unromantic to think this way. I disagree. I think that if you are not in a place where you are financially, emotionally, physically, etc. secure with yourself, you are not ready for a forever person. The old saying is that you cannot love someone else without loving yourself and IT IS TRUE. I have countless individuals come in to see me and say they do not know how to get out of the relationship they are in because they are financially dependent on their significant other. They never gave themselves a chance to stand on their own two feet. Think about it, is it helpful to always carry a baby and never let him/her learn how to walk? This point also goes back to power struggles in relationships as well as mental state. Having your own thing going on helps you mentally feel stronger.
4. Your future plans should align with your forever person.
Because I am a therapist and have studied relationships, my husband had to have conversations with me very early on about where he was headed and what he wanted. Did he think I was crazy? No, because he was the type of man I was looking for. Dating is process of picking out who you want to eventually be with for most people. I had plenty of the same conversations with men before my husband and they looked at me like I had four heads. Like I was asking for a proposal at that moment. I walked away from those relationships because I am the type of person who looks forward in life and I want someone who does the same. If you don’t talk about what you want in a very real, honest way, you will never get it. You will end up in my office saying, “Why did we get married then if you did not want kids?” Talk it through and be realistic with yourself about what it is you want.
5. He or she should respect you.
This one seems obvious, but I have learned and observed that a lot of people do not know what respect is. We get mixed messages about relationships from movies, TV shows, the news, everywhere. The truth of the matter is that if you have reasonable expectations of someone, those expectations should be met in a relationship and if they are not, you need to leave the relationship. It really does not matter what the other person thinks about your expectations as long as they are reasonable, you have the right to get what you need from the relationship. We all grew up differently and learned different ways of showing love and receiving love. Just because I show love in one does not mean my partner should show love that way. Couples therapy is one of the hardest types of therapy to do because you are working with two different people with two very different backgrounds. Where we come from makes us into who we are whether we like it or not. Respect is understanding those differences and accommodating in order to fulfill your partner’s needs.