Monday, September 5, 2011

for those who "can never find a good guy"

i had a list, growing up, of the qualities i was looking for in the perfect mate. most girls i know have/had such a list at some point. some keep it secretly in a diary, some bust it out to compare with the lists of others, and for some it is less formal - they say they are looking for someone who is like some character from a book or person they look up to, which implies a list of characteristics. now, when i had my list i thought it was a pretty modest and sensible one. honesty and sense of humor were on it, but income wasn't. height was on it, but that seemed only reasonable to want someone as tall as me. and every time i dated someone or considered dating someone, the list was in the back of my mind and i was taking mental notes (often subconsciously) and seeing how my date measured against the list. i figured that when i found someone who checked all the boxes, i would know i had found "the one". and i often lamented that it was so hard to find someone who met even a majority of my qualifications.
the best decision i have ever made was to ditch my list.

when i got rid of the list, i could finally start seeing the men i dated as individual and complex humans, rather than as potential checkmarks on a list. i spent years lamenting that it was so hard to find a guy who would see the real me in all my diversity, but at the same time i was refusing to see the real them. there is a lot of talk about how men objectify women, but i think there needs to be more talk about how women objectify men. women want to be taken as a whole, but want to choose a man based on certain ideal characteristics. it is common for men to physically objectify women, but it is just as common - perhaps more common because it is so socially acceptable - for women to emotionally objectify men. i'm not saying that it's bad to want to be with someone who has similar values and goals, but focusing too hard on ideal qualities often means missing the whole picture and the individual qualities a mate may bring to the table. if you think of your absolute favorite ideal meal to eat and then go trying to find a restaurant that serves exactly that meal, you'll never find it. you'll go hungry, and miss out on an amazing array of good food. obviously that's a very simple metaphor, but the concept is the same. if you already know in your head what the "perfect mate" is, you'll never find that in real life and will miss out on love.

i said for years that i didn't want to marry someone shorter than me. a few months after i tossed my list, i met the love of my life and the best man i have ever met. my incredible husband is 5" shorter than me, and only a few months before we met i wouldn't have given him the time of day and would have totally missed out on love. there were lots of small things where on the surface it didn't seem like he matched up with my list. but when i lost the list i was able to see past the surface, and to get to know him as a unique and complex human. in hindsight, he does have all the really important qualities i was looking for - he is honest and funny and kind and hard working and places a high importance on family and knows where he wants to go in life - but if i'd had my list in mind, i would never have gotten down to see those layers. and, the more i got to know him, the more individual qualities i saw in him that i would never have thought to put on a list but which made up his amazing whole that i now cannot live without.

i guess all of this is to say that if you are single and lamenting not being able to find "a good guy", i would urge you to stop and think for a minute. if your definition of a good guy includes someone who will love you for you, then you have to start by letting go of abstract, ideal qualities and start getting to know guys for who they really are. you'll probably be surprised how many good guys you find when you take the time to get to know them without your list in mind. let go of the agenda, and start looking at guys as real human beings rather than as potential list fulfillers. you will probably find what you're looking for. just my two cents.

*the gendered language in this post was simply the easiest way for me to write, since i write from the perspective of a straight female. but i think you could switch out "guy" and "husband" for "girl" and "partner" and it would still be true.

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