It’s easy to convince yourself at the beginning of a new relationship that Ms. Right Now comes with enough of what you’re seeking at the time, but the consequences of choosing a partner who is simply not compatible enough is painfully apparent when communication stalls and everything starts to go downhill. Minor quirks once found endearing transform into major frustrations, and weeks, months or even years later the relationship comes to an end with unfulfilled expectations on both sides.
Fortunately there is a way around settling for relationships that don’t give you what you need—make a shopping list. Whether you’ve been around the block a few times or are starting fresh after a long time out of the dating scene, it’s a great idea to come up with your Must Haves and Can’t Stands—two Top 10 lists of carefully chosen preferences that indicate which important qualities in a partner that you must have, as well as which qualities on which you’d prefer not to compromise. Simply put, your Must Haves and Can’t Stands are the key to communicating what you want and get you one step closer to getting it.
The Power of Selection: What’s In It For You?
Exchanging Must Haves and Can’t Stands with interested matches is a key step in the eHarmony Guided Communication process. Not only do they help you think about your relationship needs, but they also clue your matches in to your strongest likes and dislikes. Your selections help a match decide whether to go further in the getting-to-know-you process by weighing your preferences against theirs, and likewise, by seeing theirs, you’ll get a better idea of how their preferences might fit with you.
Overlooking obvious incompatibilities and thinking, "Well, no one’s perfect" can be a recipe for relationship disaster. While it’s true that no one’s perfect, there is a perfect person for you, and finding them is well worth the wait. The rush to get into a serious relationship or even to rush into a marriage is for some a sure shot at security and safety in unsure times. Yet the result on acting on this kind of motivation often brings anything but safety and security, and comes with unexpected unhappiness, regret and confusion. The bottom line is you never have to settle for less than compatible, comfortable and happy, and selecting your Must Haves and Can’t Stands is one of the most important components of your search.
What Do You Want?
Even for the most self-reflective person, narrowing down what you want in a partner at first can be challenging. After all, it is the unique combination of innate personality and personal life experiences, as well as observations of others’ experiences that shape and mold our preferences. What goes on your Must Haves and Can’t Stands all depends on you. Your goal is to end up with a total of twenty nonnegotiable items—10 positive traits you’re looking for and 10 negative traits you’re looking to avoid.
The best way to get the clearest picture of what you need and what you want to avoid in a partner is to take some time to reflect on your past relationships. It may be helpful to write down all of your likes and dislikes to narrow them down. What did you like about a particular partner or aspect of the relationship? Is it kindness? Friendliness? Intellect? Do you like someone who is organized, or is that not that important to you? For example, if you tend to be more of a homebody, preferring quiet nights at home over going out, you should consider selecting "Staying In" as a Must Have. Likewise, you should consider choosing "Sociability" if you enjoy going out a lot more:
Staying In . . . I must have a partner who mainly enjoys staying in together and having quiet evenings alone or with close friends. or
Sociability . . . I must have a partner who loves to socialize with lots of different people.
The same principles apply to selecting your Can’t Stands. Think back to past relationships you’ve experienced, plus those that you’ve witnessed. What were the behaviors in a person or aspects of a relationship that turned you off, or maybe even hurt you?
For instance, if you can’t stand expressions of anger in a partner, one of your Can’t Stands could be:
Anger . . . I can’t stand someone who can’t manage their anger, who yells, or bottles it up inside.
Or if you strongly prefer a partner who has a strong sense of independence and self-worth and find it frustrating when someone is reliant on you for their happiness, you could choose the following:
Dependence . . . I can’t stand someone who bases their happiness on me.
Putting Your Choices Into Action
Once you choose your Top 10 Must Haves and Can’t Stands, now it’s time to put them into action—share them with your matches during the Guided Communication process and reflect on them when you’re sitting across the table from your potential partner on the first couple of dates. Instead of falling for the person who feels right in the beginning but will be wrong for you in a matter of time, you’ll fall for the right person from the start who will take your understanding of love and appreciation of yourself to new heights—and there’s nothing better than that.
(To review your Must Have and Can’t Stands selections, log in to your account and click the respective "Must Haves" and "Can’t Stands" links on the top tab.) Choosing your Must Haves and Can’t Stands gives you the power of knowing what you want and what you don’t in a potential relationship partner, so that you can:
- Realize your patterns of choice in being attracted to and dating romantic partners.
- Know with confidence whether a potential partner is worth pursuing early on.
- Recognize the positive and negative traits in others quickly.
- Express more clearly what you’re looking for in a relationship so you can get it.
Keep it in Perspective
When people name only a few indistinct characteristics, they end up with a partner who has a lot of qualities they don’t like. Over time, undesirable traits or missing attributes become a source of tremendous frustrations and unavoidable relationship problems.
-Dr. Neil Clark Warren