(Well, most of them, anyway...)
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We get it -- you're smart, you're busy, you're decisive. You know what you want. Efficiency is your middle name. But you're also looking for someone to share the adventure you've built for yourself, and you're not seeing a lot of promising leads for your plus-one.
Dating apps are the obvious solution, but the apps that are out there have trained us to go shopping for humans like we're buying shampoo. Rather than seeing the whole person for who they are, we're cultivating an idiosyncratic list of desires and dislikes. We might think that our list makes the process of finding partners more efficient, but sometimes our dealbreakers can create roadblocks to connecting.
Sure, everyone has preferences, but rigid rules leave little room for discovery. Attraction begins when someone catches your attention, which requires some openness to the element of surprise.
You can't be surprised by a list that you've made by yourself. So maybe it's time to get rid of your dealbreakers. After all, most of them are bullshit anyway.
- Physical dealbreakers: Have you ever found yourself wishing your date was taller? Or thinner or more muscular or had more hair? Are you more worried about the photos you're going to post than whether or not you're having a great conversation? Physical appearance is the most superficial thing about a person, and it's also the most fleeting. What we should really be looking for in a partner is great chemistry and compatible personality, not adherence to preordained physical ideals.
- Education dealbreakers: "So where did you go to school?" Uh... is this a job interview, or a date? I know plenty of brilliant, professional people who are completely self taught, and I know more than a few people with PhDs who couldn't find their way out of a paper sack with a roadmap. College might be one traditional way to prepare yourself for the real world, but what you do with what you've learned is infinitely more important than how or where you learned it.
- Income dealbreakers: Sure, maybe you don't want to be someone's sugar-momma or daddy. Being able to take care of oneself is one thing. But beyond that, you will find that the most interesting, passionate people rarely give a shit about money. A fixation on wealth is an indication that you haven't found something more important to care about. Like education, money is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
- Race or background dealbreakers: This one is tricky, because there are people who only want to date someone with a similar background for religious or cultural reasons. But for the rest of us, could it be that the reason we're tempted to limit ourselves is out of laziness, or fear of the unknown or what someone else might think? There's a big world out there, and interesting people may be found in every corner of it.
- Aesthetic dealbreakers: These are the snobbiest dealbreakers, but many artists and creative people have them. I've said before that I'd never date a person who doesn't appreciate Leonard Cohen. But turning another person on to your interests can also be one of the best parts of getting to know someone.
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When we say that we want a certain kind of person, what we really mean is that we want chemistry, and someone whose values sync with ours. We want someone who will be able to support us in the things that matter most to us, but we also want someone who can make us smile.
These are qualities you can't shop for online. You've simply got to meet people with an open mind. There are no magic spells, but there are roadblocks, and ridding ourselves of roadblocks helps keep us open to the possibility of magic.
- Make a conscious effort to try meeting people outside your "type." Maybe you like someone's sense of humor who doesn't otherwise seem like your idea of a dateable person...do you think maybe it's possible that you have more than one type? There's only one way to find out.
- Open yourself up to the element of surprise. Not knowing everything about another person can be really fun; it gives you something to learn about over time. Instead of grilling someone about their educational background or past relationships, why not ask them about their dreams for the future?
- Think about your dealbreakers as dealbenders. Just because someone likes Dave Matthews doesn't mean they have bad taste in everything. Or just because someone goes to church doesn't mean they're going to try to baptize you every time you meet. When you meet someone new, you get to see the world through a totally new perspective. Try to understand theirs before judging it.
- Remember that being open-minded isn't about being "gracious" to another person; it actually changes YOU in positive ways. Your frame of reference isn't close-minded; it's curious. It's not rejecting; it's including.
The Germans have a word for that delicious sense of anticipation when you don't yet know what will happen: vorfreude. Not knowing what will happen next leaves space for someone to surprise and delight you. Chemistry isn't about dating yourself, but in discovering the differences that can make both of you far richer for it.
Perhaps it's time to let go of those dealbreakers and take a chance on discovery!
Image credit: Visionello