Non-Negotiables: Online Dating

Over the past months as I’ve ventured further into the world of dating, I’ve been chewing on the concept of Non-Negotiables. With the online match sites, I’ve read hundreds of profiles since I joined almost two years ago. In those descriptions of what that person is like, what they’re looking for, they begin outlining their “non-negotiables.”

Photo by Jep Gambardella on

In looking at some of the definitions of this term, provides, “Non-Negotaible means not open for debate or modification.” Some of the guys’ profiles are very specific, for example, “I won’t date a woman who is not in shape” or “I want to date only women who would live with me half the year in this location and half in my home abroad.” I’ve read some that said, “If you supported Trump, you need not contact me” and others, “not looking for a Left Wing Liberal.” It wasn’t enough for them to list their political affiliation as Conservative, Moderate, or Liberal; they had to make a bigger point; no room for modification.

I’ve looked back at what I wrote in my profile on In the first paragraph, I describe my personality, the most salient character traits that I’ve come to know about myself. I include my love of adventure that’s been evident in my solo journeys.

In the second paragraph, I describe what I’m looking for. Now, I ask myself, “Is that still accurate? Is that still what I want?”

“I’m looking for a man who is honest, caring, has a sense of humor, lives a healthy lifestyle, values faith, values family and friendships, enjoys being with me. I hope to take future trips with my new life partner–someone who’ll enjoy the journey beside me.”

Me hiking at Eno River Nov. 2020 photo

Some of my non-negotiables are apparent: character traits of being honest and caring and able to see the humor in life. Value system of making relationships a priority– with me, with family, with friends. Takes care of his health by his lifestyle–which for me includes eating, exercising, sleep, balancing activity with quiet. I mention travel as one of the activities I want to do with that person.

Besides the narrative description that gets at non-negotiables, there is the “About Them” section where you list facts about yourself: Education, Build, Height, Faith, Smoking, Alcohol Consumption.

Below that are Race, Hometown, Language, College, Political Affiliation, Pets, How often they Exercise. There’s a listing of Favorite Activities and Books/Types of Reading .

As you can see, non-negotiables can show up throughout that person’s entire page. Since one of mine is a healthy lifestyle, if I see the person is a smoker, I hit the “Skip” button and move on. I’ve seen what lifelong smoking can do to a person’s health–especially by the time you’re my age.

When I was first starting out on the sites, I struggled with how specific I needed to be about my faith. Because of the negative connotation between politics and religion in the United States over the last few years, I was hesitant to say that I’m a Christian. There were some people who listed themselves as “Spiritual” and then described an underlying Christian faith. I realized that to present a true picture of myself, and what my life evolved around, I had to put my faith as “Christian/Protestant.” I wrote a portion of the narrative to describe that further:

My Christian faith is important to me–but is not conservative. I believe in being respectful of everyone and reaching out to those who are hurting. I value people who respect differences.

Shallow Well United Church of Christ Sanford, North Carolina where my faith started as a girl

At first when I looked at the guys’ profiles, I would “Like” some of them who’d identified as “Spiritual.” Later, a friend who is a psychotherapist, told me she’d done the same and ended up marrying one of those men. While they had a good marriage, she noted the disappointment she felt when over time, he stopped going to church with her. She lost out on a relationship where they shared the same core as Christians.

“When we grow older, Connie, it’ll be even more important that we share those Christian beliefs as we face the end of our lives,” she told me. I trusted her judgement.

Her experience resonated with me. I longed to one day have a life partner, a husband who would share in Christian worship with me. I had that years ago when my spouse sat on the pew beside me.

Recently, a man whom I’d “matched” with on the site, had messaged with and we’d had that initial phone meeting, called me. He started by telling me he’d enjoyed reading some of my blog posts–including ones I’d written about my love of dancing. The conversation evolved into the topic of non-negotiables.

“I think I’ve been at it long enough to say there are three main areas that have to click,” he said. “For me, as for you, I think the first area is our Christian faith. That’s not going to change.”

I agreed with him and then he continued.

“The second is education. While you don’t have to have the exact same level of education, I think it’s important to share ideas, to be able to talk about things intelligently.”

I told him I’d discussed this with my therapist–how similar do two people need to be in this area. He’d told me it has to do with having a similar world view.

“And then the third thing that seems to be important is that you have a shared passion–an activity you can do together,” he said, and then went on to his real point of calling.

“I think you really need to dance to be happy, Connie. That’s not something I’ve ever done or see myself doing.”

He went on to explain that while we shared a lot in common in the other essential areas, he didn’t think we would be a good match in our shared passion. Like most other guys I’ve met on the sites, we agreed that “at our age we don’t have time to waste.” There’s not the luxury of life stretching out before us that we had in our twenties.

Our phone call ended well; we wished each other luck in finding a match and left the door open for future conversations. I appreciated his honesty–since that’s one thing I value! He had refined his non-negotiables list to three things. While not dancing may seem trivial to some, I had discovered that it is essential for me. Even if the guy would “just dance the slow ones” and go with me to dances, we would be together in that activity. In turn, I would participate in whatever activity made him happy–whether it was golfing, fishing, etc– as long as I didn’t have to climb to great heights or handle snakes!

I realize that many of my readers aren’t in a looking-for-a-partner phase of life. So how do non-negotiables apply to all of us–whatever our life situation?

In doing some online research for this post, I found an article by Sarah Ahmed, a psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy Services. She speaks to the power of having Non-Negotiables in our lives.

Ahmed says that “having non-negotiables is a POWERFUL concept. Simple (not to be confused for easy), yet powerful.” She sees non-negotiable as our steady anchor and says, “A lack of non-negotiable leaves us floating through life without any real sense of direction, purpose, or clarity. I’ve linked her article at the end of the post; it’s worth a read.

I think of how we need to create our non-negotiables at different phases of life. When our children marry, they have to form new boundaries to protect their marriage, to move forward in creating a new, nuclear family. They make new boundaries with their families so they have the time and space to make their own family life.

When we retire, we have to figure out how we want this new phase of life to be, and that requires finding non-negotiables that help us to navigate our new life. Those will determine when we say “yes” and when we say “no” to the requests from others. We honor what is truly important in our lives and respect our ability to determine how we spend our time and energy.

No matter what phase or stage of life you’re in, whether you’re navigating online dating, old-fashioned dating, being a newlywed, figuring out a work-life balance in mid-life, a new retiree . . . I wish you the best in figuring out your non-negotiables. We all need those signposts that help us to find our way on the path.

Blessings to you all,



“The Power of Having Non-Negotiables”

14 thoughts on “Non-Negotiables: Online Dating

  1. I love this. Happened to me too when venturing into online dating before I met my husband. One thing that quickly rose to the top of the list was education. I think a bottom line for me is being able to connect on each level, mind, body and spirit. How that happens is different for each couple! Enjoying the process of meeting different people wasn’t something I focused on in my search for a partner, I was a little to goal oriented. I hope you are enjoying trying different people on!! ❤️😘


  2. This was a hoot, or at least the “non-negotiable” (won’t date a woman who is out of shape.) That is a definite, “No Fat Chicks”. That may be a little crass, however a soft straight forward statement. In all seriousness, I do like your statement of purpose in looking for an acceptable person. I might have responded to that intro. Throughout this offering, you continue to maintain your honesty, integrity, and openness. That keeps it interesting and holds the reader to take you as you are. Keep up the great work. Love and Blessings to you.
    I am thinking about getting serious and making timely Blog Posts.


    • Hey John,
      Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
      Some of the guys practically say “No Fat Chicks” so your comment is spot-on and not crass.
      I appreciate your compliments on how the post is written–“with honesty, integrity, and openness” ; that is what I strive for.
      Wishing you the best in getting back to your writing on your site. It’s hard to maintain a practice that is so self-motivated, so internally driven. Few people understand the discipline unless they’ve done it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really interesting, it’s good to have non-negotiables especially when it comes to vetting a future partner. As a 16 year old I heard a sermon about not being yoked with an unbeliever which is one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard. It made me realise that faith was a non-negotiable for me but my husband wasn’t a Christian when we first met!


    • Hey Julia,
      Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. I really like what you say “it’s good to have non-negotiables especially when it comes to vetting a future partner.” What decision is more important, impacts your life more than that one?
      I think I heard a similar sermon and I’m sure it was woven into the fabric of my beliefs.
      I take that things worked out for you and your husband– so I’m glad you were able to work through your non-negotiables.
      Best to you, Julia,

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Connie,
    Your post came as a MORE ON WORDPRESS.COM in relation to a friend’s post on friendship. While I am in a stable relationship that started online almost 20 years ago, if we had had non-negotiables as you call them, we would never have gotten together, yet we became a successful couple.
    Things have cetainly changed since then. It seems everyone now has things they refuse to overlook in a possible date/mate. I think this practice is not conducive to having something to learn from others, or having someone learn from you. Almost all my relationships in life have been about learning how to get along with others, lessons that are important to life, and how to live it. Restricting your choices cannot help you grow as a person. Are we becoming so set in our ways that we want to live only with our clones, and not share life with those different from us?
    This is going to create very boring lives, not to mention a very static way of life. It is good to find the similarities but we also need to celebrate the differences! If we restrict our choices to only people like us, we will never advance as people, as living beings.
    Maybe you will find some sort of happiness, I hope you do, but where is the challege?


    • Hi rawgod,
      Thanks so much for reading my post and sharing your response. It’s great that you found someone twenty years ago and have maintained a successful relationship.
      I re-read my post, since it was written almost four months ago, to see how I now view what I wrote then.
      The definition I’d sited for non-negotiable as “not open for debate or modification” does sound very limiting. Life is so dynamic that to say something isn’t open for modification–seems unreasonable. I’ve certainly found I’ve had to modify many things after going through divorce from a forty-year marriage at sixty-five years old.
      And because I’m single so late in life, I have a strong sense now of what I need to be happy–and I think that would be true of my partner. I do believe in learning, trying new things–celebrating differences, but there are key things that are values I’ve had and will stay with me for my remaining days; I have a keen sense of the passing of time.
      And because time is precious, I do have parameters that can help identify what kind of relationship would work, what character traits I value. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be open to someone who is different for me. I’ve accepted many challenges in my life and now I’m more interested in settling in to a warm and loving relationship –like foxes in a den, content to be together for the long winter.
      Yes–hopefully I’ll find “some sort of happiness” and you will continue in yours.
      Best to you,


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