It’s not about setting the bar low — it’s about being realistic.
Here is a story about a young man who couldn’t find a girlfriend. He dated lots of women but none of them made it to the third date — even when she was keen, he called time on it.
Frustrated, he came up with the idea of a checklist, detailing all the things he sought in a woman. I didn’t see the checklist but things like hot, outgoing, laughs loudly at my jokes and great-at-sex-without-having-had-much always rate a mention. Each date was given points out of 10 in each category which dictated his decision to pursue her — or not.
“Do you think that’s a good way to find love?”
I asked, carefully avoiding words like shallow and phrases like destined-for-disaster.
He smiled back.
I didn’t see him for a while after that — possibly because his social calendar was brimming — but a few weeks later he emailed to say he’d binned the checklist. “It was dumb and a bit mean,” he said. It was indeed dumb and a bit mean, but I wrote back kindly because he was a lovely man who’d just been carried away with all the choice the online dating world had thrown at him.
With so many options, why would he settle for average? Why wouldn’t he seek perfection? Why wouldn’t he wait until all the stars aligned and their souls sang together under a perfect crescent moon?
Because forever is a very long wait.
While setting the bar low in relationships is foolish, even dangerous, it’s also important to be realistic in the quest for love. One person can’t meet ALL your intellectual, social, sexual, emotional and spiritual needs ALL the time — nor should they, they’d have nothing left for themselves, which would make them boring to be with, not to mention miserable.
Your partner does need to be ‘good enough’ for you though, according to your own standards. If you’re not sure what these are, if you’ve lost your way after a messy breakup or if your relationship history has been hurtful or traumatic, it’s important to think about what would really work for you — and your future.
When I work with people on the other side of heartbreak we always spend time exploring what makes a good relationship so they will “see the light” next time. We do this even though we both know that light doesn’t always shine right away, that it can take years for a person to show their true worth, or their darkness, to someone else.
What surprises me is that while people experience love in so many different ways, the same things rise to the top over and over again. So here are the seven qualities you deserve in a partner:
1. Someone kind (and who is kind to your favorite people) because mean stays mean forever. So does critical.
2. Someone who is where they say they will be (and with whom) because trust (really) matters.
3. Someone who can manage their emotions (within reason) because extreme ups and downs are confusing and exhausting.
4. Someone who is not lazy because there’s just a lot of work to do. And who wants to come up with ALL the ideas.
5. Someone who is quite fun because you get over laughing at your own jokes. And, even in suffering, life should not be relentlessly grim.
6. Someone who wants the same things from life as you because diverse roads will never merge. Not happily, anyway.
7. Someone who can love and support you back (this one doesn’t need a reason).
And we all should remember it’s not fair to insist on these things in someone else unless we can offer them back — consistently. Because your partner deserves them too.
A few years after working with the man with the checklist I saw him out walking with a woman and two children, one of them a new baby he carried in a backpack. He spotted me and waved. As I walked past the woman leaned over and helped herself to a sip from his takeout coffee. Then she reached up and ruffled his hair. I bet those things were never on the checklist.
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