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It’s not wrong to have deal breakers. A big part of dating is about getting to know a person, learning all about what makes them human, and then choosing to love them—or not. Depending on the person, that choice can be easy or it can be hard, but at the end of the day, you must decide if some of those less-than-wonderful things—those human things—are deal breakers.

Self-awareness makes setting a good list of deal breakers a lot easier. For example, if you know that one day you want children, better not get into a serious relationship with a guy who doesn’t. But when we include items that are based on subjective truth, such as believing we are only attracted to men who are six feet tall or have dark features, our list of deal breakers can get in the way of finding a partner.

A recent study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,744 single American adults, giving them a list of seventeen negatively associated traits and asking which they would consider deal breakers. For many of the seventeen traits, such as “lazy” and “lacks a sense of humor,” I understand saying “no thanks.” There were some traits, however, that I think we’d be wise to reconsider.

Let me explain.

Disheveled or Unclean Appearance

Seventy-one percent of women and 63 percent of men listed this trait as a deal breaker. I get it, I would be the first one to admit that I wouldn’t be thrilled to go out on a date with a guy who seemed as though he could do with a shower. But I think we can concede that there are different standards of disheveled. I know many great guys who have not yet discovered the magic of wrinkle-free shirts and who don’t own an iron. But it might just be that they need a woman’s touch to streamline their look. It may be worth it to take initial appearance off your list and allow for the possibility of a mismatched guy without an iron to steal your heart. If he is staunchly opposed to regular showers, then maybe that’s another thing. . . .

Lives More Than Three Hours Away   

It was shocking to me that, in a world of thriving online dating industries, 58 percent of women and 51 percent of men said that they would consider four hours of distance a deal breaker. Really? You would not consider jumping in the car for four hours for a date with a cute guy who shares your outlook and values? That is a real shame, because long-distance relationships do work, and, according to research, couples in LDRs often have higher relationship satisfaction and better communication skills than other couples. Give it some thought, and maybe add a bit more mileage to your search criteria.

Bad Sex

It is my opinion that our culture focuses a bit too much attention on sex in dating and not enough on communication and shared values. In fact, research indicates that sex with multiple partners—which is bound to happen if that is a part of your litmus test—hurts, rather than helps, your chances at a happy, lasting relationship. Regardless, 50 percent of the women surveyed and 44 percent of the men said that bad sex is a deal breaker for them.

Here’s the thing, according to marriage expert Dr. John Gottman: Good sex has more to do with friendship, good communication, and emotional intimacy than it has to do with natural talent. What’s more, psychologist and author of Sheet Music Dr. Kevin Leman insists that, alongside friendship, amazing sex takes practice. In his book, Dr. Leman describes sex between two newlywed people with a violin analogy:

“The first night might result in more noise than music; even so, that’s no reason to be discouraged. Let’s go back to playing the violin. If you really applied yourselves, a good guess is that you’d eventually make people clap when they hear you play. But not right off the bat. Like a musician starting out, you’re going to need training and practice.”

So maybe it’s best to take sex out of the equation and trust that with friendship and lots of practice after your wedding day, the sex will be awesome. 

Stubborn/Talks Too Much/Too Quiet/Too Athletic/Not Athletic . . . You Get the Point

I found it amusing that more men than women selected “talks too much” as a deal breaker, and more women than men selected “too quiet” as a deal breaker—a perfect example of how sometimes we fall into the trap of desiring someone just like us. (Not to say that all women are chattier than men and vice versa, but generally women are much more verbal). We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t at least consider partners who challenge us with their differences or offer them an opportunity to grow and learn from us.

I should note, only 7 percent of men said they would consider “too athletic” a deal breaker. Go figure.

Photo Credit: The Happy Bloom