When you look back on your younger years, it's interesting to see how your dating criteria has completely morphed over time.
In my early 20s, if a guy had light eyes, an award-winning smile and a great pair of biceps, I was sold. Throw an athlete into the mix, and I was just intoxicated with attraction.
He was probably nice, somewhat sarcastic and had a good head on his shoulders. But I allowed the recognizable red flags to continue waving, and I wasn't as concerned about the truly important qualities.
Fast-forward to my mid-20s, and my perception has definitely skewed.
Through a great deal of experience, I've learned those light-eyed, lovable athletes don't necessarily pack it in the departments that really matter.
Let's face it: When you're younger, looks are the main hook. They are the opportunistic catalyst that lead to your classroom daydreams, happy hour fascinations and elusively hot Instagram photos.
When you gain a little more knowledge of what's out there and what you want in life, your values change.
You may not necessarily be looking to tie the knot anytime soon. But realistically speaking, you may not want to settle for just anyone in your next relationship.
Our hook-up culture is hard to navigate, but the beauty of a long-lasting relationship is a winding road paved with much more difficulty.
Yes, dating is a quest of discerning your "mandatories" and "nice to haves" among a pool of eligible people.
But when it becomes clear you're done screwing around and actually want to get serious, there are some non-negotiables that should be at the top of your list:
1. Education And Career
If you're educated and have a great career you're passionate about, your partner's ideals should be reflective of that. It's important to be on the same page and have the same value of schooling and your career path's trajectory.
If you're both on the same track in this sense, you'll be able to better relate to one another's goals and push each other to further success.
Learn together, grow together and constantly support one another in the quest to reach greater heights in both these realms.
2. Financial Stability
Money is a big deal, and it can be a major root of many issues down the line, if not handled properly.
If you dream of owning a house or qualifying for a mortgage, it's necessary to have good credit.
Being financially-savvy also dictates spending and saving behaviors. If you pair yourself with a spendthrift, your joint bank account may be in trouble in the future.
Lock down your finances, and learn how to budget your money.
How else are you going to afford having children and getting that beautiful house in the suburbs with the wraparound porch, white picket fence and in-ground pool someday?
Honestly really is the best policy. You can't build a future with someone if he or she isn't completely honest with you or him- or herself.
Yes, you may have your own individual secrets you only confide in a sibling or a friend. But at the end of the day, you always need to express that same level of honesty with the one you're serious about.
Look at how many marriages fail due to deceit and lack of loyalty. Stay committed in all facets, and don't be a jackass and spin webs of lies.
You need to end up with someone who is supportive of you.
If you lose your job, you need your partner to be there to comfort you, instead of despising you.
If you gain 50 pounds, you need your partner to say he or she still wants you, instead of being physically disgruntled.
If you fall into a rough patch in life, you need your partner to tell you everything is going to be okay, instead of losing patience with you.
We all go through emotionally and physically taxing times in life, and we need people to be the shining stars in the sky that get us through the darkest of nights.
You need someone who is sensitive and empathetic, and whose heart is rooted in kindness and love.
5. Solid Communication
In order to have a sound relationship, you need to maintain a harmonious level of communication. No one form of communication (or frequency, for that matter) works best for everyone.
Though major variances exist, there's no doubt having a regular communication schedule is key to growing trust between individuals. Learn to be honest with your feelings.
Dating is a real game, and we all roll the dice with fate. At the same time, we do have somewhat of a say in who we end up with, regardless of the stars aligning and destiny's forces colliding in our favor.
Though they are little things, these qualities ultimately wind up being the big ones. Maybe we don't fully realize it now, but one day, we'll look back and know these ideals will always trump having a nice body and a pretty face.