‘When Looking For a Partner, Should I Make a List?’


Dear Sara: I have a checkbox of things I would really like in a partner. College-educated, maybe a white-collar job. Am I being too picky? — T

Dear T: I don’t think there is anything wrong with a making list, though I do have a few basic guidelines.

1. Keep it short. When you buy a pair of shoes online, you can save yourself a lot of time by narrowing your options—if you want size 8 burgundy Mary Janes with thick, comfortable soles, then of course it makes sense to click all of those boxes rather than scroll through endless pages of black stilettos and silver flip-flops. The system works great with shoes, but not so much with people.

So pick a few qualities that really matter to you. When I was single, I used to tell people I wanted to be with someone who could make me laugh, and I often got the feedback that I was being too picky. But that was what was important to me. There were other things I didn’t care about, like what he did for a living or how much that job paid. I didn’t need (or particularly want) to date a professional comedian, but for me a happy long-term relationship had to include the two of us cracking each other up.

2. Allow yourself to be wrong. A list can do a great job of helping you clarify your values and priorities, but if you cling to it too rigidly, you could miss someone great. I once spoke with a woman who said her non-negotiables were that her husband should live in her city, not be religious and love the arts. Cut to: She’s married to a suburban-dwelling Christian who doesn’t care a whiff about museums or theater. And she couldn’t be happier.

3. Understand that not all checklist items are created equal. Sure, it would be great to find someone who shares your love of paddle-boarding and monster movies. But while common interests can go a long way, there are some qualities that should go on everyone’s list: kindness, honesty, and respect for others. Anyone who says that requiring these traits makes you too picky has probably settled for too little in their own relationship. Or their partner has.


its not you sara eckel

Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.


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