Do Our Differences Mean He's Not Relationship Material?

advice: dating lauren gray

It’s hard finding Mr. Right.

You hear messages like, “Don’t settle for less,” and suddenly, you feel empowered to have high standards for a partner.

But then you hear messages like, “Don’t wait for Mr. Perfect; there’s no such thing,” and it’s easy to turn on those beautiful standards and accuse yourself of being TOO picky!

It’s mentally exhausting bouncing between these two perfectly rational principles. So, where DO you draw the line?

I’ll show you how to determine whether or not it’s a dealbreaker, how to fix it using the Boundary Technique (setting a boundary so a man will hear it), and how to discover if he’s Mr. Perfect-for-You after all.

Hi Lauren,

I've been single and dating for the last 3 years, and I’ve found it almost impossible to meet a man that meets even the minimum criteria of having a good job, not living with his parents, and wanting a relationship.

I finally found a really great guy, and we’ve been together for a month. I have a list of what I want in a guy, and he meets almost all of the criteria — except for one huge thing. He hates cats and gives me crap about being vegetarian all the time!

He apologizes when I tell him he's hurt my feelings by taking the teasing too far, but I still constantly hear references to being a “crazy cat lady” and how meat would “cure all my ails.” I have 2 kitties, and I’m never going to eat meat again, and he’s not letting it go.

I don't know if I'm being overly sensitive or if he's being a jerk. I really don't know if this is worth breaking up with him over. When there are so few good men out there, it feels silly to put my foot down on this. Where should a woman realistically draw the line?

– Daphne

If It Bugs You, It’s Real


First, I want to validate for you: This constant teasing isn’t cute, it’s not charming, and it’s not working for you. This doesn’t make you “too picky,” “a diva,” or “the princess and the pea."

Some people might call you “overly sensitive,” but everyone has different levels of patience and tolerance. It doesn’t matter if you’re “overly sensitive” or regularly sensitive (there’s no such thing!), if something bugs you over and over, you just can’t shake it, and you find it’s wedging a wall between you and your partner, then it’s a REAL issue, and it needs to be confronted.


Where to Draw the Line


In some areas, it’s really helpful to hold the same values as your partner like when it comes to marriage, parenting, or religion. But when it comes to cats and food, we’re in the territory of, “It’s okay to NOT be on the same page.”

The truth is that it doesn't matter if this guy doesn't like cats or if he thinks being vegetarian is stupid, those are his opinions, and he's got every right to them. But it does matter that he's disrespecting your values and your choices. It's a respect thing. And it's worth setting a boundary.


Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater!


Whenever you find yourself in a relationship with someone and you feel disrespected, it’s time to set a boundary.

Many people have never been taught how to set a boundary in a compassionate, non-accusatory way, so they either put up with the feeling of disrespect OR they kick their partner to the curb.

When you put up and shut up, it causes distance in a relationship — enough to poison an established one and certainly enough to prohibit bonding in a brand new one. But when you put your foot down entirely and say, “It’s my way or the highway, fella,” then it’s an overreaction. This is truly a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

There is a MIDDLE ground.


The Boundary Technique (How to Set a Boundary So a Man Will Hear It)


For this exercise, you’ll want to keep your tone light and matter-of-fact so it won't trigger his fight or flight response. No man wants to be seen as “the bad guy” in the eyes of the woman he cares for. He wants to be her hero.

So when you’re setting a boundary and essentially telling a man that a certain behavior won’t fly with you, you want to be careful with your tone so that he doesn’t feel like you see HIM as the bad guy; it’s just the behavior you don’t like.

Here’s a script you can use to set your boundary in a compassionate, non-accusatory way (aka the middle ground):

"Hey, it’s such a small thing, and I might sound silly bringing it up. I know we've gone back and forth on this issue of cats and me being a vegetarian, and it's stupid really. But the fact is that when you make comments, however lightly, disrespecting my values and my choices, it makes me feel like you don't respect me. And I know that isn't your intention.

I respect your dislike of cats. I get that you like your meat, and you think it'd be better if I ate meat. But I don't, and I don't want to. I won't try to convert you to vegetarianism or cat-liking if you stop trying to convert me.

This is a boundary I’m setting, and I want us to agree to leave this cat and vegetarian conversation behind us. We both know where we stand on these two subjects. Instead of focusing on what we don't have in common, let's celebrate and indulge in the things we do have in common, like (examples here.) Let’s move on and learn more about each other because I'm having so much fun with you.

You’ll notice I called the issue “silly but important to me.” This softens it, so he doesn’t feel like he hurt you in some unforgivable way. If YOU name it “silly” or “small,” then his defensive side doesn’t need to say it, and he can hear you instead.

It also helps to say, “It makes me feel disrespected, and I know that’s not your intention.” This way, he knows that he hasn’t failed you to the point of no return. He doesn’t need to feel embarrassed for hurting you unintentionally this whole time.

Setting a boundary is not about dredging up the past; it’s about making a clear request of how you’d like to move forward in the future.


A Clear Path to HAPPY


Once you’ve set your boundary, it’s important to show your genuine enthusiasm for moving forward together. Smile. Kiss him. Be excited. He will see that he has a clear path to make you happy, and (hopefully) he will take it.

All you can do is set your boundary, show your man the way to make you happy, and hope for the best. You never know, he could be teasing you for the same reason boys who like girls in elementary school pull their hair. They just don’t know what to do to get a girl’s attention or get a reaction out of her. Show him the way to get a happy reaction out of you, and he might just graduate the 3rd grade. ;-)


Warning! Do Not Swallow…


Never swallow an issue just because it's the beginning of the relationship, and you're afraid to alienate or turn off the other person.

For the first few dates, it's fine to shove things under the rug since people are nervous, they say the wrong things sometimes, and you don’t want to jump to any conclusions. But after a month of dating, it's time to start setting the agreements that will help you create your ideal relationship.

Ultimately, this guy’s interest in you needs to be more than his disinterest in cats and vegetarianism in order for you to move ahead. When you use the script above, let him know how you perceive the tease, and you stand your ground with a clear request, you WILL find out what his priorities are. It’s best to find out now — in the beginning — then a year down the road.


With love,


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