Why You Should Get Clear About What You’re Searching For, When Dating

Dating Tip Finding the Right Partner

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend, and we had an interesting conversation about dating. She met her husband when she was 28, and remarked that for the bulk of her twenties her dating life was pretty disastrous. It was only when one of her best friends pulled her aside and said, “What are you doing? Why do you keep dating these absolute losers? What are you actually looking for?” that she paused and took the time to define her idea of Mr Right (who she then went on to meet).

This story really resonated with me. Because although I’m not dating at the moment, I’ve definitely had my fair share of dates with men who aren’t my type. I agreed to go out with them in the hope that phrases like “you never know / you’re being too picky / you have to give everyone a chance” are bandied about for good reason.

But, spoiler alert: they aren’t.

All of those dates were a total waste of time. Whereas the most enjoyable and successful dating experiences I’ve had have always been with men who possess a lot of the qualities I’m searching for.

So, going forwards, I plan to be super-selective about who I choose to go out with. I sat down and made a list of all the qualities and traits I’d like to find in a partner. And then I divided this list into three categories: my non-negotiables, the attractive traits, and the cherry-on-the-top added extras.

Here’s a closer look at the process, if you could also benefit from getting clear about who you’re searching for…

How to define & find the right partner:


These are the base-level essentials, and the fundamental qualities that you’re looking for in a partner. They shouldn’t be compromised on. On my list of non-negotiables you’ll find the following traits:

Kind. Funny. Thoughtful. Intelligent. Secure in themselves. Supportive. Wants to have a family. Comfortable in their own skin. Reliable. Liberal.


The attractive traits are the qualities that are still of high importance to you (even if they seem superficial to others). But they sit further down the list than your non-negotiables, because they’re slightly less essential, and could be compromised on for the right person. On my list of attractive traits you’ll find:

Has a close relationship with their family. Good teeth. Lives a healthy lifestyle. Quick-witted. Is ambitious. 


These are the “cherry on top” traits. The things that you’d love to find in a partner. But knowing that no one is perfect, you’re not expecting to tick everything off the list. My extras include:

Is well read. Tall. Looks good in a baseball cap.

Now, I don’t expect to find someone who ticks every single one of these boxes (although it would be nice). But having a template in mind should help me filter through the riff-raff, and focus on the men who have true potential. I’m all about quality over quantity, right now!

Which qualities would go on your list of non-negotiables, attractive traits and added extras? Comment below to have your say…

Style Notes: Watch by Citizen | Gold bangle by Monica Vinader | Signet ring by Astley ClarkeCross ring by Ophia | Zig-zag ring by Ophia | Silver bangle by Georg Jensen. All gifted pieces.

Photo by Kylie Eyra

P.S. How to deal with dating disappointments


  1. Michelle says:

    These are such great tips Ella! I definitely did the same when I was dating, and decided to stop either dating with no ‘goal’ or being too specific. There’s really no predicting things when it comes to the world of dating. And actually, a month after deciding to date by my own ‘rules’, I met my now-boyfriend completely by chance!

    Michelle / Daisybutter

  2. Alice says:

    This is super interesting! Particularly as some of your “attractives” are “non negotiables” for me (namely good teeth and ambition…!). I did a similar exercise not too long ago, and have found it really helpful. I’ve still enjoyed going out with some people who don’t meet even my non-negotiables (I enjoy dating for dating’s sake sometimes, rather than just looking for a relationship!), but it has helped focus my mind when I am looking for something more serious!

  3. Mia Leslie Wright says:

    This post is very clever and gives a chance to be introspective when dating… I remember the old days, aw, the stress!
    When my daughter is old enough I will give her a talk similar to this post.


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