How spending a few minutes on a list can bring you decades of joy with your ideal life partner
Take a moment and write a list of everything you desire and need in a life partner. Take several moments, in fact. Put in everything—in detail, in color. Dream big.
Then separate that list into must-haves—stuff you just can’t do without—and desirables—things you’d like but could compromise on if they were otherwise wonderful.
All done? In my experience, most folks resist making their list. And that’s a shame, because your list is an amazing tool in the work belt of life.
With your help, it’s going to do three really vital jobs for you.
Find hidden singles:
Have you ever gone car shopping? Ten years ago, I bought a Mini Cooper, and I love it so much. I haven’t replaced it.
A funny thing happened while I was looking around, though: I saw Minis everywhere. It really seemed like the world was chock full of them.
The list is very powerful—not because it attracts the right people to you but because you start noticing them. Just as I started noticing my brand of car everywhere once I’d narrowed my search, you will begin noticing your kind of sweetheart once you refine your own list.
Do first things first:
There’s a saying, “First things first.” It means you need to do things in the order that makes the most sense. This sounds obvious, but without your list, you’ll probably do first things last. In these relationships, people meet, have sex, get emotionally involved, and *then* figure out whether this person is what they want.
You may think this is the exception, but research shows that hooking up on college campuses has largely replaced dating. A hook-up can be anything from sleeping over to kissing to having intercourse to oral sex. An 18-month multi-campus study of American college life found that most women continue to enter and leave college hoping to find yes, a degree, but also to find love and marriage. The decline of dating and the rise of hook-ups has cost them—more than men—a great deal in terms of confusion and pain.
If you are tired of being confused, or if you’re tired of getting into sex-first, questions-later situations, or if you’ve had enough of getting emotionally invested and only *later* finding out that this one is not The One—it’s time to let your list turn that dynamic around.
And how do you do that? Know your standards. Then, listen closely to feedback, and ask the tough questions about and to this person *before* you get emotionally and physically involved.
Avoid deal-breaker temptations:
Doing first things first won’t help unless you heed your own list. The absence of even one tiny little must-have means that you must not; the whole relationship is a no-go for you, a heartbreak waiting to happen. So don’t go there.
Of course, a lot of us have trouble with this one. Almost everyone I know who has made the list has at least occasionally dated someone with a known deal breaker.
Why do we ignore our own lists? Sometimes, it’s because we question ourselves or our standards. Or we’re lonely. We’ve lost hope. We think love is rare, and we have to hang onto it no matter what, because all you need is love.
Apologies to the Beatles, but science disagrees. Love is like roadside flowers in springtime: beautiful, but common. Sometimes, we fall in love with people where things just won’t work out; and most people fall in love more than once. Nearly all of the divorced were in love when they wed. If love was all they needed, they would’ve stayed put!
What’s enough is love, plus kindness, respect, similarity, and you sticking to your list. Before I got that, I got heartache. After I got that, I got the man I’ve been happily married to for seven years.
Your right person won’t be perfect. But if you’re careful about this, they will be perfect for you.
Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do (2015), available now; this entry is a partial excerpt, copyrighted by the author. You can get a free chapter and see more at http://www.lovefactually.co