Make These 8 Decisions BEFORE Dating Someone New


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Not every relationship is meant to last…some of them help to prepare you for the one that does. That is, of course, if you’re willing to take valuable lessons from the past and bring them into the present.

The best time to internalize these lessons is, well, before you meet someone new. While you’re still single. Before you run the risk of emotions and excitement clouding your judgment (it’s okay, it happens to all of us).

In this article, we’ll discuss decisions you can make while you’re still single, that’ll largely impact the quality of your next (and maybe last) relationship.

1: Your ACTUAL dealbreakers.

I once had a private client, when outlining the past indiscretions of her ex-husband, refer to them as “dealbreakers.”

I made the gentle suggestion to her during that conversation that, well, these behaviors — while negative and toxic — were not dealbreakers.

They should’ve been, but they weren’t.

Why not?

Quite simply because they didn’t break the deal.

She had stayed with him long after he’d disrespected her boundaries, and accepted poor treatment for longer than she would’ve liked until she gained the courage to (thankfully) walk away.

Now, let’s look at this pragmatically — there’s no shame in shifting the narrative around these behaviors. It’s okay to admit that we’ve stayed with the wrong person for too long…everyone has done it at one point or another.

The key, though, is to learn from these decisions and make a pledge to ourselves that they won’t be repeated in the future.

This is a difficult and challenging task, but one that must be undertaken.

One of the big pieces of this puzzle is deciding what is really and truly a dealbreaker for you. What behaviors, qualities, traits, worldviews, values — are you simply unwilling to accept into your life?

What are the things that will prompt a “thanks, but no thanks” as you move in the other direction?

What are the red flags and emergency brakes that you’re going to highlight for yourself before you meet someone new, and keep an eye out for after you’ve met them?

I think this is where a lot of people get in trouble…they bend, become too flexible, give the benefit of the doubt when they see what they refuse to admit (or completely ignore) as a red flag.

They make excuses, minimize the behavior, or get so caught up in the excitement and lust of experiencing this new person that they put it on the back burner.

The problem is that the passage of time only serves to magnify these red flags until they’re staring you in the face — only now you’re emotionally invested and your lives are intertwined, making the split even more complex.

In order to avoid this, before you meet someone new, look long and hard at previous behaviors that you know you shouldn’t have accepted.

Make a list on paper, if you must, that you can refer back to the next time you meet someone. Do they possess these qualities? Do they mirror these behaviors? Do they display these warning signs?

Make, and keep, the promise to yourself to burn that bridge before you go across it. It’ll save you far more pain, heartache, and time in the long run.

2: Your wants and (more importantly) your NEEDS.

Alright, so you’re clear now on what you won’t accept in your relationships, which is a massive step to take, congratulations!

Now, what about what you’re actually looking for?

Not just what you want, but what you need?

Yes, they’re two different things, and must be defined as such.

I think this is where most people get stuck. They’ll say, “James, I already know what I want!”

Then, when we dig further into it, their list is essentially copy and pasted from a narrative they’ve adopted from someone else. They recite what sounds like the script from a rom-com. “I want someone who’s funny, who’s smart, who’s good looking…”

Yeah, so does everyone else.

The question is, why do you need it? What is the underlying need being met by these things that you’re looking for?

I’ll give you an example:

A few years back I was coaching a strong and formidable (physically) woman out of England who told me she wanted to be with a man who was large in stature. She had a height requirement, and wanted him to be physically fit and able.


Because tall and strong men are attractive?

Maybe that’s what she wanted, someone strong and attractive.

But upon further discussion, she told me she wanted to feel feminine. Cared for. Protected.

AH! There it is. The need.

The need is to feel cared for. To feel safe in her feminine strength. That need can be (potentially) filled by a man with the physical attributes she’s looking for.

Here’s the key, though:

Now that we’re clear on the need, we can explore other ways to fill it.

What if a man falls short (literally) of the height requirement but he’s a black belt? What if he’s a NAVY SEAL? What if he’s a professional MMA fighter?

Will she feel safe then? Cared for? Probably, yes.

Conversely, what if she dated a large man who was more scared of things that she was? Timid? Lacking the courage to stand up for himself of her?

She’d get what she “wanted,” but still feel unfulfilled and confused, because the underlying need was not met.

The point I’m trying to make in a very roundabout way here is that it’s important to be clear on the reasons why we want the things we want. It can open up new avenues to get it, or more easily spot those who are unable to bring it to us.

3: How (and when) you’ll communicate these needs.

I believe that most people never get their needs met in relationships because, well, their partner has no idea what these needs even are in the first place.

It’s hard enough to define them for ourselves, as we discussed doing in point #2, but expressing them to someone else in a clear and concise way adds a whole new layer of complexity.

Just like most other areas of life, though, asking for something greatly increases your chances of getting it.

Now, of course, I’m not talking about presenting a list of demands like you’ve got hostages.

“I need hand holding, daily showering of praises, and forehead kisses! Or else!”

Building a relationship and getting to know each other’s needs (it is mutual, after all) takes finesse, communication, and patience.

It takes both partners understanding themselves and each other. It takes open and honest dialogue, and, of course, the mutual willingness to put in the work to meet these needs.

Consider a combination of points 1 and 2 here — you need someone who will work to meet your needs, and if they’re unwilling or unable, that should be considered as a dealbreaker. Otherwise, you’ll always find yourself feeling frustrated, undervalued, and overlooked.

4: To move at YOUR pace next time.

No, this doesn’t mean to slow down.

No, this doesn’t mean to speed up.

It simply means — decide and understand how you best move through the process of building a relationship with someone, and honor that decision.

Now, of course, relationships require compromise. You can’t just go out there and try calling all the shots, or the next person you date will see you as selfish and immovable.

Love is a dance. It’s two people swaying together, finding their rhythm, giving, taking, and compromising. Finding the pace that works best for both of them.

Within those boundaries, though, you mustn’t feel rushed or forced. You also mustn’t feel dragged down or held back.

It’s important to “set the thermostat” for how you’re comfortable operating in a relationship. It’ll help you to attract the right people who share the same values, beliefs, and processes that put you onto the same wavelength.

It’s not about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s not about trying to make 2+2 equal 5. It’s about knowing and staying true to what you’re comfortable with, so you have a better shot at attracting others who are on the same page.

5: What you want YOUR future to look like.

Let me just reiterate something before I give the wrong impression…

My personal belief has always been that the primary goal in a relationship is to make your partner happy.

Yes, of course, you need to prioritize your own happiness in life and love — but love is selfless. It’s altruistic. It’s giving. It’s caring. It’s kind. It’s patient. It’s compromising.

That being said, there’s a difference between compromise, and complete sacrifice of your wants, needs, and desires. Your identity. Your values.

Yes, you’ll need to sacrifice some things for love, for family, for the union that holds you together — but you should never sacrifice your moral code, your integrity, dignity, or identity.

You must remain true to who you are, what you want, and what’s important to you.

This is not for the sake of building a life that dismisses your partner’s needs — it’s for the sake of finding a partner whose wants and needs match yours.

So many people are unclear about what they want their future to look like, that they begin molding themselves to whatever path their partner is already on.

Sound familiar?

If so, that’s okay! You’re certainly not alone.

However, repeating this pattern over and over of just being absorbed into other people’s lives will never bring you to where you truly want to go, mostly because you’ll be uncertain of what that destination even looks like.

Define your own path first, and pursue it with every ounce of passion you have. As a result, you’ll find yourself surrounded by others who are moving in the same direction, presenting even better opportunities for connection.


Caps lock didn’t get stuck, this point is that important.

This is one of the most difficult things anyone can do when dating someone new, and I fully acknowledge that to my readers and to my clients.

Here’s how it works:

In the beginning phases of a relationship, pay close attention to the logical and truthful pieces of this union. Are you compatible? Do you share life goals? Belief systems? Values? Are you on similar paths in life? Do you have similar social lives and comfort levels?

Are you happy with the way they treat you? Do they stay true to their word? Are they kind?

The answers to these questions can easily get clouded by the excitement of a new relationship. By attraction. By sex. By lust. By emotional blindness.

“James, that doesn’t seem so hard, what’s the big deal?”

Here’s where it gets tricky:

You’ve got to repeat this process every few months.

We learn new things about our partner constantly. We see new behaviors. We observe them in different settings. We see how they respond to different stimuli, or challenges, or struggles.

We must, then, continue asking ourselves the above questions (and more), and…being honest about the answers.

Too many people end up in the wrong relationships with the wrong people because they held on to a false image of who they thought that person was, or they refuse to admit they may have been blinded by a lie, or a deception, or simply by their own excitement.

If you think that this takes the romance out of a relationship, I encourage you to recognize that the opposite is true.

When you are honest and truthful with yourself about who this person is and your feelings towards them, knowing they’re right for you, seeing that there are no red flags, giving yourself permission to fall even deeper in love because they continue to prove themselves to you — actually enhances the connection and the romance between you, because you can freely open up and trust them without worry.

7: That your worth has NOTHING TO DO with your relationship status.

I received a response yesterday from a subscriber to my newsletter (I read all of my responses and comments even if I don’t have time to reply) and it mentioned a feeling of “not being good enough” when others question why this person is not in a relationship.

Here’s the thing about being “good enough” — it’s a myth. A misnomer. An illogical yet powerful explanation we try to give ourselves when things aren’t going our way.

Ah, we must not be good enough.

Not deserving.

That, dear reader, is bullshit.

Your value, your worth as a human, your intrinsic level of deserving is yours, unaffected by external circumstances or approval.

You are “good enough” simply because you exist.

Why am I covering this in this article?

Because a relationship should always be something you choose to get into, never something you need to get into. Never something you do out of desperation, or for the sake of external approval, or to convince yourself that you’re lovable — because that can easily lead you down the wrong road with the wrong person. A person you choose simply because they gave you attention, or affection, or spent money on you — but at the core, was not a good person.

If you make the decision that you’re valuable and worthy no matter what your relationship status is (or isn’t), then it empowers you to maintain your standards, to enforce your boundaries, to maintain your self worth — because it’s up to you, not anyone else.

8: To define and stay true to YOUR identity and purpose at all times.

This is a decision I believe every human must make in their lives, and the sooner, the better.

The concept of identity is one that I hinge my entire life philosophy on.

The person you are (not what you do, not who you’re related to, not how much money you make, not how big your business is…) but the person you are dictates all of your decisions.

Your values, beliefs, visions of right and wrong. The traits you possess, the skills you work to gain…

All of it drives the choices you make on a regular basis as those choices will be a representation of these values. It’ll change how you treat people, and how you treat yourself.

When you’re unclear on your identity, though (as so many people are), you’re simply exploring the world without a compass. Going here, there, everywhere else that everyone else is going. Choosing the wrong careers, the wrong people in your life, subpar treatment of your own body and mind.

I instill this in all of my private clients: You must have a clear vision of who you are (and who you want to become) in order to create the life that fully aligns with your most authentic self.

A huge part of creating this life, of course, is the partner that you do (or don’t) choose to be alongside of you on the journey.

When you know who you really are, you’ll have a much clearer vision of who is right for you. Someone who will love, embrace, accept, and cherish the “true you,” as you do for them.

You’ll recognize each other like a beacon in the storm of life, shining brightly with everything you have, as you’ve removed all of the masks, filters, lenses, and pressures of who you think you “should” be, for the sake of who you really are.

When you make that decision, and stick to it in every decision you make — there’ll only be one version of you left standing at the end of it:

The real one.

Subscribe to my newsletter “The Next Level” for honest and uncensored advice normally reserved for private clients.

James Michael Sama is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and personal development coach.

Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 39 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.

James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.

1 Comment

  1. K on August 21, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks for this article, specifically about just being good enough because I exist. I recently ended a four year relationship because neither of us were being honest about our future together. I wasn’t speaking up for my needs and he wasn’t being honest with me. Even though we mutually agreed to end things I’ve been struggling with my own self esteem and feeling disheartened.

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