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Red Flags

There’s Someone for Everyone, But Not Everyone’s For You

Wish Lists and Deal Breakers

Setting out to find “your person” is a worthy endeavor. The truth is, we’re social creatures, wired for closeness, belonging, and attachment. 

Yet, you know from first-hand experience, not all relationships are happy, healthy or satisfying. Falling into a relationship, and then crossing your fingers that it’ll work out is not a strategy. It’s wishful thinking. 

Nothing like falling asleep at the wheel, and then waking up in LaLa Land!

If navigating your dating adventure with a working roadmap sounds like a better plan, read on.

Finding “the one” is monumentally more likely if you have your own personal continuum of must-haves, negotiables, and non-negotiables.

Since there’s no such thing as one size fits all, a blueprint that maximizes the odds of achieving your ideal outcome should include realistic, generous, honest and cut-throat elements, custom designed for you.

Let’s start with some of the common prototypes. Follow the tips and precautions that match the pitfall you’re most likely to fall into!

Pitfall Number 1- The Fixer-Upper

You have a tendency to assume “the best” especially in the beginning of a relationship. You see what you want to see, and shoo away any annoying warning signs with a “pfft!” and a dismissive wave of the hand. You see potential. You love to help, fix, and take on projects. 

People are not projects or fixer-uppers. They’re not houses with good bones and a ton of potential, located in an up and coming part of town. 

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

Pitfall Number 2 – The Perfectionist

You just want someone who’s gorgeous, got a hot body, a nice car, a cute dog, a fantastic sense of humor, and is financially stable. You’re mostly looking at younger models, because potential partners your own age turn you off. 

Pitfall Number 3 – No Drama 

Look, you don’t want any drama. Nuff said.

As you open your heart to the hopeful possibility of a new relationship, here are some Red Flags and guidepost to keep you on course.

Now What?

So, the question is, where does one start? Questions of compatibility are ones that only you can answer. There’s no right or wrong. 

Compatibility is a thing, ya’ll. (Not everything. But something.) 

All relationships involve give and take. 

There’s no such thing as perfect. 

Whether you’re looking to meet new people, interested in casual dating, or determined to find your next spouse, knowing — and being able to enforce — your deal breakers is critical to your relationship success and mental health. 

Although this list looks different for everyone, here are the top five deal breakers for committed relationships, according to Psychology Today, reported by people already in committed relationships. 

  • Disheveled or unclean appearance
  • Lazy
  • Too needy
  • Lacks a sense of humor
  • Lives more than three hours away

physical or emotional abuse, drug use or infidelity were likely not part of the thought process.

For those only interested in fun, casual dating, common deal breakers may be:

  • The other person currently being in a relationship
  • Poor hygiene
  • Anger issues or signs of abusive behavior
  • Sexual incompatibility

For those looking for a serious, committed relationship, the same deal breakers apply, but other common ones include:

  • Lack of trust
  • Drug and/or alcohol use
  • Being inattentive or uncaring

Notice that these are all pretty major issues. While you may feel strongly about the amount of hair gel a person uses or what constitutes too much perfume, it’s important not to get so stuck in the details that you allow trivial observations to ruin your night. It can be helpful to adopt something like a three-strike rule: if there are at least three things that really bother you about the other person, politely tell them you’re not interested and be ready to walk away.

Getting Practical

While some deal breakers, such as abuse, are hard lines, others may be more fluid, depending on your purpose for dating. For example, differing political views may be a deal breaker when considering a spouse, but no problem if your goal is to broaden your social circle or have a fun time on a Friday night.

Deal breaker is a weighty term, and it’s easy to get locked into the idea that these are absolutes that cannot ever change once you decide on them. While it’s true that giving up a deal breaker can be a red flag that you’re trying to rationalize an unhealthy relationship, there can sometimes be value in setting a deal breaker aside and giving it an honest reevaluation. For example, maybe early on in your dating life you decided that someone having children from a previous relationship was a deal breaker. But now that you’re a decade (or two) older, possibly even with children of your own, you don’t see this as such a big deal.

It’s a good idea to spend some time evaluating your deal breakers periodically to ensure they’re still serving your relationship wants, needs and priorities. It’s also a good idea during this time to reflect on any recent relationship attempts that didn’t pan out or any new values you’re working on that indicate you need to add some deal breakers.

Deal breakers are meant to be specific guideposts and red flags that help you weed through the post-divorce dating pool and increase your chances of a healthy, fulfilling relationship — whether that’s for a Friday night or forever. Periodically evaluating your deal breakers to ensure they’re still a good fit for your goals and priorities in a relationship helps you stay focused on what’s really important to you when it comes to a partner.

Take Action

If you don’t already have a list of deal breakers, set aside some time to create one. Make a date with yourself at your favorite coffee shop and bring a pen and paper to brainstorm what has and hasn’t worked in your previous relationships and why. It’s important to look at the good things as well as the bad, because someone not having a quality or characteristic can be just as big of a deal breaker. If you get stuck or feel overwhelmed even trying to begin, consider asking a trusted friend to help. If you already have a list of deal breakers, set aside some time this week to go through it and make sure it still accurately and thoroughly reflects what you’re looking for at this point in your life.

Be Aware

Be cognizant of negative dating commentary, and try to avoid it. Avoid negative talk about previous relationships and notice how the other person talks about theirs. As you get to know someone, think about what you say and anticipate their reaction before you say it. Stay away from passive aggressive comments, and try to focus on positive, active language.

That said, you don’t have to pretend that something is going great when it’s not. Carry yourself with dignity and don’t waste your time on people who are negative or disrespectful. Ultimately, you decide how you spend your post-divorce dating time, and you don’t have to stick around if you don’t want to.


Every person comes into the dating game with a different background and individual baggage. Being honest about your desire for dating helps the other person decide if they’re up for a similar journey. And if they aren’t, it’s okay; you’re better off moving on and finding someone who is.

By Molly Blue Wilder


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