Recently I was talking with a close friend and she wanted to know how people know they are ready to get married. More importantly, she was interested in finding out why someone with many dating prospects would want to marry and why to someone in particular. Aren’t men opposed to settling down, after all?

After our conversation it occurred to me that in westernized society it’s not at all necessary to marry someone to live with them or have a long-term committed relationship. It’s not at all necessary to marry someone to sleep with them, either. In fact it’s quite common for a couple to live together and share household responsibilities without actually getting married for months and years. Given the high divorce rates, it also makes less sense to ascribe a special place to married couples vs. couples who are dating/living together. Some couples break up, others get a divorce – neither arrangement is permanent.

From an analytical and systematic perspective of an INTJ it is  evident that there is nothing complicated at all about selecting the right person to join me in a committed romantic relationship. But perhaps more importantly, while I was single and dating it was very easy for me to avoid the mistake of ending up in a relationship with the wrong person. What follows is a somewhat subjective list of criteria which I personally adhered to while dating. I hope my friend, and you, would find it valuable and perhaps this also sheds some light on how the “common sense” criteria people use to decide on their relationship partner fail. This will also help you find out if you are likely to end up in a happy and fulfilling committed long-term relationship or if you’re destined to continue dating hopping from one relationship to another, however long they may be.

Previously I’ve covered the basic requirements and qualities that you (and also hopefully your partner) need to have as a foundation. Here I’m more concerned with more practical and immediate qualities I demand in others I’m willing to enter in to a relationship with.

1. 2% Rule

Out of all the people you would find attractive and agree to go on a date with, only 2% are actually compatible with your personality, hobbies, values and interests. You need to date at least 50 people to meet someone who will reciprocate your interest and be compatible with you. Once you understand that only 1/50 people is compatible with you it’s not at all difficult to see all the incompatible people you date as simply part of the process of finding that person you’re a great match with. If you can go on at least one new date every week, you will meet 52 new people in a year. If you’re willing to put yourself out there and go on a date with anyone who asks you out (unless you have an instant and obvious incompatibility, ignoring all the superficial stuff) you can cut this time in half. If you can’t find at least one new person a week to agree to go on a date with you, you’ve got no business ending up in a relationship. Clearly there is some personal work to be done.

2. Making Autonomous Decisions

An ability to function autonomously and make their own decisions is paramount in a partner. People usually concentrate on the type of decisions that a person makes and will quickly eliminate a potential partner based on their choices. Of course the type of choices someone makes will tell you a lot about who they are as a person. What is even more important is the process by which those decisions are made, because even if their decisions align with yours once in a relationship it will be paramount how those decisions are made.

If an individual needs to consult with a non-expert when making a decision this is a red flag. This is perhaps less of an issue for guys, but I’ve found this a very common trait among women. There is nothing inherently wrong with this – after all others might provide alternative angles at a situation and help you avoid costly mistakes.

But chronic inability at making decisions on their own means that all decisions they make in the future will also be made by a committee. This established and trusted committee will either remain the same as it is now and continue to make all of their decisions for them (some of which will surely affect you too) or you will be appointed as the sole advisor from now on.

Unless you like to always make all decisions or have your household ran by a group consisting of your partners’ parents, siblings or friends (or more likely all of those) this should be a disqualifier.

3. No New Friends

If someone’s friends are only the people they met while in school/college or they grew up together, and that person is in their mid twenties – run, don’t walk. Or get ready to fulfill that person’s all friendship needs that friendships usually fulfill.

If someone wants to be in a relationship and doesn’t have any new friends, that means that they already have quite a few of their needs which aren’t being fulfilled. Once you’re in a relationship, you will carry this responsibility and will be judged negatively if you’re unable or unwilling to provide emotional support usually relegated to friends.

Guys, please beware of girls who don’t have anyone they can call when they’re in a crisis. It’s not important if that other person is their girlfriend or ex-boyfriend or their mom. What is important is that by not being responsible for everything and your girl’s emotional wellbeing you will be able to keep your sanity when you need it the most.

4. Lack of Loyalty

This is perhaps the most elusive and the most difficult to diagnose quality that a potential partner should have. What this means is that the partner must have arrived at a mindset (on their own, before a relationship with you) that they are willing to cover their partner’s back. I’m expecting that you’re a grown up already and are fully capable of taking care of yourself and your own needs. Ultimately you shouldn’t be dependent on your partner for anything – because dependence leads to contempt and contempt leads to loss of respect. Once you’re not respected, your relationship is doomed. Of course you shouldn’t expect completely unconditional loyalty. No one wants to date an asshole or a bitch.

It’s critical that the person is open to the possibility that they will need to back you up even when they don’t agree. This is only possible if they respect you. It’s important to make sure that your date’s decision of whether they respect you or not isn’t based on the myriad of largely irrelevant choices you make. Your partner needs to back you up first, who is right can always be addressed later.

5. Breakup Decision

Over our lifetime, it’s correct to say that most of the romantic relationships aren’t going to work out. If you consider that a relationship is successful only if it lasts, then every single one that didn’t would be deemed unsuccessful. Since people looking for a stable long-term relationship have an expectation that it will last a while (at a minimum, and the remainder of their lives if all goes well), it makes sense to understand exactly what criteria they use to decide if a relationship they’re involved in should end. Keeping in mind that people are seldom rational and tend to be consistent, it’s important to find out how your date’s last several relationships ended – and why. Unless you’re aware of some significant personal growth work done between their last relationship and yours or if you plan to meet that person’s criteria in the future – this isn’t a relationship for you. If you know a girl is looking to move in with you and get married a year later and you don’t – chances are you’ll not suddenly change your mind. If your date’s last four relationships ended because their partner was traveling a lot and you’re traveling half the time for work – another red flag.

If your date doesn’t know exactly why (in a practical sense) their last relationship ended (e.g. we grew apart, the spark fizzled, lost attraction, weren’t a good fit, etc.) they aren’t ready for a relationship. It’s not at all important exactly why their relationships end – it’s important that they know why their past relationships ended. Otherwise you might just find yourself hearing:  “I just feel like something is missing. You’re perfect, but I need to sleep with a dozen or so other singles to hopefully find out what is.”