When did picky come to be an insult? Sure, sometimes being picky can be an annoying trait— as someone who methodically removes every trace of olives or raw tomatoes from anything I eat, I get that. But when it comes to picking a partner, someone you may potentially be spending most of your time and your life with, shouldn’t pickiness be encouraged? Shouldn’t you want to be sure? In fact, one of the most important parts of looking for a relationship is to know your deal-breakers. Know them and stick to them.

Because sticking to them tends to be the hard part. Most of us have seen a friend who always swore they wanted kids or to live in a big city or travel the world— but then gave all of that up for a partner who wanted something different. Sure, they can normally come up with a good reason for it,at the time. There’s a believable narrative that eclipses the fact that they’re giving up something deeply important to them. But it’s only believable for a time. Eventually, resentment will build and your relationship will suffer for it. That’s why it’s so important to get into relationships that fit with your deal-breakers in the first place. 

Know Your Deal-Breakers

So what exactly are your deal-breakers? They’re priorities decided by you and have nothing to do with your partner— whoever they may be eventually be. If you’ve always wanted kids, if your work is important to you and always going to take up a lot of time, if you have a close relationship with your family and want to keep it that way— things that matter in your life. We’re not talking about looking for a woman who is over 5’7’’ and brunette. It’s not about what you’re looking for in a partner. We’re talking about what you want out of your life and the things that you aren’t willing to compromise on. Sure, maybe they will change at some point— the list will grow and evolve— but you need to know what you’re willing to say ‘no’ to.

The list may be long or it may be short. And you may have items that you’re not sure about— that’s OK too. The most important thing is that you know what you need from life. And, even if someone seems great, you know that they need to be OK with your deal-breakers. I had two friends who were unbelievably in love, but one wanted to live in London and the other in Russia. They tried living in both places, but one of them was always miserable. It was exhausting. Even though they loved each other, even though they were good together in so many ways, it wasn’t enough. Their deal-breakers didn’t line up. Ultimately, they broke up and, though it was heartbreaking for them both, they eventually both settled down with people who were better suited to them.

Let Yourself Be Picky

So when someone calls you picky, you really don’t need to listen. Sure, if you’re inventing reasons to dump people or picking up on every tiny detail, that’s one thing. You don’t need to break up with someone because they wear the color blue too often or don’t like olives— or else I’d be in trouble. But if you know what’s important to you and you’re not willing to compromise on that, that’s totally OK. And if you don’t know what your deal-breakers are, it’s time to figure them out. Because you deserve to know what you want out of life, before anyone else even enters the picture.