Is Your Checklist Getting Too Long?

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It’s a fact that most of us have checklists describing the qualities of our ideal mate.

I’m not going to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I’m just going to acknowledge that it’s real. When you’ve been on the planet for close to 40 years, you probably have a pretty good idea about what you’re looking for in a man.

I don’t blame you for a second, and I’m not going to tell you which things you should give up in order to find the man of your dreams.

What I will do today is illustrate to you how even your simplest list of non-negotiable dealbreakers is the very thing that is keeping you from finding love.

Take it from a guy who has a pretty high sense of self-esteem and wanted a woman who was his equal and more: holding onto the idea of a person prevents you from seeing the real person inside.

Even though I’m not a big advocate of lists, I think an ideal mate checklist can be a useful exercise and teaching tool. But because I don’t want you to work too hard, I’m going to make your list for you. Please forgive me if I get a few things wrong. I’m a guy, after all. 🙂

Even when you’re getting 17 out of 18 of your needs met, you’ll pick the ONE that makes you want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

You want a man who is:

Attractive
Honest
Intelligent
Kind
Funny
Financially Stable

This is entirely normal. Then again, you probably ALSO want a man who is:

Loyal
Family-oriented
Sexy
Generous
Interesting
Confident

Solid list, huh? Except the list gets longer when you really think about it…

Fit
Chivalrous
Charming
Ambitious
Tall
Creative

You like the fictional person that we’re putting together? I sure do.

I want to be him for Halloween.

In case you’re wondering, there is nothing wrong with this list.

Except that it can keep going and going and going. For each quality you add, there’s another justifiable reason that a man is not suited for you.

Maybe he’s got 17 out of 18 qualities, except he’s…

Not close with family. That’s a big one. After all, you’re tight with yours and you think it’s strange that he doesn’t enjoy spending time with his brothers every Thanksgiving.

Not funny. The ability to laugh is paramount, isn’t it? And even though this guy is perfect in every other way, that’s not something you can live without.

Not confident. He’s an amazing guy, but he just tries so damn hard to please that you can’t even respect him. If he just grew a pair, he’d be perfect!

Not tall. You can’t go out with a guy you can literally see eye-to-eye with. No matter how amazing he is. It just doesn’t make you feel feminine or turned-on.

Not sexy. You know what it’s like to feel lust and you just don’t feel it with him. You can’t go the rest of your life without that chemical rush.

We can continue, of course, but I think you see the point. It’s not that any of these desires are unimportant. It’s that, no matter what, you’re ALWAYS going to find a deal breaker.

Even when you’re getting 17 out of 18 of your needs met, you’ll pick the ONE that makes you want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

End of relationship. Back to the drawing board.

Does this resonate with you? Do you always find fault in the men you’re dating and dream that somewhere out there is a man who gives you everything on your ever-expanding list?

If so, join the crowd.

My 60-year-old, twice divorced client, Katherine, did the same thing for many years.

She’d most recently had her heart broken by a charming, but commitment-phobic man from Match.com, and she turned to me for guidance through the dating process.

I quickly wrote her a new profile and started getting her more responses.

Next thing she knew, she had a bunch of options from quality men.

Do you always find fault in the men you’re dating and dream that somewhere out there is a man who gives you everything on your ever-expanding list?

One guy even reminded her of the heartbreaker.

They went out once. He said he’d call her again.

He didn’t.

But this other man did.

He wasn’t the most compelling candidate in the bunch, but he just kept asking her out.

Every time my client would go on a date with him, she would have fun. And then she’d complain on the phone that he wasn’t what she was looking for.

A sample of our conversation:

“He’s 5’7”. I’m 5’7”. And I like to wear boots so that doesn’t work for me.”

Okay, I told her. What else doesn’t work for you?

“He’s not exactly the rugged type. That’s what I’m attracted to. Men who can work with their hands. Fix things around the house. Saddle up a horse. You know, manly men.”

Got it. Apart from those two things, how is he? Is he cute? Is he thoughtful? Does he make an effort to see you? Does he have the same values as you? Can he keep up with your upscale lifestyle?

“Yes. Yes, to all of those things. He’s actually pretty great. It’s just — he’s not what I’m looking for. He’s not my type.”

Which guys are your types?

“My two ex-husbands. And the Match.com guy who broke my heart.”

Do you see a pattern there?

“Maybe. So what do you think I should do? I can’t help what I’m attracted to.”

No, but you can help the choices you make. Instead of investing your energy in another charismatic Marlboro man with a lot of money and a wandering eye, keep seeing this new guy and getting to know him. Maybe you’ll find that being tall and handy isn’t as important as you think it is.

One month later, Katherine had made her decision.

Her new boyfriend would meet her children and they’d all take a trip to Portugal together.

This is one of my favorite success stories because the solution was so simple.

Drop the checklist. Give this amazing guy a chance.

You can do the same.

You’re so close to having that relationship you truly desire. Time to make it happen.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Karl R

    Teresa said: (#38)
    “now it seems women have to limit their interests and acitivities to those that will help her catch a man?!??!”

    No. When a relationship ends and I have more  spare time, I fill my time with activities that make me happy. Reading, playing video games, hanging out with my buddies…

    But I’m not operating under the delusion that these are helping me meet/attract a woman. They’re for my benefit. And if I start dating someone, most of them can be cut back to allow time for a relationship.

    Teresa said: (#38)
    “So if a women likes to travel she better not talk aboutit because   then men might get bored or worse yet think she’s a goldigger geez.”

    Talking about it is one thing. Making it the focal point of your online profile is another thing. For many Match.com  profiles, every single “favorite hot spot” the women  list is outside of the country.

    If you’re taking 1 or 2 vacations per year, and you’re mentioning every vacation from the last 10 years in your profile, that’s not exactly putting the situation in context. When my fiancée talks about traveling, it’s obvious that these are trips spaced out over decades. By talking about it in person, you can get feedback about the impression your date is getting and put the travel in its proper context.

    Jadafisk said: (#37)
    “I thought that they involved themselves in these activities in the hopes that they would meet men with which they shared qualities and interests.  […] Re: Traveling. There are men in other countries. Lots of them.”

    If you meet a great man in Italy or Brazil, are you willing to quit your job, sell your house and move thousands of miles to a foreign country just to be with him?

    Most women aren’t. Travel may give them a country full of men who could be potential one-night stands, but not potential husbands.

    Jadafisk said: (#37)
    “isn’t this person supposed to be your *friend*?  […] Those aspects [(intellect, personal philosophy including but not limited to religion and politics, interests)]  determine who people voluntarily choose to be around in non-romantic situations.”

    My friends have religious backgrounds which cover the spectrum (atheists, mormons, buddhists, muslims,  etc). My two best friends at work are on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Most of my friends share one common interest with me, but not necessarily more than that.

    My friends are interesting because they’re not exactly like me (or each other).

    I choose friends who are enjoyable to be around, people whom I can trust, people who accept me as I am. Is that what you seek in your friends? Or do you actually  avoid  friendships unless they  share your personal philosophy?

    Do you have a checklist that your friends need to meet before you’ll befriend them?

    NN said: (#41)
    “I have  not  met an older couple that is satisfied”

    Wow. I know dozens of older couples who are happy. That explains a lot about your attitude toward relationships.

    I agree that good sex helps to  keep a relationship running smoothly. But rocking hot sex isn’t going to  make a great relationship  by itself.

  2. 42
    LF

    Interesting posts. I have made a list of my needs I need fulfilled. But I am definitely an advocate of not going for the guy by checking off a list. Here’s why:

    1) I married that guy..now divorced. He met all the checklists except 1 (2 later but didn’t realize it-trust which is what broke the marriage eventually): we…I never enjoyed kissing him and yes we had pretty good sex initially.. but I didn’t love him. I can’t explain why or why not. That is why this time around..do I want the chemistry but more like a person mentioned above..you just know your personalities click and you enjoy being together and you have to at least have a couple values or enjoy a couple activites together..I honestly think it is somewhat unexplainable..

    2) I just got my heart broke by I believe a man who has a list of what the perfect “fit” for him is and he supposedly says we had everything..chemistry..values..”he felt absolutely safe and comfortable with me”.. well because I’m not exactly easy going enough (I’m a 4 or 5 and he wants a 2 or a 3–lower number being more easy going) and one other thing (supposedly not a deal breaker in the end..don’t want to mention).. but he kept comparing me to all the other gals he dated and I was like this one and not like that one… so yes I felt I was being compared to a list of all the qualiities of this “perfect” girl.. now of course I realize this and don’t want  anyone who will analyze me like this  but you can’t help who you fall in love with. Was he perfect for me..no.. he didn’t meet all my criteria but he met enough and I was fine with that…

    so I guess I’m just sayin that each gender has lists and I do believe this is why some people can’t find the right person or they do find somone who meets there “list” and realize later..the stuff on the list wasn’t so important after all!!! So get rid of the lists like Evan says – if your going to use it like a CHECK list.. it’s okay to have ideas of what your looking for but I’m being more open this time and not going to check my list off..

  3. 43
    Jadafisk

      “I mean, it’s good that you have many talents and interests, but they are time-wasters cos 1) they take up your free time and do not expose you to more single, available men (read?! travel to a foreign country?! cookery?!! how many single avaialble men are there in these classes??)”
      
    But… what if these activities are how the woman keeps herself happy in the interim? Also, what if a woman isn’t the epitome of stereotypical femininity and many of her interests place her in classes/groups where there are a preponderance – even an overwhelming majority – of men? Should a woman who likes home improvement instead of cooking heed the same advice?
      
    Also, all she said was attractive, funny, well-traveled and masculine…I know a lot of people with those traits, and believe me, there’s ample room for human flaws in that description.

  4. 44
    Alice X

    I think it’s good to be clear on what you want in a partner but i do think we all need to be flexible when it comes to sticking to them. Nobody is perfect and if the checklist is too long, it’s more likely that nobody will be able to fulfill them.  

    Guys Boys & Men: Humour, dating and relationship blog  

  5. 45
    helene

    Well, I’ve just been away for the weekend to see an art exhibition a female friend of mine was organising….so that’s travel AND art in one weekend… I’m getting more unattractive to men by the minute!

    Anyway regarding the erectile dysfunction, I’d like to point out I didn’t even mention this in my original post, I stuck with the guy through that, it was not the reason I stopped seeing him and I only brought it up in response to Nia’s comment about non-alpha males.

    Getting back to the issue of “the list” – attractive, funny, well travelled, masculine.. the point about this is that  it is not a list I dreamt up when I was 18 and have doggedly pursued since I embarked upon the dating scene – in fact this is a list DERIVED from my dating experiences.  
    Since I split up with my husband 7 years ago, I have dated a huge number and variety of men- some for just one or two dates, some for a few months, the longest being 2 years. I have dated:
      – A 50 year old marine biologist who designed a swimming pool for a saudi shiek’s horses
      – a 28 year old Kurdish asylum seeker
       – a zimbabwean male model
      – a school caretaker
      – a solar physicist
      – an overweight 53 yr old policeman
       – a 34 year old snowboarder
      –   a greek software designer
      – a guy in the merchant navy
      – a musician
      – several photographers
      – a bank worker
      – a builder
      – an asian breakdancer
      – a private detective
      – an ageing actuary
      – a journalist with 4 young children….  
      The list goes on and on….
      
    Having now HAD all these dating experiences, what I have learned is what does and doesn’t suit me.   Much as I try, if I do not find a man at least moderately physically attractive, I end up breaking off the relationship, however interesting he may be in other respects. If I find he has no sense of humor, I don’t enjoy being around him. If he has not travelled much I  tend to find him parochial and not broad minded enough, he tends to find me alarmingly liberal and difficult to relate to. If he is not masculine enough, I don’t have a strong enough feeling of respect towards him.
    I continue to agree to go on first dates with a reaonably wide variety of people (after all, you can’t know all this stuff from someone’s online profile) but I DO feel I have gained some insight into what suits me and will now endeavour to meet men who seem more likely to be compatible. This is not about being demanding, surely  its about knowing yourself and applying some common sense?!

  6. 46
    starthrower68

    @ #40,

    Here we go again.  

  7. 47
    Goldie

    @ Jack #40, are you saying that you could have a happy relationship with absolutely any woman – any age, looks, intellect, background, personality, nothing matters as long as it’s a warm body that breathes on a regular basis? If not, congratulations, you have a list. So why are you surprised that everyone else does too?

  8. 48
    jack

    I have very wide attraction parameters. Also, I don’t have a “type”. Personally, when someone says that another person is not their “type”, I roll my eyes. That is middle school thinking.
      
    I know girl who is in her late 30s, easily 40# overweight, and has a child and questionable financial security. Yet she is adamant about dating only men over 6′. She is MAYBE 5’4″. It is hard for me to look at her chubby tummy (which she could fix), and listen to her reject men that are only 4″ taller than her (which they can’t fix).
      
    Her reasoning? Tall guys make her feel petite and sexy. I guess that’s a quicker route to self-confidence than 8 months of exercise. Stupid me.
      
    She was KINDA hot when she was in her 20s, and probably remembers all the short-term attention she got from hotter guys. Those days shall never return.
      
    Another woman I know who is late 30s rejects all available men and instead pursues men who are out of her league. Her response to being set up with a fit, successful average guy? “Ewww, not my type”.
      
    An additional woman I know (early 30s) is still trying to trade on what was obviously a much hotter body at one time. She has narcissistic tendencies and feels that she should always be the center of attention. Her ego is writing checks that her tush can’t cash.
      
    My conclusion: Once a woman has gone too far down the path of pursuing Mr. Perfect, she is maybe only 10% wife potential. She is too invested in the idea that there is a perfect man who is “out there somewhere”.
      
    A man who is amazing, yet overlooks her obvious flaws.
    Once a woman lives in this fantasy world long enough, any actual real man will be a bitter, bitter disappointment to her. Even if such a woman decides she wants to date someone like me, the asymmetric appreciation for each other destroys any joy in dating her.
      
      
    Average men need to get the [email protected] MEMO that we are unneeded and obsolete. The modern woman has very special wants and needs in a man, and only the top 10% of all men qualify. Women have decided that being alone is a better deal, so that will be the outcome except for the 10% that are hot enough to bag the 10% highest quality men, or the next 20-30% who will settle for being mistresses for these men, with no commitment.
    Do you have certain, specific special needs in a man?
    I guess that makes you a “special needs” woman.
      

  9. 49
    Annie

    @40

    Replace the word “women” for “people” and you might have it just about right 🙂

  10. 50
    Karl R

    helene said: (#47)
    “If he has not travelled much I  tend to find him parochial and not broad minded enough, he tends to find me alarmingly liberal and difficult to relate to.”

    I think I just overdosed on hypocrisy. Do you have any idea how narrow-minded your assumption is?

    Furthermore, I always find this to be a flawed way of thinking. (And not just because it’s a narrow-minded assumption.)

    If you’re trying to avoid men who are parochial, narrow-minded and whom find you alarmingly liberal, put that criteria on your checklist. It makes no sense to use criteria which merely tends to correlate to your actual criteria.

    Extremely successful women tend to rule me out because I’m not as successful as they are. Despite this, I have dated a significant number of women who were quite successful. Why? They were the exceptions to the rule.

    Goldie asked: (#49)
    “are you saying that you could have a happy relationship with absolutely any woman — any age, looks, intellect, background, personality, nothing matters as long as it’s a warm body that breathes on a regular basis?”

    I read his post twice. I’m absolutely convinced that he didn’t say (or even imply) any of that.

  11. 51
    A-L

    All of us have a list of some sorts, because all of us have standards (I hope).   That being said, I think the point that some are trying to make is that your list should not be too exclusive.   You can have 20 things on your list if there are still a large number of people who can qualify.   If you only have 2 things on your list, but they’re very exclusive things, then that might be too many because the resultant pool is so small.
      
    To illustrate, here are two possible lists.
      
    List A
    1) Needs to be taller than 5’4″
    2) Needs to weight more than 120 pounds
    3) Needs to believe in following the Golden Rule (do onto others as you would have done unto you)
    4) Needs to be able to support himself
    5) Needs to share at least 1 interest with me (dancing, football, church, travel, cooking, eating out, photography, biking, etc)
      
    List B
    1) Needs to be at least as smart as me (i.e. top 2% of population)
      
    Though list A is 5 times as long, 95% of men would probably qualify.   With the second list, only 2% of men would qualify.   So in essence, just make sure your list still gives you an acceptably sized dating pool.

  12. 52
    Goldie

    @ Karl #52:
      
    “I read his post twice. I’m absolutely convinced that he didn’t say (or even imply) any of that.”
      
    I am well aware that he didn’t. That was exactly my point. Everyone has a list and that is the way it should be. It is not about getting the best deal in exchange for your (real or imaginary) assets. It is about finding a person that is a good enough match that the two of you, with some work of course, are able to make each other’s life better by being together, not worse.
      
    My list, really, consists of an open mind, intellectual curiosity, a certain amount of ethics/integrity, and a positive, light-hearted approach to life. Everything else – looks, income, age (to a point… 20 yr difference will probably not work) is negotiable. But if I try to compromise on any of the three qualities listed above, I know from experience that the two of us will be miserable together. Why do this to yourself and another person? We’ve all been through enough bad stuff in our lives, so why not choose a relationship that has at least a 50% chance of turning out well, rather than zero percent?

  13. 53
    Bettina

    There is only one thing on my list: My boyfriend.

  14. 54
    BeenThereDoneThat

    Jack
    So you know of a handful of women and this = “many”?

    You cite those examples and you know what I think?    You are lucky to  not in a relationship with those women.    I would run from men who had that same attitude.    

    I bet – somewhere in your today  is a woman  who wants you to ask her out and you are probably overlooking her.     Maybe because you think she is one of the “many”.

  15. 55
    BeenThereDoneThat

    To Jack:

    I’m not trying to argue with you or start something.   I was just trying to point out that its offensive (to me at least) to hear how YOU are someway simple because you are (insert age/gender/race/religion/etc).  

    I once went on a date with a guy who spent the entire evening complaining about people of my religion; how closed minded and judgemental they are.   How they would give him the time of day because he wasn’t of the same faith.  And he said all this knowing that I was of that faith.   I wondered how he could say everyone of that faith was that way when I was sitting there with him – giving him the time of day!   You would think my very presence would say something.

    Or just recently a guy asked me out for a first meeting.   Since we live close, I suggested a walk in the park.   On that walk, this guy complained about how all women were gold diggers who were looking for money and only cared how much a guy spent on them.    

    I think we  tend to find examples that fit  how we think.     General rules only apply sometimes.  

    Good luck   

  16. 56
    starthrower68

    @ been there done that, you are spot on. you will no doubt be accused of “shaming language” for not being in agreement that all women are bad but you are spot on nonetheless.   

  17. 57
    Karl R

    jack said: (#40)
    “the male desire for female companionship diminishes with time,”

    Really? Your desire for female companionship may be diminishing with time, but I see no evidence of that extending to the broader population.

    The percentage of married men increases with every age group up to the age of 75 (based on the 2010 census). At that point, the percentage of married men decreases only because of the increasing number of widowers (and you can’t claim that they are voluntarily eschewing female companionship).

    jack said: (#50)
    “The modern woman has very special wants and needs in a man, and only the top 10% of all men qualify. Women have decided that being alone is a better deal, so that will be the outcome except for the 10% that are hot enough to bag the 10% highest quality men,”

    Really? At every age range from early twenties to 85+, more than 10% of women are married. At  several age ranges (35-65), it exceeds 60%.

    And given the percentage of men who are married (a similar percentages), I think we can rule out widespread polygamy.

    jack said: (#40)
    “Long lists of must-have attributes are the sign of someone who thinks of men as some sort of consumer product”

    You claim to know what men desire (despite evidence to the contrary). You claim to know what women want (despite evidence to the contrary). And you claim to know what women think (while providing no evidence to support your statement).

    I doubt that you have telepathy, so you might not want to tell women (and men) what they think, want and desire.

  18. 58
    jack

    Karl-
      
    For purposes of you and I having a discussion. just go ahead and assume I am wrong about everything. It’s clear from you questions that you did not understand the point I was making and your absurd conclusions about my statements are reflected in the assertions in you comment above.
      
    Leave it alone – let it go. I have no need to defend my point to you. I know I’m right, and that is all that matters to me. For those who gain insight from my comments, good. For those who want to fight, I’m afraid they will have to argue with themselves.

  19. 59
    Jadafisk

    “Her response to being set up with a fit, successful average guy? “Ewww, not my type”.”
    What do you mean by average… his looks or intellect? Because fit and successful (by the generally used definition) are not the average.
      
    Jadafisk said: (#37)
    “I thought that they involved themselves in these activities in the hopes that they would meet men with which they shared qualities and interests. […] Re: Traveling. There are men in other countries. Lots of them.”

    If you meet a great man in Italy or Brazil, are you willing to quit your job, sell your house and move thousands of miles to a foreign country just to be with him?

    Most women aren’t. Travel may give them a country full of men who could be potential one-night stands, but not potential husbands.
      
    I dunno… I guess it doesn’t seem so far-fetched because I’ve seen it happen. Also, it depends on how tightly you want to hold on to your desired traits and how rare they are in the population you’re surrounded by. A woman may decide to compromise on where she’ll live before she does on who she lives with.

    “I choose friends who are enjoyable to be around, people whom I can trust, people who accept me as I am. Is that what you seek in your friends? Or do you actually avoid friendships unless they share your personal philosophy?”
      
    The human tendency to prefer the platonic company of folks with similar backgrounds is well-documented. People usually don’t have to actively avoid friendships… people voluntarily cluster, mutually avoid one another and fully occupy themselves with their own social world within a world. They live in groups together, work in groups together, and they don’t have to try, they just “happen to have” friend groups that consist of people very much like themselves. The exceedingly gregarious and the exceedingly unconventional differ in this regard… one type consistently goes out of their way to meet new people in a variety of situations where people from different backgrounds may cross paths, the other type may be unable to easily construct a group of people who are that similar to themselves, but the lengths they go to to try to do so are often remarkable.

  20. 60
    starthrower68

    @ Jack #60,

    Point goes to Karl.   Mal absurdum i.e. mischaracterization or invalid reduction to absurdity does not prove the the premise.   It merely displays an inability to respond to challenge of one’s mindset.  

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