Most people have an internal set of relationship rules. These are a set of qualifications that a potential partner must or must not have for you to consider starting a relationship with them. Some people refer to them as “deal-breakers” while others just call them “preferences”. But are these rules really a good idea?
On the one hand, I believe it is essential to know what you are looking for in a romantic partner. If you don’t know what you want, then you will never know once you find it. It’s perfectly reasonable to have a mental list of preferred attributes, as there are so many potential partners floating around out there that it is necessary to narrow the field. It can also be helpful to know what you don’t want in a partner. Some people would rather die than date somebody who smokes, or who works for Centrelink, and their relationship rules reflect this. This way, you know what you want in a partner and you don’t waste time with people that you are obviously incompatible with.
Relationship rules are fine as long as they aren’t too restrictive. You want to narrow your options, not cut people out arbitrarily. It is normal to want a guy who is tall, with a good job and a sense of humour, but you might be getting a little specific if you decide only to date men who are exactly 180cm tall, who work at Disneyland and who have a penchant for knock-knock jokes. There might be one man out there, possibly two, that fit those exact requirements, and your chances of finding him in the sea of guys available is pretty slim.
In my experience, the time when those internal checklists are the most effective is when you find yourself questioning them. Every now and then, you will find somebody that doesn’t quite fit into your list of specifications, but who you just can’t discount on that basis alone. It is those people that you have to give a real shot, because they are the ones who will really stretch you and provide for the most growth in a relationship.
I don’t recommend discounting your wishes if somebody comes along that is clearly wrong for you, but sometimes you might find someone who ticks nearly all the boxes, but is missing just one or two requirements, or ticks one of your deal-breaker boxes. In these cases, after careful consideration, it might be well worth taking a risk and seeing how you go, because you just might find yourself wondering how you ever lived without that person, or you might realise that your deal-breaker was actually something that you could live with or that was really good for you.
Once upon a time, I vowed that I would never have a long-distance relationship, because I thought that they would be too much work and there would be too much temptation to cheat. When I met someone I was crazy about, who lived 2 hours away, I was too devastated at the thought of never knowing what could have been. So we gave it a shot. Six years later, we are still happy together, and although I hate the long-distance thing sometimes, it is better than not having him in my life at all. Plus, living on my own for a while has really given me the opportunity to become independent and get to know myself really well before I settle down. If I’d listened to my relationship rules, not only would I have missed out on a great relationship, I would be missing one of the most essential people in my life, and I would probably be a less independent and well-adjusted person.
It’s a good idea to know what you want, but it’s also a good idea to challenge your ideas and take chances when you think it will be worth it. Trust me.