5 Steps to Building a Non-Negotiable List

Posted by in dating a dangerous man, dating after divorce, dating in midlife, first date success, red flags in relationships | 0 comments

non-negotiableSandy, how do you make a non-negotiable list? Even though it sounds easy enough, I’m not sure I actually know how to identify what are my absolute requirements. No one’s perfect, and I find redeeming things in many people. Considering this seems crucial, I would like some guidance in helping me figure this out. I’d like to learn how to eliminate faster. Thanks!

Dee in Connecticut


Dear Dee,

I believe that to date most effectively, you need to be clear about what character traits you absolutely need in a relationship, or your must-haves. It’s equally important to figure out what you won’t tolerate, or your non-negotiables.

It’s not always so clear, like you said, to figure out if a guy is “in or out”, as Heidi Klum would say on Project Runway. Most men do have redeeming qualities, but that doesn’t necessarily make him good for YOU, especially in the long-run.

If you’re unsure about whether a guy has long-term boyfriend potential, ask yourself, “Can I imagine spending a lifetime with him exactly as he is now?” “If only” thinking doesn’t work. If you can’t see yourself loving him as he is, you’re probably with the wrong guy.

No one is perfect, and his habits may annoy you, but you can learn to be forgiving of or negotiate with his bad habits. What you can’t adapt to is a crucial character trait that is missing from the person you’re dating.

I’ve met many wonderful men who were sweet, kind, and smart, but they were missing one or two items on my must-have list. One guy I dated was sexy, fun, brilliant, and an amazing kisser. But one of the items on my non-negotiable list is a man who has my back. When I had a family crisis and he wasn’t there for me, I said goodbye. He made all kinds of excuses – stolen iPhone, away on a skiing trip, blah blah blah – but I was done. It’s easier to move on when you have your list handy.

5 Steps to building a non-negotiable list

1. Think about how you want to FEEL when you’re in a relationship. Most women say safe; emotionally and physically, and financially. Another might be excited, alive, etc. Now, figure out who he needs to be for you to feel those feelings. That’s the kernel of your lists.

2. Create your NON-NEGOTIABLES list. Take your time writing it out. You can keep a pad by your bed and keep adding to it as you think of new items. Make it as long as you like.

3. Now, narrow the list down to the top ten. The things you loved are things you are attracted to and want/need in future relationships. Those should be on your non-negotiables list.

4. Narrow your list to 5 items. These are your ABSOLUTE NON-NEGOTIABLES.

5. If you have trouble with this exercise, ask a close friend for help. She’ll know what did and didn’t work in your last relationships, because you probably talked about those things a lot. Ask her to go through each item on your list and ask you if you’d get divorced if that one thing was or was not present. That’s a sure-fire way to narrow down your list to the bare essentials.

Post your new top 5 list where you can see it every day – by your bed, next to your bathroom mirror, or above your computer. The next time you’re on a date, keep your list in the back of your mind as you get to know this new guy.

If a sense of humor is on your list and you’re not laughing together, he’s not your guy. If kindness is on your list and he’s rude to the waiter, don’t give him another chance.

If that’s the case, use the most important four letter word in dating – NEXT – and move on to someone who has the qualities you can’t live without. Compromising on your non-negotiable list will only make you unhappy in the long run.

Using this sift and sort process will help you waste less time with men who are merely a detour on your journey towards finding your Mr. Right.





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