If you’re currently swiping on apps, going on endless first dates, and hoping for the perfect meet-cute, chances are you’re in the market for a soul mate. And if all the classic (see also: ineffective) dating methods are proving unsuccessful, consider this your sign to try a new and low-key revolutionary technique called “prioridating.”
The term was coined by dating coach Laurel Housea relationship expert at eharmony, and it’s all about prioritizing yourself and your primary needs in order to find and build a healthy, lasting relationship. “Prioritizing is dating on purpose, the purpose being to find someone who fulfills the one most important thing you need in a relationship,” House explains. “Historically, many people have dated based on a list of wants—many of those wants being superficial or not thoroughly thought through—as opposed to core values and relationship-sustaining needs that will impact your future.”
Basically, instead of trying to find someone who checks every box on a long list of “must haves” (and similarly, trying to be the perfect fit for someone else’s list), you’re trading all that nonsense for what really matters. Besides, prioritizing yourself and your needs can not only help ensure you find a partner who’s *actually* good for you, but a relationship therapist. Christene Lozano, LMFT, says it can lead to a more rewarding connection as well. “Your well-being is the foundation of any healthy relationship. You set the stage for what you welcome into your life.”
So if you’re over toxic dating culture or feeling burnt out by everyone’s laundry list of partner attributes, you’ve come to the right place. From what prioritizing really means to tips for using the new technique to find love, here’s what the experts want you to know.
What actually is prioritizing?
Think of it as zeroing in on the one thing you absolutely need—your nonnegotiable, so to speak. “It’s about prioritizing the most important thing you must have in a relationship,” House explains. “Every other need is secondary and a bonus. Your focus is fulfilling the most important need, and that’s it.”
Your priority could be safety, kindness, easy communication, or support. Maybe the most important thing to you is being with someone who shares your religion, political affiliation, or vision for the future. Or perhaps you want a life of adventure, so your priority is finding someone who shares your passions and hobbies. House says that whatever it is, prioritizing begins with “determining your priority, getting clear on your number one most important core value, then becoming confidently and unapologetically vulnerable about it to align yourself with that priority.”
Before you think everyone’s just going to be like “I want someone hot,” that’s actually proven to no longer be the case. Praise be, right? According to Match’s 2021 Singles in America study22 percent of people don’t really care about “physical attractiveness” in a partner, which is a 12 percent increase from 2020. On the flip side, 84 percent of singles want someone they can confide in and 83 percent want to be with someone “emotionally mature.”
If the years the study took place made you double-take, that’s because the pandemic had a clear impact on what people are now looking for when it comes to love. While that era seemed like an endless hell of Zoom dates and Skype calls, in reality, it prompted the majority of singles to reevaluate their concept of relationships. With so much time spent chatting and connecting in isolation, people realized the value in qualities like humor, open-mindedness, and effective communication over more superficial traits like physical attractiveness and lifestyle, says Lozano. You know, things that really stand out during a global crisis!
“It has become abundantly clear that these characteristics are much more essential in sustaining a long-term partnership,” Lozano explains. “Physical attraction doesn’t mean you are relationally self-aware, it doesn’t mean you practice introspection, and it doesn’t mean you can communicate effectively. Physical attraction alone in a long-term partnership can only get you so far.”
The difference between prioritizing and settling
If you feel a little uneasy about tossing out your list of must-haves, it’s important to note that prioritizing doesn’t equal settling. You’re simply putting your time and energy towards what really matters. “Focus on what you will experience and not what you won’t experience or what’s missing,” suggests House. “Once you identify your one most important need, align your conversations, expectations, activities, associations, and choices with that.”
Think about it: Does someone’s height, status, or sense of style really determine whether they’ll be there for you through good times and bad? Sure, if you just want a casual fling, your big-picture priority might not matter as much. But depending on the type of relationship you’re after, House says the “I need it all” mentality might not be your best course of action.
And while this might make sense to you, it’s okay if you’re also thinking, Uh, what about all the people out there who don’t know about prioritizing and are still comparing me to a giant list? The good news is that by eliminating that people-pleasing habit of trying to be the dream partner for whoever you’re dating, House says you’ll feel much more seen (and way less drained) long-term. Besides, haven’t you ever seen a romantic comedy? Pretending to be the perfect person never works! Authenticity is key, bb! Focus on putting out the realest version of yourself and being up front about what you want.
Also, FWIW, the pandemic helped instill some extremely desirable qualities in people by making them reevaluate what’s important, so your odds of finding someone great is higher than ever. According to the Match study, 72 percent of single folks got better at prioritizing what truly matters to them, 66 percent worked on their mental health, and over 50 percent made all-around improvements like improving their physical health, fostering strong family bonds, unplugging more often, and gaining self-confidence post-pandemic. All fab qualities in a partner, yes? What this means: Now is the time to put yourself out there.
How to start prioritizing
The best thing about prioritizing is that it’s very easy to do once you get your, ahem, priorities, in order. “Focus on aligning your life to your main priority,” Lozano says. For instance: If your main priority is to live a life of adventure, Lozano suggests doing adventurous activities yourself, joining communities that bring like-minded adventure-lovers together, connecting with adventurous folks online, etc. “Essentially, you want to create a life that integrates your priority,” she explains.
In order to do this, you’ll likely need to do a lil soul searching to figure out your core value(s). “Dating and being in a solid partnership starts with you,” Lozano says, so use this as an opportunity to really get to know yourself. Think about the times you’ve experienced pure joy, what activities make you feel in your element, and when you’ve felt the safest and most at peace.
From there, it’s simply a matter of fully and vulnerably living your core value(s). “Align with that [value] in all ways,” House says, from the types of people you pursue, to what you talk about, where you go, what dating apps you join, and how you view the future. Don’t shy away from the value, but instead, make it core to who you are as a person.
It’s important to note, though, that while you want to focus on your number one priority when dating, Lozano stresses the need to be clear about your boundaries. “Just because someone is very aligned with your main priority doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have boundaries around what you are willing and unwilling to accept in a partner,” she says.
Prioridating doesn’t necessarily mean the first person who comes along with a matching main priority will be *the one*, but it does mean folks whose core value(s) align with yours will likely be much more well-suited to long-term commitment. Ultimately, House says once you define and align with your priority, you have a better chance at discovering and fulfilling your needs—first (and most importantly) within yourself and then within a partner. Win-win-win.