We’ve all got wishlists for our perfect partners – whether it’s about what they look like or the kind of music they listen to, we’re looking for something specific. And that’s fine, because it helps to narrow the field and get into relationships we’re excited about. But it’s worth taking a look at what you say you want in a partner to find out whether there’s really something happening underneath it all. You could be missing the perfect guy because he’s got the wrong job, or passing up a great girl because you won’t date anyone who lives more than a couple miles away.
Rethinking your wishlist
So how do you find out what you really want? You can start by thinking about what your wishlist is. Do you want someone with a high-paying job, the same hobby as you, or who lives nearby? Maybe what you’re really looking for is security, compatibility or closeness – and there are a lot of ways to get each of these things that you’ve probably never even thought about. It’s not necessarily that you’re being shallow when you have strict requirements, but it’s a good bet you’ve never thought about all the people who can give you what you really need who just wouldn’t pass your screening.
You can have security with a partner who isn’t rich – someone who can hold down a steady job that pays the bills with a little left to set aside at the end of the month is pretty secure, after all. And hobbies don’t have to be everything. You might meet a guy who laughs at every single joke you make but can’t stand baseball, or someone who lives in the next town over but can commit to driving out to see you a few nights a week. When you take super-specific requirements and find out what’s underneath them, your dating world opens up.
Basic dating standards
Then there’s the stuff we all say we want in our next partner. You’re looking for a great listener who knows how to have fun and keeps her promises, right? That’s good information, but it’s pretty vague. It’s also not likely anyone is ever going to come right out and say they’re actually terrible at listening, hate making promises and totally kick puppies in their free time.
There are a couple ways to go with this one. You can decide that what you’re really saying is that you want to date a decent human being – and that’s great, but it’s not exactly wishlist material. Get serious about what a dealbreaker is for you and don’t make excuses for the behavior you can’t stand, and you probably won’t end up with anyone who isn’t fun and honest good listener.
On the other hand, you can think in terms of behavior instead of general personality traits that you want. What makes you feel listened to? If you’re looking for someone who texts back in a timely fashion, say so. There’s more for potential partners to work with there than the idea of listening well.
Know what you don’t want
To find out what you want and need, you can also think about what upset you in past relationships. Maybe it was the guy who refused to make plans until the last minute or the girl who would never get around to defining your relationship after months of hanging out. What were you missing? These are probably the things that are seriously important to you – the ones you can’t have a relationship without. If you get back into the dating pool looking for them up front, you probably have a better time. You can seek out people who are interested in getting serious or who are inclined to plan for more than a couple hours in the future and save yourself some heartache.
Reasons, why you fought or broke up with past significant others, might not be a whole lot of fun to think about, but grab your favorite vice, put on a depressing playlist and ride it out. We’re going for personal growth here. Make a list of what you couldn’t stand about your exes, what you always fought about and why it upset you. The more intense the feelings you have about something, the more likely it’s significant in this exercise. Take a good hard look at the stuff you really don’t like to bring back up. If you can, turn it around into its opposite. A traumatic breakup with a cheater probably means you want someone who is fully into commitment and transparency, for example, while constant fighting over tiny details might mean you’re going to need a partner whose attitude toward life is a lot more Zen.
Getting to know you
This is one of the advantages of online dating, by the way – you don’t know very much about the cute guy at the bar, but you can read someone’s profile and talk online first about what you want before you put yourself out there and meet in person. This might mean you’re seeing fewer people offline, but it’s all about the quality, not the quantity.
If these aren’t the kinds of conversations you tend to have with people you’ve just met, online or in person, you can keep an eye out for signs that someone meets your newly discovered standards. Does she do what she says she will most of the time? Can he listen to you talk about your day without butting in to talk about his? With practice, you can get pretty good at reading the little signs that tell you a lot about a person.
Once you know what you really want, get serious about not settling for less. The standards you know you have now that you’ve done some introspection are important to you, so they should play a big role in your dating life. If someone can’t give you what you really need in a relationship, it’s time to say goodbye and keep looking.