Are Your Deal Breakers Truly Deal Breakers?

If you walk into a Dating Coach’s or Matchmaker’s office with a laundry list of qualities you must have in a mate, expect the Dating Professional to either physically light your list on fire (Millionaire Matchmaker), or give you a lesson in statistics (Tough Love Miami, Why Am I Still Single?).  While unrealistic standards certainly can be an issue with both men and women, this is often a tremendous problem for women, so I will focus on women in this month’s column.

Many of my female clients are what people would call “a great catch,” and their friends and coworkers are shocked that these women are still single. Often, a main issue these clients have is unrealistic expectations.

Some of the common deal breaker’s or standards I have come across in female clients include height (6 feet +), religion (type and observance level), race (must be white, not be white, not have an Asian fetish, have dated Asians before, etc), sense of humor, income (six figures +), divorce (must not have been, have been), kids/pets (must have them, not have them, want them, be tolerant of them), and profession (must have a certain type of job, be ambitious, have time for a relationship).

How do statistics work? If you are a woman and you walk into a room of 50 American men, only 6 of them will be at least over 6 feet tall (statistic from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink).  Add any other deal breaker other than really basic ones, and chances are there is nobody left in your dating pool.  There are actually far less American men making at least a 6-figure salary than those who are 6 feet or taller. The combination of things you are looking for should not eliminate your entire dating pool.

Shouldn’t people have deal breakers and standards? Absolutely! You need to screen out inappropriate matches, and screen in appropriate ones. Religion, whether someone wants kids, and where they want to live are examples of completely legitimate deal breakers.

Yes, you should be attracted to potential mates, but this works differently for men and women. Men generally know instantly (visually) who they are attracted to, while a large part of what makes a man attractive to a woman is how he makes her feel. So, give people a chance—as long as the person in question is within the range of possibility, put aside stereotypes you might have based on their appearance and have a conversation with them to see if there is chemistry.

I have more detailed exercises I do with clients in person, but for now I want you to think about the following things: (1) What are the top 5 qualities I need in a mate, and in what ranked order. (2) Does the list look realistic, with men existing in sufficient quantity for you to be able to find them? (3) Think about how you would screen (ask questions, tell stories that highlight characteristics and pay attention to his response, tell him what you want, etc) for whatever qualities are on your list. Keep in mind that the trap/pattern that a lot of people fall into is going after qualities they want instead of qualities they truly need, so prioritize needs before wants. Make sure the qualities on your list are not duplicated (such as 2 ways of saying honest) or conflicting.

If you are serious about men who have a particular quality, think about where you can find them. So, if it is really important to you that your man is extremely athletic (such as a runner), you would go to the specific events/venues (marathons, runner’s meet ups, specific gyms), dating events (speeddating for fit professionals) and websites (including themed community or dating websites) that they would frequent. It helps to meet as wide a variety of people that could potentially have the qualities you are looking for as possible, since you never know exactly who you will connect with.

So, go out there, meet some new people, try some new things, and have fun!


BTW, I wrote this article for my monthly DC Life Magazine column for February, but the magazine is late in posting it to the website. I believe it is already in the app version of the magazine.