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Throw Away Your List (Or Just Rewrite It)

Photo courtesy of photosteve101 via Flickr
Photo courtesy of photosteve101 via Flickr

I have a journal that I started when I was 20 for my husband. I poured my heart out to this journal. What was in my heart at the time was a considerable amount of romantic nonsense.

Tucked away in that journal was “the list.”

All you females out there, and probably even a lot of the males, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that. You know what the list is because you have your own list that is most likely not that different from mine.

The list was a series of characteristics that we wanted in our future spouse.

Here is a composite of a few items on the lists of friends that I interviewed:

1) He must be taller than me.

2) He must be strong.

3) He must have black hair and blue eyes.

4) He must have nice nails.

5) He must look good in a suit.

6) He must not watch a lot of football.

7) He has to love dogs.

8) He has to have a college education.

9) He has to make a lot of money.

10) He has to have nice manners.

11) He can never use the term “lol” in his texts.

12) He must not have any hair in his ears or nose or on his back. Ever.

13) He must have hair on his head.

14) He must be a fantastic-skiing, TV-avoiding, muscle-flexing, chore-doing, education-getting, tons-of-money-earning, guitar-playing, chick-flick-watching, model-looking, eternal giver of romance and love and passion.

15) He can’t snore.

Lastly, under no circumstances will I ever ever be intimate with someone who wears novelty socks.

I have quite a few things that I would tell the younger version of myself, and this would be one of them: marrying someone who has perfect table manners is not really going to matter in 40 years. What’s going to matter is that my partner is kind and has integrity and we love being with each other. Habits can change through communication. You can express that you would feel loved if he tried not to show you the gumbo he is chewing. Trying to help tame some table manners might be helped in just a few conversations. Trying to turn a mean guy into a nice guy? That might take a lifetime. Which one do you want on your list?

When you are young, you have this idea that there will always be potential suitors, and that you need to wait for the perfect one. When you get to be my age you realize that dating should not be about finding someone perfect. It should be about finding a good match.

It is a little scary writing books and blogs about singleness because advice you give can potentially change the course of someone’s life. I don’t want people to say, “Hey, that “Sexy Celibate” blogger girl said that I shouldn’t be too picky, or else I’ll be 30-something and alone. So I’d better marry my loser boyfriend as soon as possible.”

Therefore, I’m going to make myself very clear. When I say that you shouldn’t be too picky, I am not saying that you should settle. It is incredibly dangerous to settle. I myself could have married quite a few men that would not have been good for me. It was not about being too picky, it was about being smart.

Even worse than marrying a man who is not a good fit is marrying someone who is toxic. Settling for a spouse that is mean or severely addicted can be the most devastating decision of your life.

We need to learn to not be picky when it comes to the shallow things, and to be very picky when it comes to the important things. That is the balance.

We do need chemistry. It is what draws us to potential mates at first. But we also need to remember that hormones will wear off, while companionship will last a lifetime. When we’re in love, it is hard to be practical. But we must force ourselves to be practical in a decision that is this important.

One of the concepts I live by is that there is great wisdom in looking for the fruit of something when it is still a seed. If you see deep-seeded character issues (such as someone who is unkind) that could be really difficult down the road, get out. I am serious. Out.

Where is the balance here? What is the happy medium between having totally unrealistic expectations for anyone you date and marrying someone who will most likely be really hard to live with, who might even be a nightmare to live with?

In my opinion, one of the best ways to deal with this is to rewrite your list. Pare it down to three or four non negotiables.

Here are the ones that I have chosen for my own life, if I do decide to get married.

1) He must have a deep love for God and for people.

2) He must be kind.

3) We need to really enjoy being with each other. Evidence of this would be laughing together, having good conversations, and dealing with conflict well.

4) He needs to see the world as a place to explore and a place to bring hope. I honestly could care less if we make a lot of money. That is not a priority for me. My priority is that we make the world a better place.

I can’t think of much else that matters than the qualities on my new short list. Balding? He can shave his head. That can be sexy. Chewing with his mouth open? We can talk about that. Celine Deon? He can listen to her on his earphones all his little heart desires. Snoring? I can wear ear plugs.

If he seems to have the qualities that are on my new list, I will go on some dates with him. I will give him a chance.

Try your best to look at the fruit of something when it is still a seed. And don’t look for a perfect person. Look for a good match.

Give your seed time to grow. That way you can consciously make a commitment in which you use both your heart and your head.

I think this can be summed up by an 8-year-old boy who was asked what he thought love was. He cocked his head and thought for a little bit. Then he replied, “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over to paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis. That’s what love is.”

Look for someone like this. Look for a seed that will produce this kind of fruit. Not just a spouse that you are lightening-flash attracted to. Not just someone who says all the perfect things at the perfect time and gives you dozens of roses. Not just a spouse who fits everything on your ridiculously long, shallow list. But someone who will paint your toenails even though he has arthritis when you’re old.

Because that’s what love is.

P.S. From Single Matters: To read more by Kate purchase her book Cupid Is a Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life on Amazon!

About Kate Hurley

Kate Hurley is a singer songwriter, teacher, and writer. She has played and taught everywhere from German castles to Indian slums to 20,000 people hippie gatherings. She writes for the popular blog The Sexy Celibate ( and is the author of the book "Cupid Is a Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life" Which you can buy on Amazon. She also works with the poor and marginalized under Beta Communities, a missional community, and runs Mercy Projects, a non-profit, with which she makes projects to raise funds for charities that work with children.
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