There are a lot of things to consider when entering a relationship with someone. Do they respect you? Do you enjoy spending time with them? Do you both give and take as much as the other? All these questions are essential to a healthy partnership, but other concerns you might have could just be keeping you from being happy with someone. Here are a few things that don’t matter when you’ve found the right person—with some obvious exceptions.
1. Their appearance
Listen, we’re not saying looks aren’t important. That said, if your friends find your crush unattractive, this shouldn’t be the only thing keeping you two apart. If you’re attracted to them and everything else feels right, you should be together! “It is important to find your partner attractive,” says Lesli Doares, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
On the other hand, if you like someone who you don’t find conventionally attractive, you shouldn’t write them off too quickly. Attraction is important, but it’s not everything. “You can be misled by your hormones into thinking you are a good match [with someone you find attractive],” Doares says. “Only focusing on a physical type can also keep you from seeing a gem that is right in front of you. It’s also true that attraction can grow as you get to know someone.”
Another thing you should be careful about is only going for a certain type of person, or someone who has specific traits. “I’d rather someone say, ‘I must be attracted to him or her’ rather than ‘He or she must have brown hair,’” says Andrea Syrtash, a dating and relationship expert, and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s a Good Thing). “You’d be surprised how many people you’ll be attracted to if you replace specific physical characteristics with ‘I must be attracted to the person’ and stay open-minded.”
Brooke Grasso, a junior at the University of La Verne, certainly did. “It doesn’t matter if the girl is taller!” Brooke says. “I am 4-5 inches taller than my boyfriend of six years. We get comments all the time but my mom is taller than my dad, and his mom is taller than his dad. Our whole family shoots down the stereotype that the men must be taller!” Take that, ridiculous standards!
2. Having everything in common
If you go on a date with someone and the two of you have a bunch of random things in common, you might think that it’s meant to be. Although you could be right, having the same taste in music or weekend activities doesn’t have to mean that you would be a good couple. “Having everything in common can lead to a mundane, stagnant relationship,” Doares says. “Having a few things in common is helpful, but being able to introduce new things to each other helps keep the relationship vibrant.”
Besides, keeping things interesting is more important than you might think. “Experiencing ‘new’ releases dopamine which helps recreate the feelings you first had together,” Doares explains. “It also allows you to continue to have things that are just your own that promote your autonomy.”
Like everything else, there are limits to how different you should be from your SO. “Having different interests is okay,” Syrtash says. “If your partner hates museums and you love them, you can recruit a friend to join you. However, if your partner prevents you from doing what you love because it’s not what he or she enjoys, take note. This isn’t a healthy dynamic.”
Many young women are in happy relationships with people who have very different interests. “I never thought I’d date someone who was into video games,” says Alaina Leary, a first-year graduate student at Emerson College. “My girlfriend—although not a huge gamer—loves video games, and I found it doesn’t matter at all to me, and I think it’s cute when she uses games to relax.” When it comes to your differences, the key is to find a happy medium between being the exact same person and being diametrically opposed.
3. Their cultural, political or religious background
This one is tricky and depends on a bunch of other factors, but if you are in a relationship that is working, you shouldn’t need to worry about your SO’s culture, religion or political convictions getting in the way. “Sharing common beliefs and worldviews make being in a relationship easier because it limits areas of potential disagreement, but it can also limit your growth,” Doares says. “Being involved with someone who has had significantly different experiences from you can help open your world and expose you to a new way of thinking.”
Although such differences can be much harder to navigate than your taste in movies, it can also play an integral part in your couple. “In my current relationship, our different religions don’t make a difference,” says Kayla Dungee, a sophomore at Kennesaw State University. “I was raised by Catholic parents and he was raised Muslim. His parents were persecuted during the Bosnian War for being Muslim, so they fled to Germany, and later the U.S. That’s a key piece of his identity, so I would never try to change his family history to fit my experience.”
For Syrtash, the key to this situation is mutual respect. “If you are of different ethnic or religious backgrounds, the important thing is that you respect the other’s faith and customs rather than try to change him or her to adhere to your own,” she says. “The exception: If you’re particularly religious and it’s an integral part of your life, it may be a deal-breaker.” Once again, this is all about balance.
4. Having the same major or future job
This is like having different hobbies: just because one of you is pre-med and the other is an art major doesn’t mean you can’t be amazing together. Obviously, if your schedules never allow you to spend quality time, this could be an issue, but having different prospective career paths doesn’t mean you can’t connect on a thousand other levels.
“If you are thinking about being together long-term, it’s important to have the same lifestyle goals, but anything more specific isn’t necessary,” Doares says. “It’s important to be realistic about whether those goals are in sync—being in the military, going to graduate school, wanting to travel or live in another country, etc., are all things that need to be honestly addressed. Having the same major or career goal potentially allows you to empathize with each other, but it can also lead to competition.” You guessed it: you have to find the right balance for you.
5. Their “number”
The only time the number of people you’ve slept with should matter is if your partner is uncomfortable with yours. Otherwise, this abstract figure should be irrelevant to your current relationship. “My ex-boyfriend and I varied intensely in our numbers,” says Morgan*, a junior at the University of Michigan. “I’d slept with 10 people countless times and he’d slept with two people a total of four times. I didn’t care at all, but it deeply bothered him.”
Courtney’s relationship didn’t last, partly because her boyfriend didn’t trust her. “I don’t regret anyone I’ve slept with and I hated that he wanted me to feel guilty for things I felt good about,” she says. “Also, he was the one who asked! If he wasn’t prepared for an honest answer, he shouldn’t have inquired.” Your number itself means nothing about who you are as a person, and you shouldn’t have to deal with a crappy situation like Courtney’s.
Need proof? Some collegiettes who have different numbers from their SO’s are completely happy and confident in their couple. “My boyfriend and I have told each other our numbers and even though his is higher than mine, we’re both perfectly okay with each other’s because it’s in the past,” says Rachel Petty, a senior at James Madison University.
Things that matter or don’t in a relationship are mostly up to you and depend on every different couple. Where this article can help you is if you think something should matter, even though it doesn’t actually bother you. Be careful of creating problems where there aren’t any, and your relationship will be happy and successful.