There seems to be a reoccurring topic that keeps coming up in my life that I’d love to hear your input on. The topic relates to standards in the relationship or “the list” of qualities you’d like in your spouse. What are the criteria for this list? Does this list have checks and balances or areas of compromise? Is this list adjusted after previous relationships or break ups? Where exactly does this list come from? Is it the qualities in a woman or a man that you think you want or have experienced and enjoyed or hated, or is it derived from the people in your life that tell you “This is what you need in a man or woman”?
Standards are important. I used to have a quote on my vision board that stated, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. I think this quote resonates for life as well as dating. If you don’t know what you want in your significant other, than any person should do? Or will they?
I remember back in 2004, fresh out of high school after my first significant break up, I created my first list. Like everything else in my life, I was adamant that if you wanted to accomplish something you had to write it down and plan it out, including the type of guy I wanted to be with. It was full of what I didn’t want in a man, full of qualities of men I wouldn’t date. My list of qualities and criteria weren’t as full as the list of things I knew I simply didn’t want in a man. From looks, to height, nationality, background, religion, creed, career, kids, number of previous sexual partners and/or relationships and so on.
The thing I realized soon after was that when you allow love to happen organically, the idea of a list gets in the way of that. When I first met my husband, I turned down 3 dates with him because he didn’t meet the criteria on my list. I remember telling him that I had goals and I’m not trying to get tied down with someone like him. His response was “But you don’t even know me, how can you make that judgement. Give me a chance to show you the real me, then judge.” If nothing else, he seemed to be a cool friend so I agreed that we could be friends and just see where things went from there. Within the first weekend of hanging out with him outside of the normal clubbing environment we were typically running into each other in, I realized he was completely different. I enjoyed his company.
Like myself he had a vision board filled with goals he was trying to accomplish, he had flash cards and study material out in preparation for his promotion exams, he was able to articulate and speak about subjects that interest me. He was listening to oldies and classical music and spent so much of the weekend talking about his favorite Operas and musicals. He was able to stimulate me mentally and very rarely was I able to find that in my peer group. It’s like I was meeting someone completely new. In my mind, I had put him in the category of just this uneducated thug that wasn’t going anywhere in his life. I went home that night so confused. As a matter of fact, I remember calling him and asking him why there so many rumors about him and why did so many people think he was such a bad person? His response was, “I’m sure people say things about you that aren’t true. I’m not in the business of correcting people that mean nothing to me, opinions about me. Those that take the time to know me, know the real me and that’s all that matters”. Of course, at that point in time in our relationship he didn’t meet everything on my list and neither did I on his lists, but neither one of us were looking for a relationship so we let our friendship grow and continued to get to know one another.
Although he didn’t meet the criteria of my list, as a matter of fact he fell in many of the red flag categories. The question became more of whether this person had the potential to become what I needed. I wasn’t perfect. At that stage in my life, I didn’t meet all the qualities and criteria I was seeking in a man. I had the goal and drive to become this person I ultimately wanted but had yet to achieve many of those things at that point in my life. I had to look at my list from a different point of view and ask myself if this person had the potential to become what I was seeking. Questions like, did our goals align? Where do you see yourself in 5 years/ 10 years? What is your interpretation about loyalty and respect in a relationship? What are your financial goals and where does your credit stand? How do you feel about family, career, sex, religion, women's role in the relationship…and so on? How do you feel about marriage and the work necessary to keep it flourishing? Are you resilient? Are you a fighter, not in the physical sense but willing to put in 80% at times when I’m only at 20%? Can you be honest with me and willing to communicate when you’re not happy with me? And if ever you are unhappy to the point you want to cheat, will you tell me so we can try to fix it….It became more of can I do life with this person, and can we get to the point together where we both fulfill each other’s list.
Here are my issues with list?
A few years ago, I remember sitting at a girls’ night function and I remember this one girl going on and on about not being able to find anyone that met her list. So of course, I asked what was on her list. Her list wasn’t unreasonable, it was actually a pretty decent list of standards and qualities she wanted in a man. But here’s the problem I had with her list, as well as many others I’ve had this same discussion with. They didn’t meet the criteria of their own list. It sounded so cliché and typical. So, I asked her.
If you were being completely honest with yourself, do you meet the criteria on this list and if not, why would you think someone that does want to date you? Also, at what point of your interaction with these guys are you determining that they don’t meet your criteria.
See like judging a book by its cover, you really don’t know what areas of your list someone will meet from the surface. All my life I’ve been judged by people assuming they know me and the kind of person I am. So many people think I’m mean and difficult simply from appearance. But that’s so far from reality. Think about being on a street and looking for a particular house someone told you about. You past by all the others because you are laser focused looking for this one location that you were set out to find. What if one of those other houses you passed by, would suite your needs better than the one you were set out to find will.
Is your list created from a realistic point of view? And more importantly are they created through your own lens or influenced by others, society, family, or friends?
What looks right and good for others may not necessarily be what is right for you? What looks right for others may also not be the full picture of how things truly are. If you strive to build your life based on the quality’s others find important you may be setting yourself up in a relationship that doesn’t work for you or fulfill you in the way you strive for.
What stage of life are you in? Does your list match that stage? For an example, I was 19 and wanted to find someone my age that was fully established and so on. The percent of 19 year olds that are fully established at that stage in life is rare, so you have to be mindful that the criteria matches the stage of life you are in. The question becomes are they on a road to be able to accomplish these things? Are you?
My daughter is always asking us stories about how my husband, and I met and of course he always dramatizes the story. One time I remember her asking, “well mommy if daddy was so bad, why would you date someone like him?
For starters, I didn’t set out to date him or fall in love with him. As a matter of fact, I was still doing me and he was still doing him. But whenever I spent time with him, it just felt right and different. I don’t think love at that particular stage in my life was about finding the perfect person that met all the points on my list. As a matter of fact, now that we’ve been together for so long, I realize that there were many things on my list that didn’t matter at all and things that did weren’t even on my list. When I decided that I wanted this person to be in my life forever its because I saw his potential. We were both reckless and emotionally coming out of broken relations, but knew we had the potential to build something great together with a foundation of loyalty, commitment, and respect for one another. We had similar goals and the same state of mind career wise. We fulfilled one another sexually, but more importantly we fulfilled each other mentally. We were friends and genuinely cared for one another. We didn’t agree on how many children we wanted at the time, but I also felt he'd be willing to give a little to make me happy. We talked about finances and how important it was to be disciplined and build wealth. We talked about love for family and thoroughly discussed the hardships of being military spouses. We were on the same page, created a plan and it became clear how I felt and I wanted to do life with him and no one else.
In no way am I saying to compromise on what you want in a man. Neither should you lower your standards for the sake of being with someone. Just evaluate your list to make sure you’re not getting in your own way. And if your list is full of things you don’t meet, either be on track to meet them or make the necessary changes to attract that kind of person to your life. Also understand that the person you are at 20 is not who you will be at 30 or 40 and so on. Does your list reflect your ultimate end goal?
I can go on and on about this topic, but I'll end it by saying what I’ve ultimately learned about list and its correlation to finding the one. A man can't make you happy, just like a woman can't. Yes, they can bring thrill to your life that may resemble a sense of happiness, but true happiness comes from within. Comes from the ability to be able to look at oneself in the mirror and like what you see. Comes from the ability to sit with oneself and like who you are. Comes from the ability of evaluating one’s core values and living by those things. Comes from the sense of knowing what you bring to the table and the ability to check off your own check list. Fulfill your own list and you’ll attract the right person for you. Wishing you a life filled with love and happiness.