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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

This Week:
Issues You Can't Compromise On
Revealing Income Level on Dating Sites

What are some of the issues that people can’t compromise on when it comes to a potential partner?


Remember the “attractiveness and proximity” principle? This principle states that people primarily screen romantic prospects based on two variables – how attractive they perceive a prospect to be and how accessible the prospect is. Typically, those are factors most singles won’t compromise on once they’ve set criteria in their minds. However, almost any issue can be a deal maker or deal breaker.

Unfortunately, couples rarely talk about the issues that are likely to break them up way down the road. These are the issues that serious-minded singles should really be contemplating, establishing standards for, and not compromising on. For example, research(1,2) reveals that sex and money are among the leading causes of relationship break ups (including marriages). This is really shouldn’t be surprising, as money and sex are actually related – both deal with power and control in a relationship. The brilliant psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud said it well in 1913 when he wrote, "Money questions will be treated by cultured people in the same manner as sexual matters, with the same inconsistency, prudishness, and hypocrisy." If a couple can’t work out how to handle money or how to express their sexuality, then those are deal breakers. They may not be immediate deal breakers, but they’ll almost certainly be long-term deal breakers. Therefore, I strongly recommend that singles contemplating taking their relationship “to the next level” (whatever that means to me) first discuss in detail their views on money and sex. Conflicts in these areas are often very difficult to resolve.

Furthermore, there are other topics that may not seem immediately relevant at the beginning of a relationship, but which are crucial for a lasting and fulfilling relationship. One of the most important is: “How does the couple handle conflict and stress?” First and foremost, a couple is a team working together through good times and bad. Significant changes in life – be they positive or negative – inherently introduce stress and conflict. Even positive stress can become a wedge between couples. As a result, discussing how each person addresses stress, approaches conflict management, and communicates his or her needs are perhaps the single most important questions they can discuss. One person can’t carry the relationship when it comes to keeping a handle on stress and conflict. In my book, it’s the number issue couples need to address, but unfortunately many never talk about until it’s too late.

1 Goldberg, M. (1987). Patterns of disagreement in marriage. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 21, 42-52.

2 Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., and Whitton, S. W. (2002). Communication, conflict, and commitment: insights on the foundations of relationship success from a national survey. Family Process, 41, 659-675.

Is it really necessary to reveal things like my income level in my dating profile?

You shouldn’t feel pressured to disclose anything in your online dating profile that you’re not comfortable with. But, the more information you give potential prospects, the more likely those prospects can tell whether or not you’re their type.

Income level may seem like a shallow thing to hype up, but it does serve a purpose. To be sure, research has consistently found that women are interested in finding a partner who, among positive qualities, can provide economic and emotional stability, i.e., a good provider or a person who is relationship material. See my earlier piece about this here. Thus, if you have a stack of cash it doesn’t make you shallow to advertise that you can provide economic security.

If you’re not independently wealthy, don’t fret. You can still advertise your ability to provide security and stability. For instance, a steady 9-5 job also signals stability… and so does successful self-employment. But be you rich or just comfortable, I recommend that you mention in some way in your profile that you are also a provider of emotional stability. That’s right – showing affection and being attentive to your partner’s needs is extremely attractive. And ladies, don’t think I’m just speaking to the guys here. There’s also research that shows men are attracted to financially successful women. The same qualities that make you a success in your career – like ambition, independence, creativity, and intelligence – also make you an attractive prospect to the majority of men.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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