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Do You Have A Love Checklist?


Should you make a list of what you need in a partner or let your gut guide you? One woman’s advice on how putting in on paper can help.

By Amy Klein

ana got divorced when she was 34, an age where many of her friends hadn’t even walked down the aisle yet. Now, when she listens to their dating stories — stories about “magic” and “chemistry” and “clicking” — she knows that although she has suffered, she is also wiser.

“When I met my husband, we clicked from the very beginning. The chemistry, the immediate connection—it was all there,” Dana said. What
“I’ve had love at first sight and look where it got me.”
wasn’t there, she discovered in the three years of marriage following their whirlwind six-month courtship, were subtler, more important elements necessary to make a long-term relationship work. Although her ex-husband was effusive in expressing sentiments like “I love you” while they dated, he couldn’t get real when they were dealing with the day-to-day of married life. “He wasn’t very open emotionally,” Dana explained. Now, a year after the end of her marriage, she’s ready to go out into the field again—but this time, better prepared.

Dana has made a list of her non-negotiables—her checklist for those qualities she’s looking for in a mate. Vulnerability and openness are high on it. It may not sound romantic, but she believes it’s essential to finding the right partner. “I’m not like my friends looking for a magical connection from the moment we meet,” she said. “I’ve had love at first sight and look where it got me.” In fact, many experts and regular people will tell you that it’s just this sort of practical approach — making your list and keeping it in mind as you date — that’s crucial when looking for a long-term mate. Here’s why:

The list… Why make one?
Hollywood has convinced us that love will conquer all, even between the unlikeliest of couples. In Along Came Polly, the neurotic and rigid Ben Stiller falls for the messy and unstructured Jennifer Aniston, but in real life they’d likely murder each other within the first month of marriage. But that’s what happens when chemistry hijacks reason. We overlook those things (she likes adventure and he prefers stability to constant change) that are ultimately truly important to us.

Enter the list. It’s not just for people who have been married before and therefore may have a clearer sense of what they need in a mate. We all need checks-and-balances on our hormones. Sure, he’s charming and fabulous and makes you laugh, and she’s beautiful and smart like a whip, but will he be the type to help take care of the kids you want? Will she be the type to settle down? If not, can you live with that five or ten years down the line?

Understand the meaning behind the items on the list
It’s not enough to make the list—you have to be honest with yourself about why the underlying qualities you chose are important to you. For
You know what works for you and what doesn’t.
example, if you think you want to be with someone who is wealthy, maybe you really want someone who makes you feel secure more generally. Or if you think you want someone good-looking, perhaps you really want someone who makes you feel good about yourself. If you’re not clear on what you’re really asking for, you may not get what you actually want.

“I liked my husband because he was good at taking care of things,” said Pam, 48, whose marriage recently ended. “But when it came down to it, he wasn’t able to take care of me.” Next time around, instead of looking for someone to help take care of her car, her finances and her schedule, Pam is focusing on finding a man to will be there for her emotionally.

Examine your list: Is it realistic?
Look at your list: Is one requirement a man who works in a creative field and another a man who’s financially stable? Or are you looking for a career woman but also want someone who will be home in time to eat dinner with you every night? Sometimes you can’t have it all. Make sure you’re not creating what mathematicians call a “null set,” a list of requirements that no one can meet. Yes, it’s true — there may be a supermodel/rocket scientist out there — but it’s more likely that you will have to give up on one quality to get the other. This isn’t a list of qualities you’d find in your fantasy mate: It’s a list that a real-live human being could fulfill. And like a good relationship, it requires compromise.

Make the list your own
Dating experts, books, and talk-show hosts — not to mention your friends and relatives — might tell you there are some hard and fast “rules” for dating. That a guy has to be the kind to call you by Tuesday if he wants to see you the following weekend, and so on. The items on their lists might work for some people, but not necessarily for you. While there are basic qualities many single people look for, dating isn’t one-size-fits all. You have to make the list your own. My friend Lisa is open to dating people from different religions, but my friend Mark is a Mormon, so finding a Mormon woman is a top priority. And while I need someone who is into fitness and the outdoors, since that’s an integral part of my lifestyle, my friend Danielle is more of a homebody, so my guy wouldn’t match the requirements on her list.

Stick to your guns
Having a list doesn’t make you “too picky.” You know what works for you and what doesn’t. If you’ve already dated a workaholic who didn’t have time for you, don’t date others hoping they’ll change. Keep this in mind when well-meaning friends offer advice: If they try to set you up with someone who doesn’t have the important qualities on your list, don’t let them pressure you into wasting time meeting someone who isn’t compatible. If you’re looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, you’re not looking to meet just anyone. As long as your list is realistic, stick to it. Sitting down and making a list might not seem romantic, but once you meet the right person, that’s when the real romance begins.


Amy Klein writes the weekly “Fertility Diary” column for The New York Times’ Motherlode blog. Her website is kleinslines.com.
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