Dating is hard. Relationships are hard. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, and yet finding someone to survive this thing called life with is a wild roller coaster. There are all kinds of theories, strategies, advice, formulas, and algorithms all trying to streamline this process and guarantee a fool proof match. And everyone has an opinion on just how well any of this stuff works.
We all have our relationship “deal breakers” list running in our head. And the more you date, the less superficial that list gets. When I was younger my list included things like hair color, NSYNC over Backstreet boys, and what position he played on the soccer team. Now my list includes things like how he treats me, how he talks about people, can he keep his living space reasonably clean (though he does still need to prefer NSYNC).
Facebook is constantly pushing articles to me about “deal breakers” in relationships (what are you trying to tell me FB?) and I do find it fascinating. I started thinking about what my deal breakers are, and realizing I am very influenced by my feminist morals. And so I decided to make my own list of Feminist Dating Deal Breakers.
Now lots of these lists I have read include things like smoking, where they stand on kids, grooming, social media habits, and those are all very valid relationship things to consider. However, I am not going to focus on those kinds of deal breakers. This list is entirely focused on Feminist qualities to look out for in your partner – male or female.
So! Here it is: The Feminist Dating Deal Breakers.
A Partner Must Be Supportive
Your partner should be your cheerleader. They should respect you, celebrate you, empower you. You want a partner who listens to your boring work stories, and engages in them; you want a partner who encourages you to go have fun with your friends, someone who is excited when you get a fun opportunity even if they can’t join. You want someone who is going to celebrate you and validate you. You want someone who is going to build you up and be happy for you.
If your partner is jealous of you, uninterested in your job, pouts every time you go out without them, they are not being supportive. And what’s the point of a lifetime partnership if they aren’t going to support you?
A Partner Must Own Their Mistakes
No one is perfect. We all have bad days, bad weeks, depressive phases. We get hungry, don’t sleep enough, take on too much stress. And that is why we must all extend some grace to one another in this world. But when your partner messes up, can they own it? Can they take responsibility for their behavior and even apologize for it? And if it’s a larger issue, are they willing to get help?
Again, no one is perfect, everyone fights, and everyone has a bad day. Be with someone who can recognize that, apologize for that, and be better more often than not.
A Partner Must Value Consent
I’ve talked about consent a couple of times. It’s something I value highly in a relationship. If you are pressured, coerced, guilted, or manipulated into any physical intimacy that’s just a no-go. If you do not feel safe enough to say no or stop a situation you are not comfortable with then that is not a sexual relationship you should be engaging with. You want to be with someone you feel safe with, you have fun with, and wants you to feel safe at all times. Someone who values your power to say “No” and waits until you say “Yes”.
Enthusiastic consent is a good thing, and should always be the goal. Consent, an indisputable “Yes”, is a very sexy thing.
A Partner Must NOT Have “Old Fashioned” Views
I’ve talked about this before: “Old Fashioned” views are just fancy words for justifying harassment. It’s not appealing to chase your romantic interest, it’s not desirable to ignore someone’s “No”. Pushing and pressuring for what you want is not a form of flirtation, it’s sexual harassment. If you succeed in your desires, it could even be sexual assault. Viewing sex as a transactional exchange (ex: I paid for X now you owe me sex) is unpleasant for everyone involved. No one owes someone sex for anything, especially in a relationship. Sex is an experience shared between two people, not a currency or a prize.
So if you are dating someone that makes you feel like a piece of meat and or just uses you to masturbate with, ditch them. There is nothing “Old Fashioned” or romantic about using someone.
A Partner Participates in Emotional Labor
Emotional Labor is another topic I am very passionate about. I believe it is what sets apart modern relationships from our grandparents. Emotional Labor is the invisible work of caring, and it is disproportionately performed by women. It takes effort to notice how your partner is feeling; to listen and answer questions; to plan meals and dates; it takes effort to remind someone that they are loved and cared for. And in most relationships women are shouldering emotional labor daily, while men have the luxury of emotional labor being an option.
So how is the emotional labor balance between you and your partner? Who plans the dates? The meals? Do you both take pride in maintaining your life and your love, or does one of you see it as a chore, causing the other to see it as a burden? Are you with someone who wants to be a partner in this thing called life, or are they just looking to replace their mother?
Be with someone who wants to balance the emotional labor, who takes pride in your life and your relationship, and wants to do the work.
There are so many things to consider when partnering up with someone for life. But for me, what distinguishes between a boyfriend/girlfriend and a life partner comes down to support, humility, valuing consent, and emotional labor. What are your relationship deal breakers? What kind of qualities do you look for in a partner? What kind of partner do you try to be?