Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Narrowing Down the List

       As a single woman I’m often asked, “Well, what type of man are you looking for?”  I think the implication is that I must be single because I’m looking for too much and my expectations are too high, or people assume that something is wrong  with me.

       I remember a few years ago my sister and I were on this kick where we were writing down everything we wanted in life and wishing it into future existence.  During one of our write-a-wish sessions, we each decided to come up with 100 things we wanted in a man. 
The first 50 came easily.  In fact, I think I was up to 80 qualifying attributes before I started worrying that I wasn’t going to get 100.  I was struggling, but still determined get everything on paper.  I wouldn’t want to miss the ever important “nice watch,” and risk ending up with a fantastic man who doesn’t even wear a watch.  I compared notes with my sister just in case she had a gem on her list.  When we were both sure we’d asked for every single thing any “normal” woman could want in a man we sealed our lists in envelopes and put them in a box.  At the time I think we really believed it could happen; at some point in the near future our princes, with respective requirements, would hunt us down, stare into our approving eyes and fall instantly in love.  Then it didn’t happen.

       I don’t even think it was a full year later before I opened my envelope and started to reevaluate.  At this point I thought obviously he didn’t come because I got greedy.  After all, those last twenty or so were kind of forced.  I took out a red pen and my list and began the task of whittling it down to the essentials.  As I slashed one attribute after another I felt a little embarrassed about how shallow I’d been, not even twelve months earlier.  Why does a man have to be at least 5’11” when I’m only 5’3?”  Does he really have to have a strong five year plan?  Mine is always changing.  What about hair; why should he have to get regular hair cuts?  Most of the men I’m attracted to are bald anyways.  I eliminated one after the other with ease.  I wasn’t afraid that I’d regret my change of heart and I didn’t feel half the anxiety I experienced when I was making the list.

       In the end my list was cut down to just a few essentials. All that remained was the type of man any girl would love.  He is a good person who cares about others.  He has integrity and enjoys a good laugh.  He is able to love and most importantly he is totally available.  Of course I still have a few requirements that are personal to me, but I can count them on ten fingers and I don’t feel like a bad or shallow person when I read them. Before I began this exercise I probably was single because I was looking for too much, my expectations were too high and all of this definitely meant that something was wrong with me.  Instead of thinking about what I really valued in a partner, I was stuck on a list of requirements I couldn’t even live up to.  Today I’m still single, but I know that my list is complete and non-negotiable.  I look forward to being a better partner because I know what I want and I’m sticking to it.  I’m not so sure that I’d be so secure if I hadn’t written the impossible 100.  I may have never known that I still had work to do.

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  1. Since no one else has responded, I guess I might as well speak on the topic. As a guy, I hear (sometimes way too often) from women about the "lack of good men." I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it has nothing to do with the amount of guys, or their quality and everything about the woman.

    I have several lists for the things I'm working towards. I try to review them at least twice a year to evaluate and reassess their purpose. Some might argue but the journey can be more important than the final destination. Many times we miss a great opportunity because we pass it on the way. Even worst, we aren't happy when we get to that final place because we changed since the journey started.

    Specifically regarding relationships, there are a few questions I think everyone who is serious about being with someone should ask themselves:

    - Do I deserve to be happy?
    - Do I believe I can make someone else happy?
    - Do I make myself happy?
    - What things do I demand of someone? Do I possess those same traits? If not, why do they matter so much?
    - How much time am I willing to commit to let something grow if it looks promising?
    - Am I willing to make myself vulnerable?

    People are quick to rush in, and rush out. True love is a marathon, not a sprint - it requires the mental toughness to endure the ups and downs as well as trust and faith in yourself and the other person.

  2. Hi Derrick,

    I read your comment to this post and I appreciate what you said, but at the same time I keep thinking that women can't always be to blame. While women make plenty of mistakes in relationships or even just looking for a "good man," men make mistakes also. Love is an equal opportunity emotion and I believe that we all share a bit of the blame when it comes to working through it.

  3. I don't think it's about blame. It's just the notion that if you want something great to happen you have to be in the right position to be able to a) notice it b) act on it. While not overtly state, the same questions go to the man first and foremost.

    Men, as a whole, make and have made a lot of mistakens.

    I sincerely believe that if two people can come clean to themselves about how prepared they are, then when the time comes they'll be ready to enjoy a real relationship. Who knows, a guy who would usually only be "okay" - could turn out to be "great."

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