Deal Breakers: Are They the Reason You're Still Single?

I had dinner with a single girlfriend of mine the other night. She's in her early 30's, really cute, sexy, smart, fun... But no guy she dates seems to be sticking lately. She's finding herself in that constant agony of dating. She was talking about how she was really disappointed because she had been excited about this guy, had gone on a few dates with him and then on the third date, she started getting really turned off because he seemed to display some of her deal breakers. And this, of course, upset her. We started talking about the agonizing cycle that she experiences... the cycle that I experienced until recently... the cycle that I hear most single women talk about experiencing: Meet a guy. Like him, think he's cute, whatever. Make up fabulous stories about how great he is and put totally made up expectations on him. Then after a varying number of dates, he disappoints us because he's NOT living up to any of those expectations... In fact, we come to see that he actually has some of our dreaded DEAL BREAKERS. And then we're frustrated because we have to start all over again with someone else. We're heartbroken because we thought he could have been "The One," we're angry that another one didn't work out and we desperately cry out, "where are all the good men and why am I still single!?"

DEAL BREAKERS. Single ladies have been saturated with this word; have heard it from dating advice books and articles, on TV, from our friends, our mentors... DEAL BREAKERS. We have to have them. And if anyone we're dating has any one of our deal breakers, we must run. Even if we like them and they have a lot of the fantastic qualities that we're looking for.

Today, there are more single women today than ever. There has been much speculation as to why that it is, and I'd like to throw one more hypothesis into the mix: What if maybe, just maybe, these deal breakers are the reason so many women aren't getting anywhere with men and relationships? I'm not talking deal breakers such as having a drinking or drug problem, or religion or wanting a family. Those are in a different category. I'm talking about deal breakers like 'he has to work out a lot,' 'he has to be a vegetarian' (or he has to eat meat), 'he has to be tall,' 'he has to work in finance,' 'he has to do yoga,' 'he has to have gone to an Ivy League college,' 'he can't have a roommate...' just to name a few.

There's another deal breaker that I've seen come up lately too, and that has to do with family -- that he has to get along well with his family (even when a lot of the people with this deal breaker don't themselves. Hmm.) Anyways, I've had girlfriends say about a guy, after a few dates and having really liked him, that "I think he has issues with his Dad (or mom or sibling), and that's just a total deal breaker for me." Okay, yes, if the issues are dark and psycho, that's one thing. But come on, we ALL have issues with our family. Would you want him to write you off because YOU have issues with a parent? That deal breaker to me is totally hypocritical.

So, I'm just saying, with all of these "deal breakers," no wonder there are so many single ladies out there!

I had my deal breakers. ONE was: that he lives a healthy lifestyle. The first few dates I went on with my current boyfriend, we had to meet late at night because he had work obligations (he works with musicians who have crazy hours). I was exhausted and it was affecting my work the next day when I had to get up early and teach. By the third date, when I had to drink three soy lattes from Starbucks to make it through the next day, I thought -- oh well, I like him, but this isn't the kind of life I want. Living like that, with those late hours, wasn't a healthy lifestyle for me. Okay, so that was one of my deal breakers, so bummer, but I'd have to say goodbye.

Deal breaker Two: NO SMOKING. Guess what? My boyfriend smoked. Bummer... goodbye. I was really upset. I really liked this guy. I was drawn to him. I knew, intuitively, that there was something truly special there. Damn my damn deal breakers.

Then something hit me. Whatever I'd been doing in my past with dating obviously hadn't been working. And here was this guy I was crazy about that I was going to say goodbye to? Really? Well, how about I just try something different this time? I saw something in him and us. So how about instead of dismissing something that could be amazing because of the deal breakers I thought I saw, I actually talk to him about it and give it a try?

So I told him how I felt about smoking. I didn't nag or command. I just told him that, for me, I would never be able to be in a long-term relationship with, or marry, a smoker. I said I know that we just started dating, and I'm not asking him to quit. I just wanted him to know how I felt. I told him that I liked him and wanted to get to know him, and asked him to please not smoke around me. That was it. A few months later, he quit (super proud of him, by the way, that is not an easy thing to do).

I also told him how the schedule he'd been having was rough for me... that I have to get up early, and the late hours were making me exhausted and it affected my work, but that I really wanted to spend time with him, so hopefully we could figure out a compromise. I also told him I was concerned about his "rockstar" lifestyle because it wasn't really the kind of lifestyle I wanted to live. And guess what? He told me that he really doesn't like living that lifestyle either, but was a single guy and didn't have anyone he wanted to come home to, but now that I was around, he'd really rather just spend time with me and is actually very often able to send other people to do some of that late night stuff.

WOW. I had made assumptions in my head that weren't true. I'm so glad I talked to him about it instead of just walking away. If I had left at the beginning because of my "deal breakers," because of incorrect judgments, I would be missing out on a great love. It made me wonder: How many other times had I jumped to conclusions and lost out on getting to know a terrific guy?

I'm not saying to ignore red flags. I'm just saying that if you're finding yourself in a dating rut, experiencing that constant disappointment and frustration, then obviously what you're doing isn't working. In fact, maybe your pickiness, your deal breakers, are really just walls you're putting up to keep you from getting hurt -- because if you don't even get into a relationship to begin with, then you can't get hurt. Just some food for though.

Look -- a guy can get in shape. He can stop smoking. He can start eating a more healthy diet. He may only still be living with a roommate because he hasn't found the right girl yet or because he's saving money to buy a place. As long as he is open (and granted, yes, some men aren't open, so you will have to walk away), he can learn new things from you and be exposed to new things from you. Maybe he wants to make changes in his life but doesn't know how to... you'll never know about any of those things if you make snap judgments and assumptions.... You'll never know unless you try.

Your soul mate may be short. Or have long hair. Or may have gone to community college... But if you'll only date men who are tall or have short hair or went to Graduate School, you may never meet the love of your life. Be open to the possibilities instead of being so quick to judge. Some of these "deal breakers" which are putting you off may merely be illusions, underneath which lie the potential for an amazing partner.

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