Toss Out Your Checklist, Find Love

a girl tossing papers

I cannot express how excited I am. I just received this email from a reader who subscribes to my newsletter and also had her profile written by E-Cyrano. If this doesn’t illustrate the value of changing your approach to dating, I don’t know what does. Enjoy, and please offer your congratulations to Laura in the comments below!

Dear Evan,

Your newsletter in my email today really struck a chord for me and I had to write.

Last December I finally realized I was doing something not quite right in the whole dating process. I wasn’t meeting guys that I clicked with, and the ones I felt the click with were not getting it on their side. It was frustrating and lonely and I got to the point where I was telling myself that I was done with the whole idea of dating after 40. Clearly there was no one out there who was interested in a 40 something woman with three kids who was a self-professed pop culture geek. I don’t fit the conventional picture of what most men my age are looking for. I was very definitely never going to be the "it girl" on any dating service.  I gave myself one more month and one more expense and then I was going to call it quits. Things were getting dire.

So I went for the new profile, and I was really pleased with how it came out. I thought it made me sound how I truly saw myself and I was hopeful that it would be the thing that finally set me on the path to meeting The One. Along with my new profile, I was reading your column obsessively, taking your advice to heart and trying to think about how to respond to emails, how to act on any dates I might actually get, how to keep all your words of dating wisdom in my head and not make some silly mistake that would cost me that great guy who fit into my criteria.

At the same time, I started thinking harder about one piece of advice in particular and that was about which men I was counting out as possibilities. I thought I was pretty open about a lot of things but I did have some hard and fast rules about things I couldn’t possibly budge on. One of those things at the time was religion. I’m not a religious person, and I was sure that trying to make a match with a man who was religious enough to mention it in his profile was just asking for trouble. After all, religion’s pretty major, right?


But then there was this profile that came up on one of my searches. Great guy. Funny, clever, smart, good looking. Similar interests. Close by – a real plus! But… but he’s got a whole paragraph there about his religious beliefs and how important they are to him.  Too bad.

Except I couldn’t stop coming back to his profile over and over again. Something there was just so compelling. I smiled every time I read it. So finally I decided "How bad could it be? One wink, one email, one drink and we either hit it off or we don’t. Try something new, Laura. The old way is sure not working for you."

So I winked. He winked back. We emailed. We talked on the phone. We went to dinner. This was in December.

He moved in with me in June. I have never been so happy or felt so understood and appreciated in my life. His son and my sons get along as if they’d been brothers their whole lives. So I second your advice – give that person who’s just one or two marks off "the perfect list" a try.

Thanks for that push I needed to toss my list aside.

Laura D.

Click here to get your profile written by E-Cyrano.

Click here to subscribe to my free newsletter.

Click here to work with me one-on-one.

Join our conversation (22 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1
    Cathouse Teri

    What a sweet story! And so true. Especially in regards to religion, we often want someone who is “like us.” But there are so many people who are capable of having their own religious views without impressing them on others. That is a very respectful person who is definitely a very worthy companion. And yes, that can go for other “off the mark” issues, as well.

    Hooray for you and your new love, Laura!

  2. 2

    Interesting story. I generally tend to pass on people who are heavy on religion in their profiles.

  3. 3

    I was adamant: I will not date a smoker. Never, ever, ever, no way, nohow.

    Guess what? I’m married to one.

    The thing is, smoking is a behavior, a habit. It can be changed, if the smoker eventually desires to become healthier. You can’t fix things like “mean,” “stingy,” or “dishonest.” Well — maybe YOU can. I never could. I finally realized during my dating tenure that it’s not always wise to rule people out in the early going due to changeable behaviors.

    I still hate the cigarettes, but because my husband is fundamentally a caring, kind, considerate man, I don’t have to be around them because he always smokes outside, never smokes in the car when I’m driving with him, and will remove any clothing that smells of smoke at my request. I am hopeful that one day he’ll quit smoking, but that has to be his decision (just as losing weight or working fewer hours has to be mine). Although I did ask him to please NOT die of lung cancer or emphysema and leave me a widow at 70 (he’s eleven years younger), ’cause it’s a bitch finding a cute new boy toy at that age.

  4. 4

    I have maybe 2 things in my list, that I can’t compromise.

    1. I need to feel sexual attraction.
    2. He needs to have a moral code that I can accept.

    If I can’t trust a man, no amount of sexual attraction leads to love..
    and if I don’t feel sexual attraction, he is just a friend.

    Too bad the sexual attraction is harder to come by.. and without it, there is no point of having sex, or a relationship to begin with.

  5. 5

    Well, I do say: Congratulations!

    I agree and also think it all depends. When it comes to religion, for instance, there is a big difference between someone marking a box designated, “Christian,” or what have you, and someone stating, “I must have a God fearing woman.” I learned from an a-religious friend whose boyfriend was religious that it did not bleed over into their relationship and was a non-issue for them. So I say: go ahead and start the conversation! As Laura D.’s example illustrates, you never know unless you try!


  6. 6

    What is wrong with a religious person? Doesn’t it stand to reason that a religious person is going to have a little higher moral code, actually not be after just sex (or none at all), and might just want to spend their life giving you the desires of your heart? People are so cynical anymore! I would not consider a person that does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If they wouldn’t do that, what else wouldn’t they do?

  7. 7
    Laura D

    Thanks to you all for commenting, and thank you Teri and moonsical for the congrats.

    I just wanted to respond to Paul’s question – “what is wrong with a religious person?”

    My simple answer is that there is nothing wrong with them at all. I had found though that I was generally not comfortable with people who were intensely religious because I myself am not. It’s not a judgement of any sort, just a personal preference for my own comfort level. As you can see, though… when you step outside the box, wonderful things can happen.

    1. 7.1

      I’m happy you found love! You might not be religious, but you seem spiritual. There are many roads to God and you’ve showed us what can happen when we are love.

      1. 7.1.1
        Laura M

        Hi Deb – and thank you for the comment. I am reporting in from many years past the date of the original post and I wanted to tell you that we are still happily together, married, and despite many obstacles along the way, still deeply, wonderfully, completely in love. Thank you too for reminding me about this letter I sent to Evan and how giddy I was when I wrote it. I still am giddy about the man I married — and I sincerely wish that everyone finds the person that makes them giddy as well.

  8. 8

    I think this is a lovely story. But I didn’t take from it that therefore religious preference should NOT be something that keeps me from dating someone. What I took from the lovely story is this: Every great love story has an element of surprise in it.

    Just because you’re not “orthodox”, or not “saved”, doesn’t mean that religion isn’t important to you. It doesn’t mean that you view religion as only “cultural” or that you “just want to make your mother happy.” There is a middle ground, of course.

    It’s unfair to assume that people who DO want to date within their faith are missing out.

    Sometimes writing a checklist is a GOOD thing (and I’m not talking about hair color or height). We all have something within ourselves that we need a loved one to accept and support, and to a certain extent, participate in. That could be religious faith, or a lifestyle identity.

    The initial intention of the checklist is to help us find another person. But if you’re truthful in your approach, I think it ultimately helps us learn something about ourselves. Maybe you’ll realize that what you thought was important, really isn’t. And maybe you’ll find what you’ve been disregarding, is ultimately what you need the most.

  9. 9

    Congrats! A little “reframing” of your wants and needs can lead to a successful match.

    I met a man in May who is also outside my usual. He is attentive, caring, fun, financially stable, attractive and adventurous. All great. He’s shorter than me– the only time it bothers me is when I see our reflection in a store front window or mirror. I’m adjusting to that, I realize it is a superficial. He also is not as ambitious in his career and makes less money than I am used to. I’m working on accepting this. What it means is that instead of going out for fancy dinners, he cooks me dinner! I can live with that! The ambition- I’m working on that. My ex was a work alchoholic and that obviously didn’t work. This man has more work/pleasure balance in his life. I’m just not sure if this is a deal breaker or not. So for now, I’m trying to not think about it and to enjoy just being together and learning more about each other.

    Thanks all for reading this. Just writing it out, has helped put it into better perspective.

  10. 10
    Karl R

    Paul (#6) said:
    “What is wrong with a religious person? Doesn’t it stand to reason that a religious person is going to have a little higher moral code,”

    Not necessarily. A “religious person” could be like Mother Theresa or like an Inquistor … or anything in between.

    To put it another way, a person who puts a paragraph about their relationship with Jesus Christ in his/her profile is “talking the talk”, regardless of how he/she behaves towards others. A person who lives out the values that Jesus espoused is “walking the walk”, even if he/she thinks Jesus is a fictional person.

    That’s not a reason to avoid someone who “talks the talk”, but it’s hardly a ringing endorsement of them either. Furthermore, you stated that you “would not consider a person that does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.” It’s fairly common that someone who “talks the talk” is looking for someone who also “talks the talk”.

    You may also “walk the walk”, and you may be interested in finding someone who also “walks the walk”. But you discover that by observing how someone behaves towards others (when they’re not trying to impress you … or anyone else). You don’t learn that by asking them about their beliefs.

  11. 11

    I’m on the opposite end from where Laura D. was coming from. From the religion section on my Match profile, “I’m a Christian who believes in a loving and tolerant God. My faith influences how I live my life and it is important that whomever I date respects my beliefs.”

    Though I check off the boxes saying that I’m seeking a Christian, I have gone out with non-Christians. I’m more comfortable with Christians, but at the same time people’s “walk” doesn’t always coincide with their “talk.” I’m currently seeing a non-Christian who’s fine with my no-sex-until-marriage policy, while a Christian who went to church every other week wasn’t. Sometimes you never know and you have to give others a shot. Though admittedly if I give a non-Christian a shot it’s generally because they seem pretty darn amazing except for that detail, whereas I’m more lax about a Christian’s profile (note it’s only their profile, not what happens once we start dating).

    Just my $0.02.

  12. 12

    What is wrong with a religious person? Doesn’t it stand to reason that a religious person is going to have a little higher moral code, actually not be after just sex (or none at all), and might just want to spend their life giving you the desires of your heart? People are so cynical anymore! I would not consider a person that does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If they wouldn’t do that, what else wouldn’t they do?

    Statements like this are actually why non-religious people shy away from dating those who make their religion a big part of their life. No, it does not stand to reason that a religious person has a higher more code, or a Christian a higher moral code than other religions. And, when people say “I’ll never date someone who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus,” all it does is make those of us who aren’t religious fearful of telling people we aren’t religious or take that chance.

    Christians are no more likely to be moral than atheists. Plenty of interfaith (and non faith) relationships do work out. It’s worth the risk if it is established early that you are tolerant of the other persons faith and do not expect to change them and that you don’t require them to convert for a LTR. There are spectrums of belief and many people are religious in the sense of a secular Jew.

    Take a chance with someone interfaith; just seek out fairly early the issues that might come up long term before you commit.

  13. 13

    It’s hard to date when you get counted out based on religion. Currently I live in Europe – where the Hindu count outside of the UK and some Scandanavian countries is slim to none (or at least seems that way) – forget Eastern Europe, where I am now. Even while living back in the states, I found myself dating people who were commonly not in my religion and vice versa. I think I mentioned this in a previous thread, but a lot of time religion was a deal breaker for the other person in the picture – not necessarily me. If I never dated outside of my religion – especially now, I don’t think I’d date half the time. My brother makes jokes – like, yea well there’s a billion of us – I’m sure you’ll find someone. But its not that cut and dry. Just because I don’t mind what religion my partner is, and hope that in a relationship we can both practice what we do, and be happy about it – it doesn’t mean my partner does. I know now that he simply was not the one for me. Sigh… I wish I could have what you and your fiance have, Evan. *Cross your fingers* for me.

    Growing up, I faced a lot of misunderstanding and overzealousness from people who didn’t know better – I just tried to help them better understand where I was coming from and did the same for them. But it’s still something that sticks with me. I wont go into specifics, because I think it would be more incendiary than helpful.

  14. 14

    I am all about not having a checklist. When I was in my first year of college, my friend and I made a list of all the things we wanted in a man. It was so long and when I found it the other day, I burst out laughing. Amazing how different I was back then. One of the best relationships I ever had broke so many of my checklist rules! So now my checklist is minimal. More about personality than age, more about respect than height, and more about understanding than what he does for a living.

  15. 15

    I’m an atheist, so anyone who was devout (no matter what religion) would probably be a deal-breaker for me. I’m all about anyone believing anything they want (esp. since I’m in the minority as far as my beliefs), but I don’t think I could live with someone who felt so differently. Who knows, maybe I’m wrong and I could. But the BF is an atheist, too, so I’ll never have to find out.

  16. 16

    Most men stay away from the women at “church groups,” because men know, these women are not comfortable around men.

  17. 17


    so, by your logic, it stands to reason that an “infidel” is an altogether despicable human being?

    And you’ve obviously never seen the film The Magdalene Sisters.

    I dunno, I’ve also been realizing over the years how meaningless those lists can be, but still, religion is a “big’un”. Also, you are not taking into account the possibility that the religious people themselves might mind: an orthodox Jew, for example, will not marry a woman unable to keep a kosher home and unwilling to cover her hair and whatnot.

    I understand that wasn’t the point of the story, though. 🙂

  18. 18

    I think too often people count out men/women who could be really good for them. You have to be open to all types of people, because then what a lot of people find is that they fall madly in love with someone they never thought was their type.

  19. 19
    carrie lee

    I enjoyed reading this and all of the comments as well. It can work opposites attract or simply as Laura stated a slight difference. I will not compromise on a few things but lately have been seeing that many types could be a match. I was too narrow minded that can happen as we evolve. It is a Re-Freshing change. Not to be so judging, like a re-cycled teenager!! How cool is that. Best to all.

    1. 19.1

      carrie lee, “recycled teenager,”…..good choice of words…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *