05 October 2016


A question from a good friend:
What if I don't know what I want in a romantic partner? I've been in a single serious relationship and a few flings, but none of them left me with any real preferences beyond "not an idiot, PLEASE". I mean, I'm a pretty laid back individual, but surely there's some way to figure out what I'm looking for without destroying lives and/or becoming a serial dater (like K, I'm not hugely into the dating game, and going out on multiple dates with different people in a short time period sounds like torture). WHAT DO I WANT? And how do I find it?
Just because I know who posted this comment, I happen to know that this piece of advice will be met with unbridled enthusiasm rather than an eyeroll: Have you considered making a list?

After all, as every good Gilmore Girls fan knows: Never underestimate the power of a good list.

I have no doubt it sounds incredibly trite, but cliches get overused for a reason. It may honestly be helpful to sit down and make a list or five or ten about any of the following subjects:

Qualities in an Ideal Partner1

Reasons it Didn't Work With Exes

Favorite Things About Exes

Fictional Characters I Find Attractive and Why

What Would Make a Relationship More Fulfilling Than Being Single

That last one? It's pretty much the reverse of my Reasons I Enjoy Being Single list, in which I was trying to remind myself of the upside of all this awesome independence I keep having in abundance. Yay singleness. You want to know the real outcome of that list? Well, truthfully, although it reminded me of things to appreciate about my current situation, it also confirmed my belief that I would still feel more fulfilled in my life with some genuine companionship and it made me realize some qualities I really need to watch out for in men. Most of the items on that list should not be dependent on my relationship status, and if I start going out with someone who threatens those things, he's probably not right for me.

Writing things down helps you sort out your priorities so that, at least on paper, you get a better idea of what you're looking for. Life isn't always that neat and tidy, but it helps to be able to rule out deal-breakers. I can never date a man who smokes. I tried to make an exception for it once, and I was pretty miserable. It was disgusting. I had to make him brush his teeth before I'd let him kiss me. And although "Non-smoker" doesn't exactly narrow down much of the populace, it still helps.

Also, there's a chance that the result of these soul-searching lists will be the realization that perhaps, unlike me, you find singlehood more fulfilling than being in a relationship. I'm a big advocate of being comfortable with being yourself by yourself, and I'm an even bigger advocate of dating someone only if their presence can improve on how you feel being alone. For me, that narrows the pool down significantly. Which is probably why a lot of people consider me picky.

Anyway, start broad. If you genuinely don't know what you want, start with things that feel obvious to you. For me, non-smoker feels like a "No, duh," moment, but for millions of other people, that's no big deal. So, for me, he must be a non-smoker. I know I need him to be male (again, no duh for me, but I'm a cisgender heterosexual woman, so that doesn't require much consideration outside of the box. Others are different.) I know I only feel comfortable dating within a certain age range. I know I want someone with ambition and drive.

Heck, if you want to get really nerdy, you could make a Venn Diagram. Sometimes visual aids just make us feel better. Here, look at this extremely scientific study that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that I should be dating Captain America:

It's in a chart so it must be true.

I'm being a little silly, but being a little silly is a good way to get to know yourself. If I wanted to get serious I would need to stop and break down why I consider Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America the ideal man. But let's not get sidetracked. This is about YOU.

Writing is a great way to get to know yourself. Writing things down in print makes them feel more real and tangible and will help you identify what you need from a partner, and that, in turn, will make you more alert to those qualities in the people you meet. And putting into words what qualities you found attractive (or unattractive) in past entanglements may actually surprise you.

I hope this helps. If nothing else, it has kind of made me want to sit down and write out a list of what a good boyfriend looks like in my head. Might be informative….

1 "Not an idiot, PLEASE" can definitely go on this list. That's legit.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the Venn diagram. Have not seen one of those is years. I did have visions of a Maslow's hierarchy of dating needs diagram with self actualization at the top of the triangle replaced with "ideal mate". :)