We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto today’s topic: things that are OK to compromise on in a partner.
Q: “My friends and I spend a lot of time talking about relationships, and I’ve noticed that we’re all really picky when it comes to dating. We all have our lists of things we’re looking for in partners, and if someone doesn’t have something on that list, we’re pretty quick to move on. I’m not desperate to find my soulmate at this point in my life (I’m pretty young), but I’m still wondering if my own pickiness is getting in the way of me finding a good match. I believe I’m a great catch, and I don’t want to lower my standards, but how do I know when I’m being too picky? What are some acceptable things to compromise on?”
A: Thanks for the question! This is a really tricky one that a lot of people out there can relate to. On the one hand, it’s great to have self-confidence, and to believe yourself worthy of someone special. Of course we need to have standards in who we date. On the other hand, there’s definitely something to be said about being too picky. If you have a massive list of deal-breakers, it’s going to be a lot harder to find a partner. You’re also probably going to let some hidden gems fall through the cracks.
Dan Savage has a really great way of talking about this issue. He says there’s no such thing as “the one,” because there’s no one perfect person who is going to meet every single criteria that we have. Instead of looking for someone who is a “perfect” match, we should be looking for people who are 0.68’s or 0.76’s, that we can round up to “the one.” In other words, they’re not perfect, but they’re good enough.
My overall advice to you is to take another look at that list of yours. Try to divide your items into true deal-breakers, and things that would be nice, but aren’t essential. I think the word deal-breaker gets thrown around too much these days, and it has lost a lot of its meaning. Your deal-breakers should be things that speak to your actual values or morals. They’re not just preferences. There are no hard and fast rules here, but I’d say you wouldn’t want to have more than five or six complete deal-breakers.
While you’re working on making a second draft of your list, here are eight qualities that are totally OK to compromise on.
They Don’t Share All Of Your Interests
Shared interests are usually one of the first things we look for when we’re talking to anyone new — date or not. It’s easy to feel connected to someone when you find something in common. Shared interests can bring a lot of fun and joy into your relationship. That being said, they’re not the be-all-end-all of relationships.
Relationships need differences and individuality to flourish. You don’t want to wind up spending every second with your partner, doing the exact same things together. Having different interests will give you some space in your relationship, and will keep things interesting between the two of you. You’ll always learn something new, you’ll always have something to talk about, and you’ll probably get some fun perks (for example, if you can’t be bothered to learn how to turn on your stove, but your partner decides to take a French cooking class).
They’re A Lot Older Or Younger
You’d be surprised by how many people think of age as a deal-breaker. There’s no denying that you’re going to have different life experiences and relationship goals at 25 than you would at 35 or 45. But people are really unique in how they experience their own age. Two 30 year olds are not going to be at the exact same place in their lives. I’m sure you’ve met some incredibly immature 40 year olds, and some wise-beyond-their-years 20 year olds. Get to know a person before deciding if they’re compatible with you. The date written on their birth certificate shouldn’t automatically rule them out.
They’re Not Your Ideal, Physically
Does it really matter if you find a person who is a few inches, a few pounds, or a few hairs short of your physical ideal? Here’s the bottom line — looks fade. Bodies change. Of course you want to be physically attracted to your partner, but that shouldn’t be one of the most important things you look for in a mate. I know it sound cheesy, but it’s truly what’s inside that counts. Plus, our attraction to our partners usually grows as we get to know them better.
The Sex Isn’t Great (Initially)
Don’t get me wrong — sexual compatibility is extremely important in a relationship. But it takes time to figure out how your bodies work together, and to develop true, lasting compatibility. I talk to so many people who are out the door if their first sexual experience with someone isn’t very good. But the reality is that first sexual experiences are rarely good! I would give yourselves at least a month or two to see if you can get into a sexual groove with each other. If it still seems like it’s not working, then maybe it’s time to cut your losses.
They Don’t Make A Lot Of Money
I know, I know, everyone wants a rich boyfriend or girlfriend to sweep them off of their feet. But money is a pretty cold deal-breaker to have. Not only that, but the amount of money a person has isn’t even the most important factor — their relationship with money is. You can date an extremely wealthy person who is unbelievably stingy and possessive. Or you can find someone who doesn’t have a lot, but gives freely and generously.
Their Politics Don’t Completely Align With Yours
Politics is a pretty loaded issue these days, and it’s easy to want to rule out an entire political party from your dating pool. But politics is too big of a topic to count as one single deal-breaker. Instead, identify which of your political beliefs are actually values, and which are beliefs. For example, equality for people of all sexual orientations may be a central value for you. That’s a perfectly legitimate value to need your partner to share. But maybe you’re not as emotionally invested in fiscal policies, taxation rates, or the size of the government.
Even if someone doesn’t believe in some of your core values, I still wouldn’t completely write them off. Most of us tend to fall in line with the politics we were raised with, and many of us don’t evaluate whether or not they’re actually our own. If a potential partner seems willing to debate and open to learning your opinion, they might be worth your time. Hey, maybe this is your chance to help educate and convert someone!
They Have One Weird Habit
I’ve heard from clients who didn’t go on a second date just because someone did something weird like pick their nose at the table or breathe heavily while they ate. Sure, these are off-putting things. But let’s be real — we all have gross habits! They shouldn’t be the only reason you don’t go on that second date.
They’re Just Not What You Imagined
A lot of us have ideas of what our perfect partner is going to look like, but I’d encourage you to try to leave these fantasies aside when you go out on dates. People can surprise you if you let them.