Must Love Dogs: On Deal Breakers in Dating
A few months ago, I was out with a friend when a group of men engaged us in conversation. Always the type to make new friends, we obliged with no motives other than good talk. I chatted up one of the men about his life: where he was from, what he did for a living, what he liked to do, and then was hit with this:
Look, just to be completely up front with you, if you don’t love hiking and mountain climbing, then I’m really not interested.
This, naturally, is not an uncommon thing to hear in Denver. While both of these activities are enjoyable, they’re not on my constant hobby list. Then again, I wasn’t trying to date this guy, and was a little surprised at his statement. I tried to probe further.
What if you met a girl that didn’t know if she liked these things? Like, she had never done them, but she might actually love them and just hasn’t had the opportunity or the right guide to take her?
Nope. Not interested.
Well, what if the girl liked doing those things, but not all the time? What if she loved that you enjoyed them and was supportive of you having these hobbies and would go if you wanted her to, but ultimately, it wasn’t her thing overall?
Sorry, not interested.
I was floored. I’ve always been the person that thinks it’s extremely healthy to have separate interests and to not be exactly the same. Every online dating profile I’ve ever created makes it clear that I don’t like golfing, but I love that other people do. I like shopping, and I likely will not ask my partner to go with me unless it’s important…and I’ll go golfing on occasion if it means that much to him. It seems strange to me that one could completely cut out entire groups of potential partners based on their hobby choices, or lack thereof.
We have all heard it: something, something, opposites attract, whatever else. It’s obviously not a blanket truth for everyone, but there is some merit in at least entertaining the notion of people outside your type or what you think you want in someone. We all know the couple that wasn’t supposed to be together–the insanely neat man who married the not-quite-super-clean woman, the hipster dude who ended up with the very straight-laced and un-hip schoolteacher, the workout nut who fell in love with the woman who never learned how to operate an elliptical machine and is allergic to running shoes. Somehow, these people–some of whom NEVER would have thought they would end up with someone whose interests are so completely different from their own–ended up crazy about this person they may not totally understand.
When I was much younger, I didn’t really understand deal breakers, because I didn’t really know what I wanted or needed or liked or loved. I figured that the only things I really knew were that I wanted someone who treated me with respect, never harmed me, and didn’t have addiction issues. As I got older, I saw things I liked and started to tack on the non-negotiables for a partner: they had to read, they had to like certain music, they must be adventurous eaters, they must love traveling, they need to be social, they have to have certain types of jobs and career goals and an education, etc etc etc. But then, one by one, I started dating people who didn’t fit into this rubric entirely. I started to realize that I could be okay with someone eating largely fettuccine alfredo as long as they entertained my bizarre restaurant choices once in a while. I could carry on conversations with men who didn’t read much because they still had opinions on the world around them. I would make fun of them for listening only to Metallica and would make sure to have a pair of earbuds on me at all times. College degrees and good jobs were not equivalent to being interesting, intelligent, successful, and with aspirations. So why did I have these kinds of rules for my relationships?
Should you have standards? Absolutely. The point of rethinking deal breakers is not to lower your standards, but to make you reexamine the core of them and what really matters. I still won’t date someone if they show even slight signs of believing that there are humans that are inherently worth less in this world, or someone who has substance issues, or someone who would ever make me feel unsafe. But these are things that are important to my worldview and how I partner with someone…things that are going to be important to my health and overall safety. That’s different from being unduly concerned that you will never get to enjoy doing what you love because your partner isn’t as into it as you are. It’s different from knowing that you will probably end up following your partner around after they clean because they missed several spots that are going to get on your nerves. I even have two dogs and have learned that, while I can mandate that you are okay with the dogs and will never hurt or be mean to them, I can’t mandate that you love them. I can only require that you deal with them (you’ll eventually fall in love with them anyway, to be sure.)
In the dating I’ve done, I’ve learned that having genuine chemistry with another human being is hard to find, and even harder to make sense of and turn into relationships of sorts. People sometimes get scared of sparks and fireworks and people will not be perfect; relationships are hard no matter what. By deciding that you are never going to date someone who likes poetry or you will only date someone who buys a ski pass every winter, you are tacitly eliminating whole groups of people that you might actually find very interesting…maybe even one of them who makes you feel like a giddy teenager again.
Except people who like to refer to others as “brah.” You can make that a deal breaker…I won’t judge you.