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Personalitini: What is the Deal with Deal Breakers?

Liz Batsche, MBA Class of 2014

Liz Batsche, MBA Class of 2014
Liz Batsche, MBA Class of 2014

Picking the right mix of traits in a potential partner is challenging. It is *almost* as difficult as picking an exciting course load at Stern without several night classes. Interestingly enough, both of these scenarios include compromise. The SGov survey explored many of these dilemmas but not with sexy alternatives. It seems often in these scenarios that there are extremes. Would you prefer a 9am class or a 6pm class? What happened to the middle of the day? My experience in online dating has largely encompassed these extremes. A date is either incredible or awful. What happened to the middle of the road?

This predicament made me start to further explore what matters to me the most in a potential partner. Do I experience such polarized dating outcomes because of my expectations? Are they too high? I’m an open book and want to share with you my priorities when identifying a partner I’d want to date exclusively. On the flip side, the lack of these traits would be a Deal Breaker. I provide this specification because different things matter depending on the time-horizon. A causal relationship (dating, hooking up) may not require the same hurdles as a serious relationship. I define “serious” as someone I could picture as a partner for the long-term…not just for the night (I mean, I of course do not think that way, just for arguments sake!)

Deal Breakers (In Descending Order)

1. No Chemistry – I need sparks to feel hot for someone

Naturally my top deal breaker is incredibly hard to define. Chemistry is exactly that. It is that urge that makes you want to see someone again. It is the butterflies in your stomach that excite you. It is the thrill of receiving a text from this person (bonus points if it includes an emoticon) that breaks your sense of concentration. Like Walter White, great chemistry can yield perfection, a relationship of “blue crystal” quality. I haven’t mutually sparked with someone in a while. Have I been on good dates recently? Of course, but I haven’t felt the “click” in a bit.

In the past, the men I’ve had phenomenal chemistry with shared the following traits:

Sense of Humor: Are you laughing with me, or at me?

I define this not just as the ability to tell jokes, but to also appreciate my comedic style. Humor is highly subjective and highly important to me. If you can’t share a joke on the easiest of days, how will you get through the hard ones?

Communication Skills: Can you engage in intelligent conversation?

While I appreciate the ability to grunt or to send highly abbreviated text messages, I most appreciate a skilled conversationalist. I enjoy talking about topics beyond the weather and when we can go back to my apartment.

Strong Belief System: Do you stand for something or fall for anything?

Do you tend to answer questions with “I don’t care” or “whatever you want to do”? If so, we’re probably not going to hit it off. I appreciate a man that stands for something. Opinions and preferences are good. If you don’t even know what you want, how the hell am I supposed to figure it out?

2. Conflicting Life Goals –Big goals are more important to me than big feet (but those are ok too)

In the past, many of my relationships have failed because of differences in personal motivation. As a highly motivated female, I always find it interesting when I bring this up as an issue with male friends. Even in our incredibly progressive culture, there are still stark differences between genders. In a relationship, if a man is perceived as more successful than the woman (as measured by a more “prestigious” career choice, advanced title, or higher salary), there is typically not as much discomfort. However, if the roles are flipped around, interesting things happen, at least from my own personal experience. As an example, I wanted to go on a vacation with a boyfriend that was not as well off financially and I offered to pay for it; this gesture added a perceptible strain on the relationship [Note: this was during my days of investment banking and not unemployment]. I have big personal goals and I want someone that shares this trait. A driven man is a sexy man. A man that is not supportive of my accomplishments? Eek.

3. Lack of Shared Interests – The couple that plays together, stays together

Maybe opposites attract, but I’ve found I need at least something in common for there to be a solid connection. I have several pursuits in my life that I absolutely love. It would be awesome to have a potential partner at least be interested enough to try them. Scuba diving, cooking, exploring cocktail bars/restaurants are all activities I enjoy and are more fun with a partner. Likewise, I may not be the biggest sports aficionado, but I’m more than happy to learn.

4. Conflicting Core Values – Our moral compasses point in different directions

You likely won’t broach many of these topics on a first date, but if you are getting serious with someone, it will come up sooner than you think. Shockingly (though likely not if you’ve read my column) questions regarding child rearing, religion, and ethical judgments have come up on dates before I’ve even ordered my first cocktail. Excuse me Sir, I’d like to order a Manhattan and not share my thoughts on the death penalty right now. As you can imagine, the problem with diving into the deep end of serious conversation right away is that you may be too quick to judge someone without a more robust context. It isn’t until we learn more about someone that we fully appreciate their views. I think you first need to figure out chemistry, goals and shared interests before you move to these highly emotional topics.

5. Taller than me…with heels…that are high

I consider myself a confident person, though I’m not able to get over the idea of being taller than someone I’m dating. Is it superficial? Absolutely. I’m not proud of this yet I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t matter. I’ve attempted to dismiss it and date men that are basically my height. Height is symbolic of a deeper need to want to feel protected. Many of my personality traits are dominant and skew towards behavior generally bucketed as masculine (independent, competitive, blunt). Height provides a balance and makes me feel like a lady, especially in my 5 inch heels.

There you have it: My “Top 5” List. If you caught my Dating Analytics article, you already know that I am a big fan of crowdsourcing information from my peers. I created a new survey to figure out where my partner preferences compare to others. I was pleased to see how willing my Facebook network was to contribute to my research pursuits! I got a total of 67 respondents and over 70% of respondents were aged 25 to 28. Instead of splicing the data by gender, I think it is more interesting to look at all the data since nearly 94% of respondents are aged 25 to 32. After my most recent birthday, I am just outside of it and also one step away from 30 – yay! Anyway, I found some really interesting data points.

Question: When looking for a romantic partner, please rank which traits matter most (in descending order, #1 is most important) [Note: I’ve repeated each trait with its weighted average rank]

Rating Average Trait
2.15 Personality (e.g. sense of humor)
3.97 Physical Appearance (e.g. physical fitness, attractiveness)
4.06 Communication Skills (e.g. can have an intelligent conversation)
5.42 Shared Life Goals (e.g. desire to have children, etc.)
5.69 Shared Values (e.g. religion)
5.70 Shared Interests (similar hobbies)
6.12 Career Trajectory (current as well as potential employment)
6.39 Education (e.g. college attended, degrees received)
7.66 Background (e.g. life before you met, upbringing)
7.85 Age

The extremes of the ranking tend to reveal the most interesting data nuggets. When considering Personality, the respondents strongly preferred it; this links up with my Chemistry Deal Breaker. Although this is clear from the rating average already, it is interesting to note that 50.7% ranked Personality as the most important trait in a partner (94% as a top five trait) while only 3.0% ranked it as the least. When considering Age, the scores were more dispersed: 35.8% ranked it least important and 80.5% of the respondents didn’t even consider it a top five trait. As a teaser, I will explore the topic of age in my next article!

Question: Please categorize the following potential issues with a future partner (e.g. someone you would date long term)

% Yes Is this a Deal Breaker?
83.6% Lack of trust / pattern of lying / cheating
73.1% Untreated substance abuse problems
70.1% No physical attraction
64.2% Selfishness – it is all about him/her!
49.3% Bad sex
34.3% Fiscally irresponsible
22.4% Your friends/family do not approve
19.4% Different values (different religious, child raising views, etc.)
14.9% Height (too short or too tall)
6.1% Messiness

When I compare the collective Deal Breakers of my peers to my own, I feel like most of my deal breakers line up. As an outlier, I put more importance on height than others – I stand apart (pun intend). My top Deal Breaker (chemistry) encompasses many of the items that rank highly with my peers. Am I going to click with someone that lies, cheats, abuses substances or is a selfish bastard? No. I mean, I hope not. What if he is really tall? Just kidding. Seriously. I’m not that awful.


Since I had a captive audience, I wanted to ask another question, because well, it is highly relevant to me; specifically as a single woman that dates. What is typical sexual behavior? How soon is too soon? I wanted to see if my moral compass pointed in a similar direction. After seeing that nearly 40% of respondents are down with sex on the first date, are we truly a generation of Carpe Diem? But, rather than seizing the day, we seize the bed…or couch or [insert imaginative location here]?

Question: If your date wants to “get physical” on the first date, what would be your likely reaction?

I figured the data may play out the way that it did in the last question (you could say I based this on a sample size of 1, but my lips are sealed). I wanted to see how people react to someone that does, in fact, make the first move. Although 28.4% said that if they are attracted to the other person, s/he is down, 40.3% said that is really depends on a lot of factors. Imagine that, we are complicated creatures! I took this as meaning that even if we are attracted to someone, timing is key. Maybe she does really need to get up early for a meeting! Or, maybe she’s just not that into you.

Finally, I had to ask the obvious question. If a women and a man both have the same number of sexual partners, is the woman perceived as more promiscuous? When asked, 65.7% of respondents agreed that there is such a thing as too many sexual partners. Of this subset, 61.2% agreed that women are viewed as more promiscuous than men with the same number of partners if the number is “high”. I didn’t ask this question because I thought I’d get some earth shattering data. I asked it because I already knew the answer and the answer bothers me. Double standards are never fun if you’re on the losing end.

My next article won’t be out until after the Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you have a wonderful break. If you go home, maybe you’ll rekindle with a lost love. If you go to Vegas with the Stern Adventure Club, maybe you’ll have a steamy hookup. Remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…unless it’s on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…you get the point. Either way, enjoy it!

Until next time,

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