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Discuss: The Three Musts

Recently, a friend of friend went to visit an NYC matchmaker.  She’s in her mid-thirties, successful and hoping to find someone with whom she can settle down and make a life.

During the meeting, the matchmaker asked her to talk about what she was looking for in a potential partner.  After she’d rattled off a dozen qualifications, the matchmaker gave her some valuable advice.  Everyone has a list of qualities that they would like for their partner to have, but you have to separate the likes from the needs.

To do this, the matchmaker (who charges more for this service than I make in a year) recommends that you choose just three deal breakers.  Three qualities/attributes/characteristics that your partner must have or must not have. Your three things should be things that would give you serious pause.  For example, if you were on your fifth date with a man you really liked, and he said that he never wants children, ever.

We get bogged down sometimes searching for the “dream guy,” the one who has everything on the list.  But maybe the list is just too long?  I think sorting it into two categories–your three essentials, “the musts,” and other things you would prefer or wouldn’t like–is a great idea.  If you have the essentials covered, you can figure out what you’re willing to be flexible about without sacrificing what really matters.

So what are my three things?

Trustworthiness. When I was young, I was in a relationship that was unhealthy.  He routinely lied about where he was and who he was even when he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Deception was the name of the game.

Over time, I started to obsess about what he wasn’t telling me and whether what he was telling me was true.  I over analyzed and dissected every conversation, e-mail and event.  Eventually, I became depressed and practically manic, unable to decide what was a true and what was a lie.  I was sinking in quicksand.

After that, I decided that I would never again be with someone who I couldn’t trust.  I don’t want to spend my time worrying where you are.  I don’t want my partner to feel like every conversation is an interrogation.  And I like being able to sleep at night.

Trust = stability and sanity.  It’s a good thing.

Attraction.  In college, I was in a serious relationship with a really good guy.  He was kind, funny, smart and we had a lot in common.  But I really wasn’t attracted to him in that way.

In the beginning, it wasn’t a problem.  We were so enamored with each other and happy to spend time together, that I barely noticed.  And besides, physical attractiveness isn’t supposed to matter.  At least, that’s what everyone tells you.

Over time, we had a circus tent full of elephants in the room.  I tried to put it out of my mind, and he tried to ignore the fact that he was more attracted to me than I was to him.  Add in the comments and judgments from friends, family and total strangers and it was a recipe for disaster.  Eventually, our disparate passions grew into mutual resentment and we split up.

It’s not all about physical appearance, but that is part of it.  You can be attracted to all kinds of things: confidence, ambition, sense of humor, etc.  Whatever the secret ingredient was, he didn’t have it.  We didn’t have it.  And the absence of that magic, intoxicating thing that keeps you interested in the other person was like a chasm.

Very simply, spark matters.  If you don’t have it in the beginning, the odds that you’ll ever have it are slim.  And it’s not fair to the other person to stay in a relationship that doesn’t have it, because he deserves to be with someone who loves and desires him just as much as you do.

Cheerful in All Weather.  I could best be described as a glass half-empty kind of girl.  So I need someone of the glass half-full persuasion.  He doesn’t have to be happy-go-lucky all the time, just cheerful and optimistic enough to keep me from slipping into gloom and doom territory.

I don’t expect anyone else to make me a happier person, only I can do that.  But I think that being around a cheerful person helps me to remember that the world will not end just because I’m having a no good, very bad day. So someone who challenges me to look on the bright side is best.

So those are the basics.  Sure, I’d prefer if he didn’t chew his toenails or listen to loud punk music, but those are just preferences, not needs.  Oh, and if he could be five inches or more taller than me, that would be really, really great. *wink*

If you’d like to leave your three things in the comments, feel free.  I’d love to hear what you ladies think is important in a potential mate (gents, too).

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  1. K says:

    You have said that you don't date though Belle…

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. Belle says:

    Just because someone hasn't been on a date in awhile doesn't mean that they shouldn't know what they're looking for in a partner.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. K says:

    You have said that you don't date though Belle…

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  4. Belle says:

    Just because someone hasn't been on a date in awhile doesn't mean that they shouldn't know what they're looking for in a partner.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  5. Dr. jean Grey says:

    Intelligence. Ambition. Looks. In that order.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  6. Em says:

    Considering my propensity in picking Mr. Wrongs, numerous Mr. Wrongs, at 24 I have list upon list of qualities (physical, emotional, maturity level, intelligence, etc.) and because you asked for soundbyte not state of the union–here are my top three:

    *Must “Wake Up” Before Me: I want a highly motivated person in the sense that they 'wake up' before me–metaphorically speaking–someone who is constantly on their a-game, and that brings me to do the same! I've dated guys I've tried to motivate to succeed physically, educationally, etc. and it ends up feeling like an unpaid baby-sitting job…wuff.
    *Must Find Me Adorable: This might sound ridiculous, and naive. But I want someone, when I walk into a room, to think that they're the luckiest guy in the world–because I'm theirs…and I want to feel the same about them. I'm not just talking about looks, but personality, humor (I think I'm funny–but I'm not), basically the whole package.
    *Honesty: I've dated some fabulous manipulators, some terrible liars, and some pathological lying weirds. On the bright side, I can usually tell when a gentleman is lying–and I've picked up some good lies…uh I mean lines. If someone doesn't want to spend time with me, I want them to say it–nicely, of course. If they're not into me…I'd rather hear that than seeing them out with a new girlfriend…

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  7. Simone says:

    Honest, Positive and Driven.

    I'm like you, Belle, I'm a glass half-empty gal and need that positive man in my life.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  8. P says:

    1. a true partner (shares in cooking and cleaning, taking care of children, making a living for the family. i know this isnt sexy to some people, but to me, a guy with a “feminist” attitude who supports my ambition is damn sexy.)
    2. a sense of humor – sees the good in life, doesnt hold grudges.
    3. wants children and would be a good dad.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  9. Montana says:

    Passionate, Spiritual, Masculine. I am lucky to have found this dream man

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  10. Mia says:

    I've found the perfect man because he is:
    – Patient (I'm prone to extreme stress fits, losing my temper with myself, and constantly forgetting stuff causing me to run back into the house 400 times)
    – Smart and conversational – I need someone who I can talk to after my body starts to go the way of the dinosaur (and his, for that matter)
    – Energetic/Exploratory – I do stuff. I need someone who wants to do stuff with me and who will plan stuff. And travel and be up for the next quirky adventure (whether it's late night ice cream or a trip to a random location)
    Adding a fourth, even though it's cheating:
    – Honest with himself and me. I can't get away with crap with him. He calls a spade a spade and will stand up to my bullcrap, realize his own, and is always honest about it.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  11. Emily says:

    I've just got one: Character. If he's got that, hopefully the rest of it follows suit.

    Well, okay and I want him to like kids, be funny and handsome…

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  12. RMS says:

    Believes in God

    Wants children

    Supportive/Understanding

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  13. KRF says:

    This may sound weird but my husband and I have known each other since we were 4 years old. We grew up together and were always great friends but did not date until the end of our college years. The one trait that sticks out for me is that my husband does not tease or make fun of people and he never did when we were growing up–he is the only boy I remember who did not make fun of me for being short or wearing glasses. Thanks for the discussion Belle.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  14. Charleigh says:

    1) intelligence (including emotional intelligence)
    2) funny (bright personality)
    3) that “spark”/attractiveness that Belle speaks of

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  15. Kelly says:

    Confident,witty, passionate. Preferably with brown hair, blue eyes and a dog 🙂

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  16. Lou says:

    This thread makes me so sad. I've been married for over 16 years and the three things I want, my husband doesn't have anymore.

    1. To cherish me. Perhaps he never did. Instead he enjoys making fun of me.
    2. A sense of humor. Once upon a time he had a great one. Now it is used in cruel ways or is just absent.
    3. Attraction. I've always been attracted to him and he claims to be with me, but I just don't see it. You can't be absent the above two things and still say you are attracted to your partner.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  17. Apples says:

    Question: How did you become enamored with someone you weren't attracted to? What does that even mean? (i ask not to be snarky, but because i wonder how that could happen, and if it's happened/is happening to me)

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  18. ashley says:

    1. Has previous relationship (and everything that goes with that) experience and knows what HE wants
    2. Is someone I can take home to my parents (for me this means he's Jewish, driven, and has proven his ability to be my equal)
    3. Is someone I can openly communicate with about anything

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  19. The Dash says:

    She has to be:

    1) Confident
    2) Thoughtful
    3) Passionate about one thing to the point that she is known for it.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  20. gloria says:

    I hear ya Lou. Mine is continually demeaning for the sake of being “funny”. Only pays attention to me when he wants something. etc…etc…etc. It is no fun to be taken for granted on top of that. Your value as a person extends beyond your circumstances. Belle's got the right idea about the list…perhaps I shall work on mine.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  21. Kim says:

    While I was dating, my number one thing I was looking for was financial common sense. Little else breaks up a couple down the road more than money, and I just didn't want to get involved with someone who was bad about it. I'm not saying he had to be wealthy or even make more than I do, it's just that I was looking for red flags that he was living outside of his means. If he was or seemed overly concerned with “keeping up with the Joneses”, I was out.

    Other than that
    2) someone who makes me truly laugh (I'm an incredibly serious person so that's harder than it sounds)
    3) makes family a priority

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  22. terri says:

    1. Ambitious and willing to get there under his won steam. 2. Intelligence – keeps me on my toes. 3. Sense of humor – and the ability to keep it when life is not coming up roses.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  23. SC says:

    1) Trustworthiness/honesty. I'm on you with this one Belle, I've been burned twice by guys who hurt me this way. For the most part they were honest about the small things, but the problem was that I wasn't exactly their first choice and so they were lying to me about how they really felt.

    2) Must have at least bachelor's degree, preferably will obtain/is obtaining advanced degree – my family and culture is huge on education, and while it doesn't always equal having common sense, I want us to at least be equals in this.

    3) Conversationally compatible. It doesn't have to be that we never run out of things to talk about, but I need someone I can talk to about a variety of topics, save the ones that I talk to my girlfriends about.

    Kind of a fourth – the same ethnicity and age range. My dad has gotten very specific on this, my mom not so much, but I'm sitting on the fence for this, allowing for slight variables. Then again, if the right man comes along but isn't my ethnicity, I wouldn't reject him straight up just for that, but he has to understand my parents' language to some degree, even though I have same ethnicity friends who can barely understand a basic word or two of the language.

    Attraction tends to depend on the person for me, sometimes it's immediate physical attraction, other time it grows along with the emotional aspect of the relationship.

    May 6, 2011/Reply
  24. K says:

    You have said that you don't date though Belle…

    May 7, 2011/Reply
  25. Belle says:

    Just because someone hasn't been on a date in awhile doesn't mean that they shouldn't know what they're looking for in a partner.

    May 7, 2011/Reply
  26. shannon says:

    Smart, motivated, and a good communicator.

    May 10, 2011/Reply
  27. EBT says:

    1) Intelligent. Can engage in witty repartee with me and be playful (for example, I love playing the “geography game” where you make completely outlandish statements about where things are located – like, “I heard Namibia is joining the European Union” – and see how long you can keep it going with a straight face)

    2) Sweet-spirited. It's a complete deal-breaker for me if a man is rude or mean to people, especially our friends and family and people in the service industry.

    3) Adventurous. I am vaguely nomadic – I've only lived in DC for 3 months and am already planning my next international escapade (teaching English in South Korea?). I need to be with someone who wants to have those adventures with me.

    I would also like for him to be a babe, but that's negotiable. I feel like if a man has the above qualities he doesn't really need to be conventionally good-looking.

    May 11, 2011/Reply