Q. My friends and family tell me I’m being too picky. While I do have a long list of what I want in a partner, isn’t it important to be selective? Is there a difference between being picky and being selective?

A.You are not alone in wondering about this. There is an important distinction between being selective (well-serving) on the one hand, and being picky (counterproductive) on the other.

In my view, being selective is having clarity about what is most important to you, with respect to a partner, and being as flexible as possible in order to optimize your chances of a partner meeting your criteria.

Being picky involves having a long checklist, which can be counterproductive, in the search for a partner by both dramatically narrowing the pool of possibilities, and enhancing missed opportunities with prospective partners who may come in unexpected packages.

Regarding the criteria, I encourage people to be as thoughtful as possible with respect to needs versus wants. Over the years I have asked clients to identify three essentials, as well as helped them explore the “why” behind those essentials.

It was interesting to learn from Ty Tashiro, author of The Science of Happily Ever After, that three is the magic number when it comes to essentials in one’s search for a partner:

“Consider the following example to see how quickly it becomes improbable to find a person with the traits you want. Choosing someone average (fiftieth percentile) on three different traits would narrow a field of one hundred potential mates down to thirteen potential mates.

Wanting a partner in the top fifth percentile on three traits gives you just a one in ten thousand chance of finding that partner, and if you do not find that partner, then what do you get?

Not only do most people not get whatever traits they prize the most in romantic partners, but they are also then left with a partner possessing a haphazard collection of traits … If a fairy godmother suddenly appeared and granted you three wishes for an ideal partner, then how would you spend your three wishes?

Wisely wishing for the traits could greatly increase the odds of having a satisfying and stable relationship. The best strategy is to know the odds, accept the limitations placed on partner selection by those odds, and then make the best decisions possible to get the three traits you want the most in a partn

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