Dating can be “challenging (read stressful) because it’s one of those many areas in life over which we have just so much control. Where to find him/her? Will he/she be honest/ kind/ sane/trustable? Will we relate and be able to fulfill each other’s needs, sexually and emotionally? Will we want the same things? Although finding the right partner can feel like a game of chance, there is a science to dating that can make it a more much more enjoyable and fruitful process. Here’s the number one tool Frank and I use to guide our clients:

The most basic thing you need to know is, of course, why are you dating? To have fun or to find a mate?  Even if you’re just dating for fun – finding a friend, companion and/or hot sexual partner – you still need to think about the kind of person you want to meet and what your boundaries are. If you aren’t, you might wind up passively allowing the wrong person into your life, which can lead, as many of us know, to wasted time and bad experiences.

To get clarity, we advise making three separate lists of your requirements, negotiable needs and your “wouldn’t it be nice” wants. These lists define the kind of person you’re looking for, prioritizes what’s important, and gives you a good level of control over who you let into your life.  Requirements are by far, the most essential. Whether dating for fun or to mate, these are the non-negotiable, deal-breaking must or must not haves for the kind of relationship you’re looking for.

On the “for fun” front, you definitely want to be involved with someone who wants the same thing and isn’t aiming for a commitment. Do you want him/her to have similar interests? Different ones?? How soon do you want to have sex? What kind do you want? Will you be exclusive? Will you date someone who is alcoholic, uses drugs, smokes weed? Is married or involved? What’s your time commitment?

There are some requirements, such as sane, trustworthy, honest, and communicative that we suggest for any for kind of dating. Why spend time with a jerk? Plus, PLEASE put safe sex is high on your list. It’s scary when our clients tell us they haven’t and tragic when they come down with an STD, like herpes, that will affect them and their choices for the rest of their lives. And for what? A hoped for orgasm?

The stakes get higher if you’re looking for a mate, so you have to be even more conscious about your requirements, and braver and more disciplined in applying them. This is the list that has as the first non-negotiable a person who is willing and able to get married (or just wants a committed relationship if that’s what you want.)  Do you want kids? How many? Will they be brought up in a particular religion?  What are your financial and lifestyle must haves? Does it matter if you agree politically?  How important is great sex? Clients usually insist on smart and no addictions. But since everyone’s different, they have very personal qualities they feel are crucial, like for example: a good sense of humor, athletic, spiritual, educated, ambitious, adventurous, likes to travel, etc. As veterans in dealing with warring couples, we advise all dating-to-maters to include on their list the ability and willingness to confront and deal with relationship issues.

When you make your own list, the way to test to see if an item is really non-negotiable is to ask yourself, “If he/she didn’t have this, would I still want a relationship with him/her?” For example, if he/she doesn’t want children would I still commit?  If the answer is “yes,” it’s not a requirement.

This is where the second list comes in. They are the negotiables–it’s an okay, let’s talk about, compromise list. While you might want someone to be neat, it may not be a deal breaker is he/she is kind, smart, loving, giving, shares your interests and financial requirements, etc. Height, body type and age are often on this list. We’ve even seen “having good sex” on it, so like everything else, what is and isn’t a deal breaker is up to you. .

The third list, wants, is the “wouldn’t it be nice?” list. Wouldn’t it be nice if he had a villa in Southern France? Wouldn’t it be nice is she was a lingerie model? Wouldn’t it be nice if he/she did all the cooking? It’s the icing on the cake list.  

Many people write lists but don’t separate out what’s really vital from what isn’t. They figure they can’t get everything on it, so if someone comes along with some of their items, they go for it. This usually ends badly.  When you write these three lists, you focus on the what’s key to your fulfillment and to the success of your relationship. In couples counseling, it’s common to find couples that didn’t get their requirements met and never will. The result is either continual conflict or divorce. On the other hand, couples that did get their basic requirements met do have a solid foundation and the motivation to work through their issues and thrive.  Be one of them!  


Hailed by the Huffington Post as the Los Angeles couple who wrote the ‘definitive guide to Sex, Relationship and Hormones,’ Judith Claire and Frank Wiegers are the relationship experts behind the award-winning book So THAT’S Why They Do That! Men, Women And Their Hormones.


Judith founded her thriving Los Angeles counseling and coaching practice in 1978. Frank, a former fighter pilot, launched his encore career as a sex and relationship teacher and coach. Together, the happily married couple created to help singles and couples navigates the world of sexual happiness.