Why I Discuss My Dating Dealbreakers Before the First Date

Political differences became a dealbreaker for me the moment I walked into the room of a guy who had a "Make America Great Again" flag hanging up on his wall. I was in my early 20s at the time, and Trump Boy had previously checked all the boxes — he knew the difference between "your" and "you're," lived only a few minutes away, and was well over 6'0."

But our values and morals did not align. And had I learned how different our opinions were right from the beginning (yes, in that musty old bar), I wouldn't have invested time in a guy who was on the opposite side of the political spectrum from me. This is why I now always discuss my dealbreakers early on in the dating process — and why I believe everyone should.

I don't mean you shouldn't pursue someone because they don't like Taylor Swift or "The Office" — even if you quote Michael Scott on the daily. Preferences are way different than dealbreakers. What I mean, though, is you should not waste your time dating someone if they disagree or have a different opinion on something you deem to be core values of yours. And typically, these things center around issues such as marriage, kids, religion, or political affiliation.

Dating expert and "Dates & Mates" podcast host Damona Hoffman agrees: "I've seen too often that people get swept up in the momentum of dating someone and they're afraid to ask the tough questions for fear of being rejected. Those challenges will eventually come up as you begin to figure out where the relationship is headed, and you might find that something you brushed under the rug brings you to an impasse after you've invested your time and your heart into a relationship that ultimately cannot continue."

Yes, we may have been taught to not discuss the "hot topics" on first dates, but why would you want to invest time into someone who ultimately isn't aligned with you or your values?

Let's use Lauren and Nate from "The Ultimatum" as an example. Prior to coming on the Netflix series, the two were not on the same page on having children. Nate, who wanted kids, issued an ultimatum to Lauren, who was unsure about having kids. And, spoiler alert, the two ended up leaving after the second episode engaged because they decided they'd be able to work it out. (TBD if they did.)

But here's the thing: Had they discussed from the very beginning what their opinion on kids was, they could have figured out much sooner that their life goals did not actually align. They may have decided to stay together anyway, and never would have had to resort to ultimatums later on. Or, they might have decided to break up, a choice that would've been easier to make before they'd invested two years worth of love, time, and energy into one another, which clearly made it harder (or seemingly impossible) for them to date other people on the show — despite not being on the same page about a huge thing like having children!

Of course, it's very possible that Lauren and Nate may not have known whether they wanted children when they started dating each other. Lauren would've been around 24 at the time when they got together, and I don't know about you, but I certainly wasn't thinking about whether kids were in my future at 24. But I would argue that this is why it's so important to have a good grasp of your dealbreakers and nonnegotiables before entering any relationship — no matter how old you are or however much experience you have dating. Especially since "the conflicts only get bigger and the stakes only get higher the longer you date," says Hoffman.

Though it may sound earnest, it's crucial to take the time to get clarity on your own perspective — even if you, yourself, have no idea what your future looks like. Ask yourself things like, how important is it to you that you get married? Could you date someone who didn't want to get married? How important is it that you date someone who is your same religion? Could you date someone who isn't?

Why would you want to invest time into someone who ultimately isn't aligned with you or your values?

Sure, it's possible you may not know what is or isn't a dealbreaker until you actually date someone with said dealbreaker. But Hoffman notes that based on what she's seen in her own practice, "many daters assume that dating people will give them clarity on what they want, but I often find that will only make you more confused if you don't know what you want yourself."

So how can you get to a place where you know what you want? It's a big question. Especially when societal and familial inputs could sway you to think something is a dealbreaker when it may actually not be. But Hoffman suggests writing out the vision of what you want your life to look like in the future. How will your future partner treat you? What things will you do together? How will they make you feel? If you can get into the headspace of the life you want to live and the way you will feel with that person, you may decide you don't need to have any dealbreakers at all. But at least you'll have a grasp of what you want out of a future partner that can help you decide if someone is worth pursuing or not.

As for me, am I always going to swipe left on people who have "conservative" in their Hinge bios, before even discussing it with them, and even if they look like Henry Cavill? Probably. But that's because having a partner who agrees with my stance on universal healthcare, abortion access, LGBTQ+ rights, and so much more, is important to me. And if you think that's ridiculous, it's likely you don't hold political differences as a dealbreaker yourself — and that's okay.

But if there is something else you consider a nonnegotiable, I think it's worth acknowledging it to yourself, and being up-front about with potential partners early on. If there's nothing off limits for you, more power to you. Just don't let yourself waste time dating someone who you knew likely wasn't your person from the beginning — because, by all accounts, it's probably way easier to end it earlier than it will be five years later.