Standards and Compatibility

You get what you put up with.

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Many of my Getting Past Your Breakup (“GPYB”) readers think that my second book, Getting Back Out There (“GBOT”) is for when you are getting ready to date again. Not so! Many people are leaving less than stellar relationships and yet pining for the person who treated them poorly or was a subpar human being overall (yes, I know that’s harsh but many of the stories I’ve heard are also harsh).

Once you get out you have to think back on what wasn’t good, what hurt you, and decide that you will never again put up with this treatment. You must have faith in yourself that it’s okay to have standards and insist upon compatibility and someone who respects your boundaries, and it’s okay to leave if your mate does not respect those boundaries or live up to those standards.

Standards and Compatibility List

In GBOT I ask people to do the Standards and Compatibility List. This is something you can start on day one post breakup. But you ABSOLUTELY should have started by the time you’re doing your Relationship Inventory in GPYB In GBOT I say that you can make a list or a vision board or anything that speaks to you. I really suggest it be as visual as you can make it. If you’re an audio learner, it helps to record it as well and listen to it every day.

This is something you have to develop and you must have. If you work on this when there is not an actual manifestation of your next person in front of you, it’s much more effective than if your list is competing with a warm body with nice eyes who sends endearing texts all day long. That is why I tell people to get GBOT and read this section soon after a breakup. 

Don’t WAIT – if you read GBOT,  it outlines EXACTLY what is healthy communication and what is not…what is a good and loving partner profile and what is NOT….this can help guide you in your assessment of the relationship you just left and the one you WANT to be in. So please read GBOT while you’re working through your breakup.  If you don’t know what healthy communication LOOKS LIKE – you can’t figure out whether or not you had it or if you need to look at your role in the dysfunction.

It takes a while to come up with absolutely everything you want in a mate so start now and keep it going.

GBOT is NOT (for the 40,000th time) a DATING book.  It’s about healthy relationships and how to get from this breakup to there.  If you wait until you’re ready to DATE, you won’t figure it out in time.  Read it NOW – even if you broke up sometime this morning.  READ. IT. NOW.

If you are thinking that everyone deserves second chances no matter what and that true love forgives no matter what, you are going to be giving second chances and forgiving the unforgivable forever. Stop it. Make your Standards and Compatibility list to help your relationships last…your good relationships…last.

How to make the list (vision board, audio…whatever you’re doing to make it real and make it your own).

First the “you” side of the list. You have to know what it is you’ve done wrong in relationships and cut it out. Have boundaries and stick to them.

I am an attorney so I watch a lot of judge shows. It amazes me when litigants are standing there suing someone because they bailed someone out, paid their child support, car note, rent, etc. etc. in a new relationship.

You want to know how you avoid this? You don’t get into relationships with deadbeats. If you give money to someone you hardly know, it amounts to manipulation, “Here’s some money. Now love me.”

Stop Paying People To Love You

If your self-esteem is so low you have to buy someone’s love, you need to rethink this whole thing. You would be better off taking that money and buying some self-help books.  I have YouTube videos (see the links below this article) on this called Stop Being an Idiot because you are not being generous, kind-hearted, or wonderful. If someone owes the world money, that means that he or she doesn’t pay their bills.

What makes you think they are going to pay you? They are not. Please stop throwing away your hard-earned money on people who don’t deserve it. There would be many, many, many less judge shows on television if people didn’t do this. But they do it – over and over again.

So make sure your side of the list includes that you will not bail someone out. You will not continue to date someone in financial hot water. You will not bribe your way into someone’s life.

Stop Trying to Make the Emotionally Unavailable Be Available

Second, have you a history of getting involved with the unavailable? The married, newly separated or just not capable of a long-term relationship? This is a you problem and you need to confront your fear of intimacy. I have heard so many people tell me over the years that they really really really want a relationship but just seem to be with Mr. or Ms. Unavailable time after time after time. Guess what? It’s not them, it’s you. You have some deep fear of intimacy. Go to therapy and figure out why. I, too, was once in this group and a very wise person confronted me on it. The common denominator in my relationships with the unavailable was me. I was afraid of intimacy. If I never acknowledged it, I couldn’t fix it. I did and I did. You can too.

Red Flags! Warning! Warning!

Third, what things have you let go in the past? What red flags have you ignored early on? What do you need to learn to do in the early days to keep yourself safe? Figure it out and do it.

Who Me?  Defective?  Naaaaaah

Fourth, what quirks or habits of yours have caused issues? Have you tried to play them down or hide them? Have people been upset because you like to stay up late and sleep in? Then you need someone who won’t care or does the same. Are you an unrepentant smoker? Own that. Stop saying “I’m trying to quit…” to non-smokers who are going to be very weary of your smoking 2 months into it. Own up to who you are and what you are or are not willing to do. If you don’t cook and don’t want to share the chores, say that. It may not go far, but you can stop hiding who you are. Do you leave towels on the bed and clothes on the floor? Stop playing Mr. or Ms. Neat Freak knowing it’s not going to last. Reveal who you are and someone will love you for it.

There are other things that need to go on an honest-to-goodness “me” side of the list. Embrace who you are and fix that which needs to be fixed, embrace that which needs to be embraced and understand how you need to change your approach to new relationships.

None of us are perfect. When you figure out that you have some bad habits or quirks or issues that are just not going to change because you’re fond of them or you don’t care, you can be honest and get honesty from others. You can figure out what is going to be an issue and if you can deal with it. Sometimes people just can’t work out issues and they would have figured this out early on had they been honest about their differences. My late husband used to say life was too short to clean the house and I said life is too short to live in a mess…we each embraced our own quirk but then we had housekeeping issues to work out – and we did – but without brutal honesty , that wasn’t going to happen. We knew from day one, we had to come to a compromise on housekeeping and we did. But some couples never do because they don’t want to talk about it early on. That can be a mistake.

Too many people say, “What happened to the person I dated who liked to help me clean?” Well that person wasn’t real and ta-dah! You now have Mr. or Ms. Messy. So be honest. I adored my husband, slob that he was…and he adored me…OCD as I am and we made it work. You can too. Avoid those useless arguments! Be honest about who you are! You both will figure out, soon enough, if this incompatibility can be fixed or is going to doom you. Yes it’s hard to walk away in the early days, but it’s even harder later on. Be honest about you and what you want/need from a partner.


Keep looking at the patterns in your relationships that has gotten you into trouble. As it says in GPYB, does it hurt when you do that? Don’t do that.

Next, the “them” side of the list. Put 3 headings up: negotiable, non-negotiable and “may be negotiable for the right person.” Make this as disciplined as you want. I have heard people tell me that some of my standards were too harsh or too pie-in-the-sky. They weren’t. Don’t let anyone whittle down your list to suit their bad habits and difficult tendencies. It’s your list. You keep to it.

You can say, “They must be legally free (divorced or never married). They must never have been arrested. They must not be behind in child support. They must have a job and a car. They must not have…. etc. “The list can go on and on. If you pay attention to these big ticket items and they are absolutely non-negotiables, you don’t have to think about it when someone bats their eyelashes at you and calls you a sweet name.

We have all done dumb things and some things are embarrassing.  Maybe we all have had parking or speeding tickets but we don’t have DUIs.  Know where you draw the line.  Don’t let anyone tell you they were not really THAT drunk or their insurance had JUST lapsed that very day they got into the car accident.  If you listen to their justifications about other things, they will expect you to listen to them about what they did to you (but I didn’t mean to!  It’s not like I murdered someone!).  Listen for the justifications and rationalizations. Have your one-strike rules.

You also can also have your twice-three time rule but you have to know that if you accept something once, it becomes harder to walk away a second time. Sometimes you don’t want to second guess yourself later (“Did I leave too soon?”) but you have to know that some things should only happen once and then you walk and other things might be worth a second chance. Know what those are. Know them and commit to them. This is a commitment you make to you. And do not allow anyone to talk you out of them. You’re not too picky, too uppity, too whatever. You are taking care of you.

Some things are “like to haves” but can be negotiable. You can say you’d like someone who wants to go sailing, but they don’t have to (although if you are passionate about it, go for it). I would like someone who makes me coffee in the morning but don’t have to have it.  In GBOT I relay the story of a client who insisted on the guy she was dating be passionate and knowledgeable about art.  She was dating a guy who was willing to go to museums and art shows with her, but he didn’t know that much and she dumped him.  I didn’t get. Her friends didn’t get it.  HE didn’t get it.  But she was adamant about it and she insisted on it.  You can do that but know that the universe of people might be very small and you might not get a nice person who shares your passions.  Just know your priorities.

“Wants To Be With Me”

You all know that in my video, When The Person You Love Doesn’t Love You, the NUMBER ONE standard for a partner MUST BE, “Wants to be with me….”  Nothing else matters if that is not there.  But someone can want to be with you and still act like a jerk so don’t check off, “Wants to be with me” and end the inquiry…TREATMENT is AS important.  So either number 2 or 1b should be “Treats Me Well.”  It is as important as wants to be with me, if not more.

I wanted smart, cute and funny but forget to add, “Treats me well.” Treats me well and wants to be with me should be at the TOP of the list. I have been with a lot of cute, smart and funny jerks. I was looking for and at the wrong things. Treats me well and wants to be with me should be number one on the list. Nothing else. No matter how cute, how smart or how funny if they don’t treat you well, you can say bye bye.  How someone treats you should be before all else.

As it says in GBOT, when you allow someone to subject you to your non-negotiables, it doesn’t get better. It gets worse. Know what is negotiable or non-negotiable.

Look at a person and how they have conducted their life until now. A good partner for you is someone who is responsible and has the necessities covered.

Do This All LONG BEFORE It’s Time To Date

It’s hard to step back in the throes of passion or of meeting someone you click with and get clear about what you must have and what you won’t put up with. Know all that before (long before) it’s a warm body in your bed. It’s hard to kick someone out once you’ve gotten used to it. Don’t let the throes of passion cloud you. This is why I say that GBOT is not an “I’m ready to date! Look out world!” book. It’s an “I just broke up with another Mr./Ms. Wrong….help me see what I need to change….” book. It takes a long while for you to work on this part. Don’t start the week you sign up for Read GBOT right after you read GPYB and work on the inventories in the two books together. Your “Relationship” and “Life” inventories will help with the Standards and Compatibility inventory.

Never stop judging a person on their ethical and moral choices. You have to be with someone who looks at life the way you do. If someone cops to a mistake, that is one thing, but if they make excuses for the inexcusable with others, they will do it with you. We all understand some poor choices, but some are really not ones we should be understanding. At all. Ever. Listen for excuses, rationalizations and justifications. If someone is capable of doing that with other behaviors, they will do it in their behavior toward you.

When you’re in between relationships, this is the best time to decide what you need in a relationship, what you’d like to have in a relationship and what you will not put up with in a relationship. It’s also a good time to look at you and what needs to change before you go out to try it again. Or what it is about you that you need to embrace and stop trying to hide to make yourself more appealing. If you’re a lovely person who can’t, for the life of you, remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste, stop fighting about it! Put it in your on-line profile: I leave the cap off the toothpaste. If you care about this, keep the line moving.

And if you cop to some of your quirks or bad habits, someone else will be honest about theirs. You might not be a match, but you will not waste each other’s time. And maybe you are a match and won’t have to fight about picking up socks off the floor because you’re both leaving them there! (or putting them away!) So good on honesty.

Having your standards list combined with good boundaries helps you maintain opportunities for real love, good love, and true love to come into your life.

To have a healthy relationship, you have to know what you want in a partner and a healthy partner will recognize the goodness you bring to the table. Healthy people know that Eleanor Roosevelt was right when she said, “Stand up for something or you’re fall for anything.

Copyright 2007-2018Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
All Rights Reserved No Duplication is Allowed Without Explicit Permission of the Author


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The When The Person You Love Doesn’t Love You video HERE

My YouTube video Part One of “My Story” from abuse victim to finding the most loving husband in the world  HERE

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About Susan J. Elliott

Author, Attorney, Grief Counselor, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, Relationship Expert, Breakup Coach BA English Mount Holyoke College, magna cum laude, High Honors, Phi Beta Kappa M.Ed., Counseling Psychology, Cambridge College J.D. University of California, Berkeley Licensed to practice law in federal and state courts in NY. Licensed but Inactive in Texas and District of Columbia Creator of the Getting Past Your Past and Getting Past Your Breakup programs, seminars, workshops, bootcamps, videos, blogs and podcasts Author of Getting Past Your Breakup, Getting Back Out There and the GPYP Workbook
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