Help for couples facing relationship problems, including both the victims and perpetrators of spouse abuse. Share your story and your marital advise.

Help for Repairing a “Broken Relationship Picker”

A friend recently blamed her “broken picker” for a series of bad relationships.  Naturally, she fears her next relationship will also end in heartbreak.

If only there was a better way to screen out bad matches and to increase the likelihood of finding a great partner.

Maybe there is.

In How To Know If Someone Is Worth Pursuing In Two Dates Or Less, clinical psychologist and eHarmony co-founder Niel Warren counsels everyone to develop a thoughtful, written list of the top ten “Must Have” traits and top ten “Can’t Stand” traits they require in a future mate.

This list serves three purposes.

First, it helps people to focus early conversations on key points that can help them to quickly assess whether someone they have just met might fit their core values and needs.

Second, once potential partners progress beyond a second or third date, its a great idea to discuss your lists together. If your potential partner has not created a list, ask him or her to do so. By talking through your priority lists you will more quickly identify core issues regarding your compatibility.  Together, your two lists will give you 40 relationship priorities to discuss . . . fewer, if there is overlap, which might be a great thing to learn, too.

Third, you can use these lists as a reference point for later evaluating whether or not the person you are dating is truly honest and authentic, or is instead deceptive and manipulative.  (More about this later.)


Seek Compatibility, Not Perfection

You’re not looking for a 100% overlap of priorities.  You’re looking for irreconcilable conflicts in your priorities.   Pay especially close attention to your Can’t Stand list.

Don’t compromise on your top priorities.  Resist the temptation to downgrade one of your core priorities just because of your date’s dazzling smile.  If an item on your list is truly a core priority, giving it up hoping to “make it work” is burying a seed for future unhappiness.

Also, just because someone has admirable traits, it doesn’t mean they are right for you.  This is why you need to take the time to actually identify and articulate the core traits you really value.   What core traits will you admire, love and appreciate for not just a year but for decades?

Similarly, if they have even one trait you cannot stand (such as arrogance), even though others might consider it attractive, don’t compromise.  If that Can’s Stand trait will eventually wear you down or embitter you, you are doing yourself and the other person a favor recognizing this incompatibility now.

According to Dr. Warren: “Overlooking obvious incompatibilities and thinking, ‘Well, no one’s perfect’ can be a recipe for relationship disaster.  The bottom line is you never have to settle for less than compatible, comfortable and happy.  Selecting your Must Haves and Can’t Stands is one of the most important components of your search.”


Always Run From the One Universal Disqualifier

While everyone will have a different list of Must Haves and Can’t Stands, there is one thing everyone should have on their Can’t Stand list.   And that is “a character disorder that is incompatible with a giving, respectful relationship.”

Obviously, not every emotional problem is incompatible with good relationships.  For example, depression and anxiety are common problems that many partners can accept and help each other through.

But some problems–such a sociopathic tendencies, border line personality disorder, and narcissism–are simply incompatible with lasting, loving, respectful relationships.

According Dr. Warren:

“At the center of a character disorder is a poorly developed conscience.  These persons behave out of their own desires and impulses and pay little attention to how their actions affect you. If they can get their own perceived needs met, even if that means hurting you, they will do so. People with these kinds of disorders tend to lie, cheat, exaggerate, and take advantage of others.”

This is why you should always be alert for manipulative behavior,  twisting of the truth, shifting of blame, flashes of disdain, addiction and perhaps most simply, an inability to be authentically and generously other-centered.

These are takers, not givers.  Often, they may appear generous at first.  But they are really giving only when it advances their ability to take.

People afflicted with these kinds of emotional problems may be interesting and exciting for a time being.  In fact, they may be incredibly skilled at charming others to draw them into their dysfunctional relationships.   But once you are drawn into their net, they will become more demanding, more manipulative, more disrespectful, and more determined to punish you whenever you interfere with their obsessions.

Sadly, because of their skill at deceiving and manipulating, such people often run through a steady stream of victims.

People with such character disorders won’t hesitate to lie when you request they write up a list of Must Haves and Cant’ Stands.  They may even use the opportunity to create a list custom designed to make themselves be more attractive to you based on what they have already learned about you.

So don’t assume a successful conversation about your lists means a person is truly compatible with you.  The value of these conversations is entirely dependent on the honesty and self-awareness of both parties.  If either of you is dishonest to yourself or the other, the evaluation of compatibility you draw from your first conversation may be grossly inaccurate.

This is why it is a great idea for you to review your compatibility lists with some frequency, especially during the first year of your relationship.   By having these lists, your B.S. detection skills may be vastly improved by comparing real life observations with the written record of your partner’s claimed priorities.

When doing your list review, obviously you should be forgiving of incidental issues.  No one is perfect.  But you should be alert to patterns of behavior that indicate not just a one time lapse of judgement but rather a deeply ingrained personality trait.

These character disorders cannot be fixed, especially by you.  Even professional counselors have great difficulty helping these people to confront their problems, much less improve.

If you see patterns of deceit, manipulation, or emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, break free.  Protect yourself.

If you are a giver, then you a deserve a giver, too.   Make that one of your Must Haves.


Get Started!  Pick Ten Must Haves and Ten Can’t Haves

Below is a starting point of suggestions.  Use it as a checklist to start refining the ten qualities that your potential mate Must Have.   Feel free to add anything else.  You are uniquely you.  Your list should be, too.

To help define your list, think through each of your past relationships, good and bad.   Write down the best and worst characteristics of each partner.   Pay special attention to characteristics that overlap in multiple relationships.   These can be either positive or negative.  They may help guide you to identifying a priority or two that you might otherwise overlook.   If you “always” fall for a narcissist, for example, realign your radar detector to avoid doing so again.

Dr. Warren recommends limiting your list to just to ten of each type.   It may not be easy to do so.  But boiling your list down to just the ten must haves that are most important to you will help you to learn more about yourself and your true core priorities.

Ideas for Possible Must-Have Traits

1. Chemistry…I must feel deeply attracted to my partner.
2. Good Communicator…I must have someone who is good at talking and listening.
3. Sense of Humor… I must have someone who is sharp and can enjoy the humorous side of life.
4. Verbal Intimacy… I must know that my partner is sharing their deepest emotional thoughts and desires.
5. Emotionally Healthy…I must have a partner who is emotionally healthy, and able to share a stable life with someone else.
6. Strong Character…I must have a partner who is honest and strong enough to do the right thing.
7. Artistry…I must have a partner who has a passion for music, literature, drama, art, and the finer things in life either as a spectator or participant.
8. Kindness…I must have a partner who is gentle and kind.
9. Education…I must have someone whose educational achievements match my own.
10. Organized…I must have a partner who values structure in their life.
11. Exciting…I must have someone who isn’t afraid to take a risk and who sees life as an adventure.
12. Patience…I must have someone who can handle life’s frustrations or momentary setbacks with a patient, steady, demeanor.
13. Tolerant…I must have a partner who is able to hear and appreciate divergent viewpoints.
14. Conflict Resolver…I must have a partner who will work to resolve rather than win arguments or conflicts within our relationship.
15. Attractiveness…I must have a partner who is considered “very attractive” by most current standards.
16. Personal Habits…I must have a partner who maintains high standards of personal hygiene, orderliness, and other personal habits.
17. Affectionate… I must have someone who is comfortable giving and receiving affection.
18. Industriousness… I must have someone who is willing to work hard at whatever they do.
19. Energy Level…I must have someone whose energy level matches my own.
20. Emotionally Generous…I must have a partner who enjoys people and is generous with his or her compassion, attention, sympathies and love.
21. Intellect…I must have a partner who is bright and can share my understanding of the world as well as enjoy discussing important issues.
22. Self-Confident…I must have a partner who knows and believes in himself/herself throughout life’s ups and downs.
23. Unassuming…I must have someone who is able to accept criticism, and even admit to being wrong sometimes.
24. Able to Accept Help… I must have a partner who is willing to accept outside help for personal or relationship issues that are serious and important.
25. Curiosity… I must have a partner who is hungry for new information and knowledge and who strives to learn as much as possible.
26. Loyal…I must have someone I can count on to always support me.
27. Adaptability… I must have a partner who is able to adapt to life’s surprises.
28. Autonomy… I must have a partner who will give me space to be my own person.
29. Family Life…I must have a partner who is committed to marriage, home, and family.
30. Shared Interests…I must have someone who is willing to share my interests and passions.
31. Style and Appearance…I must have someone who cares about the way they look and dress and has a sense of personal style.
32. Shared Politics…I must have someone who has political beliefs which are the same or similar to my own.
33. Spirit of Volunteerism…I must have a partner who shares my willingness to volunteer and support community and/or social causes.
34. No Children…I must have someone who shares my desire to not have children.
35. Family…I must have someone who shares my desire to have or adopt children.
36. Stepchildren…I must have someone who will accept my children as their own.
37. Parenting Style…I must have someone who shares my views about how to raise children.
38. Parent Care…I must have someone who is willing to help me take care of my parents, now or when the time comes.
39. Staying In…I must have a partner who mainly enjoys staying in together and having quiet evenings alone or with close friends.
40. Sociability…I must have a partner who loves to socialize with lots of different people.
41. Spirituality…I must have someone with a similar deep commitment to spirituality, who shares my beliefs.
42. Religious Practice…My partner must be committed to being an active member of a church or temple congregation.
43. Spiritual Acceptance…My partner must accept and respect my spiritual beliefs, whether they share them or not.
44. Financially Responsible…My partner must be financially responsible.
45. Ambition…I must have a partner who shares my desire to achieve high financial and/or career goals.
46. Relaxed…I must have a partner who is able to forget about money and focus on the important parts of life.
47. Abstinent… I must have a spouse who has saved himself/herself sexually for marriage.
48. Traditional… I must have someone who is reserved and traditional in their sexual needs.
49. Sexually Knowledgeable…I must have someone who is mature and experienced as a potential sexual partner and is able to express himself/herself freely.
50. Passionate… I must have someone who is willing to explore our sexual desires with passion and understanding.We tend to focus on what we most want in a partner. However, it may even be more important to know what we want to avoid!
51. Previous marriage… I’ve learned from my failed marriage, and I hope my future partner has, too.  People my age who have never been married have generally grown too self-absorbed to know how to compromise in a marriage.
52.  Experience as a parent… Parents are more likely to have learned how to be more other-centered. My kids are a priority, and middle aged or older people without parenting experience may have trouble prioritizing family over business or pleasure.


Ideas for Possible Must-Not-Have Traits

Examine the list of items below as a starting point for identifying just ten qualities that you “can’t stand” in a potential mate.

Use this as an opportunity to learn a little more about yourself, and really think about what you’re looking for!

1. Vanity… I can’t stand someone who is overly interested in their physical appearance.
2. Dependence… I can’t stand someone who bases their happiness on me.
3. Depressed… I can’t stand someone who is constantly unhappy about their life.
4. Lying… I can’t stand someone who lies to anyone-especially to me.
5. Cheating… I can’t stand someone who takes advantage of people.
6. Cynicism… I can’t stand someone who generally sees the world from a cynical perspective.
7. Anger… I can’t stand someone who can’t manage their anger, who yells, or bottles it up inside.
8. Self-Centered… I can’t stand someone whose main topic of conversation is himself/herself.
9. Rude… I can’t stand someone who is belittling, impatient or hateful to people in any situation.
10. Unhappy at Work… I can’t stand someone who hates their job and complains about it all the time.
11. Materialistic… I can’t stand someone who sees material items as a measure of success.
12. Denial… I can’t stand someone who is unable to accept blame or see fault in their own actions.
13. Workaholic… I can’t stand someone who treats everything in life as secondary to their job.
14. Lazy… I can’t stand someone who likes to spend excessive time sleeping, resting or being a “couch potato.”
15. Worrier… I can’t stand someone who easily loses perspective and constantly worries.
16. Intolerance… While I understand that religious conviction is a positive trait, I can’t stand someone who is self-righteous and feels that their particular faith is the only one that matters.
17. Victim Mentality… While everyone has times of self-pity, I can’t stand someone who continually sees himself/herself as a victim.
18. Grudges… I can’t stand someone who has a chip on their shoulder.
19. Mean Spirited… I can’t stand someone who has a devious nature and is mean to others.
20. Childishness… I can’t stand someone who is not emotionally mature.
21. Fiscally Irresponsible… I can’t stand someone who is incapable of managing their money.
22. Petty… I can’t stand someone who focuses on imperfection.
23. Hypochondriac… I can’t stand someone who has a general disposition of sickness and is constantly treating the symptoms of their supposed illness.
24. Boorishness… I can’t stand someone who is inclined to rowdy, vulgar or disrespectful behavior when “having fun.”
25. Excessive Overweight… I can’t stand someone who is overweight.
26. Gambling… I can’t stand someone who gambles.
27. Drugs… I can’t stand someone who uses illegal recreational drugs.
28. Intruding Family/Friends… I can’t stand someone whose relatives and friends are constantly calling or visiting. Values
29. Punctuality… I can’t stand someone who is always late.
30. Flirts… I can’t stand
31. Racist… I can’t stand someone who believes that any particular ethnic group to which they belong is superior to the rest of humanity.
32. Television Junkie… I can’t stand someone who constantly watches television.
33. Poor Hygiene… I can’t stand someone who is not clean.
34. Hypocrites… I can’t stand someone who holds a double standard for their actions and those of other people.
35. Gossip… I can’t stand someone who loves to talk about other people.
36. Judgmental… I can’t stand someone who finds fault with everyone and everything.
37. Pornography… I can’t stand someone who views or owns pornography in any form.
38. Addictions… I can’t stand someone who currently suffers from addictions.
39. Sloppy… I can’t stand someone who is unkempt. 40. Undependable… I can’t stand someone who fails to come through and is unreliable.
41. Cheap… I can’t stand someone who is so tightfisted as to be impractical.
42. Foul Mouthed… I can’t stand someone who swears or uses inappropriate language or humor.
43. Arrogant… I can’t stand someone who is obnoxiously cocky.
44. Extremely Shy… I can’t stand someone who is so shy that they cannot open up and share with me.
45. Pessimism… I can’t stand someone who always sees the glass as half empty.
46. Political Correctness… I can’t stand someone who censors their thoughts and opinions with a politically correct agenda.
47. Recklessness… I can’t stand someone who has a careless and irresponsible manner when with others.
48. Sexually Obsessed… I can’t stand someone who is sexually obsessive.
49. Uninterested… I can’t stand someone who does not enjoy having sex on a regular basis.
50. Infidelity… I can’t stand someone who engages in sex outside a committed relationship.~

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