The beauty of getting past my 20’s and 30’s to the 40’s and 50’s of living has been less concern with the packaging and more regard for what’s inside. For those daters who feel the same, this article will contain some nuggets from my dating experience. For others, it’ll be some great information for when life teaches you that what’s inside outlasts what’s outside.
What is a non-negotiable? I typed in “deal breakers” on Google search and happened upon a website called Couples Company. This is what it said:
“If your beliefs are strong and your faith is a major center of your life, this is referred to as a “non-negotiable”, a value or principle you require in a spouse.
Intrigued, I read more of the article. Aesthetic Intimacy was the name of it. “We recommend having 3-5 non-negotiables (more than five and you are too picky; less and you are too desperate), which anyone you date must have,” it said. Immediately I started pondering my non-negotiables. First, to how many and then to determine whether I fell into the too picky side or the too desperate side.
Physical attraction is very important to me. It is Number One in my non-negotiables. Hey, I may be getting older but I ain’t dead! I believe that if you don’t want a man to kiss you or touch you (or you don’t want to kiss or touch him), you shouldn’t be dating him. He doesn’t have to be an Adonis for that to happen. Physical attraction manifests differently for different people. Sure, I like a handsome man with chiseled features. I also find a man I can laugh with very attractive. He might be just so-so in the looks department but if he is warm and witty, he goes right to the top of the list. Yes, even above Denzel.
To all my Blood-washed, Single, Saved, Touch-not, Taste-not, Handle-not churchgoing folks out there, I got some sage advice. Even if you don’t succumb to it, the gravitational pull of attraction should still be there. Don’t let NOBODY tell you different. Many a lovely and vibrant single woman has ended up with a gay man or an emotionally impotent one because of the belief that sex isn’t important. Sure, faith is a biggie for some; but please exercise caution. Just because a man can quote a few scriptures doesn’t mean he is relationship material. And my male friends out there, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd, I’ve seen many of them go for the “good girl” and aren’t the least bit attracted to her. Trust me, nobody wins when that happens. If a person isn’t enough, you won’t stay faithful to them. You might not cheat with another woman or another man, but you will find whatever, whenever–a job, a family member, a charity and yes, working in the church–not to be around them.
In my article, “The Death of A Marriage: The Belief that Sex Is Optional,” I talk about how damaging a sexless marriage is. Let me add to that, if there is no sexual energy between you and the guy you’re dating, don’t go out with him a second time; and definitely, don’t marry him. It won’t get better. I speak from experience. As Oprah would advise, “listen to the whispers of life before it becomes a shout and then a brick wall falling down on top of you.”
Secondly, he had to be available. I don’t just mean single. Believe me, there is a difference. To me, available means accessible. He’s not guarded. He’s not mean-spirited. He wants a relationship and ain’t just out for sport. He isn’t so enmeshed in work, church or family that he doesn’t have time for a relationship with you. He isn’t nursing a grudge or some deep wounding from a previous relationship. Trust me, if he’s mad at his momma or has a contentious relationship with a baby-mama, it will spoil any efforts to build something satisfying with him.
He had to be motivated. That was another non-negotiable. He had to be someone who wanted to get out and do things with me. Emphasis on the with me. I’m all for a man doing something with his life. I have no problem with him getting together with his friends. Makes time with him interesting and makes for a well-rounded partnering. However, if his motivation wanes the longer you date, he’s telling you that his motivation was all about the goal of having you. He is not the type of man who will be attentive to you or to the relationship in the long term. A common thread that runs through most relationship books is the fact that men are recreational. In fact, some say that’s how they bond. That’s why it is important that you date someone you have something in common with recreationally.
No hidden agendas. Okay, that’s number three. I wanted someone who wanted me for me–not someone looking for a business partner, a stepmother for his kids, a trophy, a playmate or a possession: someone who was up front about his intentions and demonstrated his integrity by his actions. One of the most crazy-making things a man can do is to say one thing and do another. This confuses the heck out of us women. That’s why most folks advise you to run–don’t walk, don’t collect 250 dollars—when a man (or woman, for that matter) sends you mixed signals. It’ll make you hold on to someone who is not worth your time because you are trying to make sense out of…well…nonsense.
And now a word from our sponsor:
If a man asks for your phone number but doesn’t call you, it doesn’t mean he lost your number. Please don’t call him. Take the subtle (or not-so-subtle) hint that he’s not interested enough in you. Say this with me, with attitude, “if he’s not interested in me (pause for effect), then why should I be interested in him.” Now, here’s the thing that confuses many of my sistah-friends: what if he decides to call you a couple of weeks, a month or a year later? Means he’s interested, right? WRONG. Nine times out of 10, it only means that he’s bored or between relationships or horny and calls you as a meantime remedy. Please don’t read more into it.
A serious serious non-negotiable is abuse. Physical abuse is a no-brainer but I place just as much emphasis on the subtler kinds: put-downs, him acting like I’m not all that, negative generalities about women and disregard for your feelings. Some people don’t think of neglect as abuse but it is. It’s indifference for what a person needs to thrive in the relationship. It shows itself when a person withholds from you or gives you the silent treatment. All of these are very manipulative and self-seeking behaviors. Oftentimes, it makes you feel like you aren’t valued or free to be who you are. That, my friends, is abuse. You deserve to be with someone who doesn’t treat you like that.
Number five and the last non-negotiable (at least for this article) he couldn’t be possessive. I do need to clarify that having a sense of belonging is a basic human need, so I’m not talking about that. A woman likes for her man to claim her as his. What I am talking about is the imprisoning effects of possessiveness. For example, I needed to feel free to have friends and associates outside of the relationship. I needed freedom to be my own person without him feeling insecure or threatened. You see, I am a very gregarious person. I am a huggy, touchy, feely type. Some men don’t like that. I understand why. Many times, they’ve seen their dates flirt with other men while on a date with them. Understand, my touchy feely-ness was purely platonic. I didn’t cross the lines. It wasn’t something that only happened when I was around the opposite sex. I was warm and affectionate with family and my girlfriends too. Important to this, my date (who later became my man) was just as much a recipient of my affectionate nature and I treated him with consideration and kindness no matter who I was around. That’s the difference.
His non-negotiables? My experience is that guys who are serious and not just out for play-play will tell you up front what is important to them. They won’t shuck and jive you. They’ll tell you they have joint-custody of their children and they have them every other weekend. They’ll tell you if they travel a lot for their job. They’ll tell you their intentions and what they are looking for. In fact, I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned to allow a man to reveal himself to me instead of my going into too much detail about what kind of man I was looking for. My male cousin once warned me that a player will act the part just to have you; so you have to be a savvy dater in not revealing too much too soon. “Give it time and he’ll show you who he really is,” he advised. “A good man won’t be evasive but will answer your questions readily.”
If you have any questions not addressed in this article, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your opinions and perspective.