5 Steps to Deal with Dealbreakers

sunset aloneI got an email this last week from a good friend of mine (or at least I have 7 mutual friends with this stranger according to my Facebook stalking) email me and ask me about what she should/shouldn’t be picky about in dating. Basically, where is that line between a quixotic class characteristics and a dismal directory deal breakers? How do you trim the fat on reality without disregarding the weightier matters? What does it mean to settle down without settling?


Well first of all, I have no idea.


Second of all, let me answer your question.


See, Hayley, in case you haven’t realized, I’m very unmarried. In fact, I’m writing this post wearing pj’s in my single bed. My bed is a single for a reason: it matches most other things in my life. So take a grain of salt, a spoonful of sugar and let’s chat.


I have had four phases of my ‘must have’ list:


Phase 1 – As a freshman in college I had a list: hot, blond, shallow, live in Helaman Halls and had text (this was a while ago and not a lot of people had text).


Phase 2 – I got back from my mission and I had a different list: strong testimony, spoke Russian, great at parties, read scriptures every day, adored me, wanted to serve missions for the rest of her life.


Phase 3 – Then I wised up a little bit and I had a well thought out list: beautiful, positive, leader who puts God first.


Phase 4 – Now I have dumbed things down a bit and have a single list: someone I love.


For me, my list transformed from hygiene factors, to things they are good at, to things they are, to finally, a feeling.


So here are the 5 steps to deal with deal breakers:


STEP 1: Develop a FILTER


Have a short list of things that they must have or cannot have. Limit it to 3-5. Don’t date people who don’t fit that bill, but make sure that you do.


STEP 2: Figure out the FEELING


How do you feel about them? How excited are you for a life together (or just a next date)? How inspired are you in their presence?


And love is a two-way street. So how eager are you to support them? How much of the good in them do you bring out? How uplifting are you to them?


STEP 3: Write All THEIR Dealbreakers


Write a list of all of the potential deal breakers of the person in whom you are interested (you can just read that “who you’re interested in” if that sounds too pretentious) and really stare at the list.


Often when you write everything that bothers you about a person, you feel critical and petty. If you don’t, you are either a saint (because you didn’t write much), stupid (because you didn’t think you wrote enough), or just an only child (because…well yeah).


Most of those things you realize are silly. Cross those out.


Look at the list that remains. Ask yourself, ‘Will that matter in a few years?’ Cross off a few more.


Now go to the mirror and sit down for step 4.


STEP 4: Write All YOUR Deakbreakers


Write down a list of YOUR deal breakers. Realize relationships aren’t some Southwest flight…no baggage flies free. You’ve got your won that you’re carrying on.


Realizing how much I am asking them to make concessions on has helped me to put a realistic perspective on what I’m asking of others.


STEP 5: CHAT about What Remains


Before you go and end things or walk away, have a conversation. Ask them about concerns you have and ask them what concerns they have. And when they “pour out the content of [their] heart, chaff and grain together [use] gentle hands [to] take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow away the rest” as I hope they will do for you (George Eliot said that according to some online uncited quote site).


So there are the 5 Steps: A Filter, The Feeling, Their Deal, Your Breakers, Chat on What Remains.


If you can do all that and grow stronger in your relationship, then my friend, you may have something more. So hang onto that person because there is one thing you need to remember about having too many deal breakers, chances are you will stay alone. And sunsets are so much less pretty that way.


3 thoughts on “5 Steps to Deal with Dealbreakers

  1. Marriage is settling. That’s literally what you do when you get married, you choose one person and say, “It’s not gonna get any better than this.” You have absolutely no evidence of the truth of that statement when you make it, other than you really really really like being with the person about whom you made it at the time you made it.

    It matters not whom you choose or how much you are convinced that it really won’t get any better, there are ALWAYS moments where you will doubt that statement to some degree or another. Marriage is HARD, just like school is hard or diets are hard or exercising is hard or life is hard. It takes constant discipline, a butt-load of tenacity, and work work work.

    The good thing is that marriage is also like school, diets, exercising, and life in the positive ways. If you put in the right amount of work, it pays off ten fold….until you stop working, and then it just sucks.

    Don’t be afraid to settle.

    All that being said, this is a great post. I can think of a lot of people that could have saved themselves a lot of stupid, pointless pain if they’d done these things. And even still – I know a lot of people (myself included probably), that could benefit from these things even after marriage. Great post, Zack.

  2. I had a great bishop to had the best advice on this: Find someone who shares your same guiding principles. What are guiding principles? Say someone took a tight rope, slack line, what have you, between the (former) twin towers (on a windy day) and said I’ll give you $100k to cross from one tower to the other. Would you cross? Basically what it more important than your own life? Would you cross to save the life of your family? Would you cross it if they forced you to drink alcohol, or commit some other sin if you don’t cross?

    Is keeping the law of chastity, word of wisdom, never swearing more important than your own life? Make a list of the things you would give up your own life to protect. Everything else won’t matter to much in your marriage. If you don’t have very similar/nearly the same lists, marrying that person will will be miserable, until the two of you have the same list.

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