I know, I know, it sounds harsh. And the reason is not going to be the reason you think, so hang in there and let me get to it.
I got to meet with one of Seattle’s best matchmakers last week over coffee. We talked about everything from what people want in relationships all the way to how we can best help them achieve it. His eyes lit up when I told him about the work that I do with women. And then he told me a story.
He told me that his business really wants to be able to promise women a certain number of quality dates per month, and he really wants them to be successful in finding love. And then he lowered his voice and talked about how difficult that is, given that women can have a really narrow view of who and what will make them happy.
He went on to describe a female client who had been matched for a date with a man who met all of her criteria. They both reported having a wonderful time on their date. But she wasn’t sold. She had done some investigating on her own of his social media accounts and added a new, previously unmentioned criteria. She was hoping to be with someone with a more extensive social network.
Ugh. I don’t know about you, but this made me cringe.
There are two possible things going on here. The first is that she potentially isn’t telling the truth about what her real criteria are. Sometimes we feel shame about how materialistic we are, or how much looks matter to us, etc, and we don’t report those things accurately. If this was the case, I wish she would have just shared the thing that had her feel hesitant, instead of making up something that wasn’t true.
The other thing more likely happening in this situation (and I think this happens more universally), is that she is using her old relationship baggage as a reason to not move forward with a particular man. She hopped on his Facebook page, saw that he hangs out with the same people all the time (just like her ex did) and she got scared about getting into a relationship with this guy and then feeling bored because they would always be doing the same things with the same people. (Ok, in all honesty, I do not know this woman and don’t know her exact reasons, but I can illustrate what typically happens by making some assumptions.)
The bottom line is that getting into intimate relationships is scary, especially if you’ve had one or two that ended up with you getting hurt and it took a long time to recover. When we’re scared, it’s natural to do things to try to control for the outcome (like inventing new criteria).
The Selection Criteria
That long list of criteria you have probably reads as a list of things you think are necessary in a partner to protect yourself from the issues you’ve had in past relationships from coming up again.
For example, some of your criteria (and the reasons they came about) might be:
- He must have a job. ( = You’ve been in a relationship before where you felt like you carried a heavy portion of the financial load and that was difficult and you don’t want to do it again.)
- He must not play video games or own a motorcycle. ( = You are an adult, and you want a partner that acts like an adult, and who is supportive of you and the partnership.)
- He must be able to plan a date. ( = You don’t want to be responsible for everything. You want to know that he cares as much as you do.)
- He must be a great communicator. ( = You have either experienced dishonesty/cheating, or a guy that’s totally checked out of your relationship, and you want a true partner that is willing to talk with you about their life, your life and your relationship.)
- He must have a large social network. ( = You got bored doing the same stuff over and over again with the same people. You want newness and adventure.)
You might be saying, yeah, so what?
I’m a firm believer that we learn all kinds of things in every relationship we have, and that it’s totally great to keep revising what we want and who is a good fit for us.
But is it true that every guy who owns a motorcycle or plays video games doesn’t act like an adult or is easily distracted from your relationship? No. So the idea that all men who like something in common should be treated the same because it must mean something about them is unfair. It asks perfectly good men to be responsible for the mistakes or shortcomings of your past partners – and that’s just ridiculous.
Instead, do this.
So what do you do about including the things you know you want in a relationship, then? Well, to start, you can frame your list in the sense of the deeper thing that you really want (and removing the easy-to-identify trait.)
Your new list could look like this:
- A partner who will be my financial equal (or share with me financially, or who won’t take advantage of my financial success.)
- A partner who actively contributes to being present in our relationship and supports me emotionally.
- A partner that is invested in our relationship and cares about the time we spend together, and wants to take part in planning things for us to do.
- A partner who values honesty and openness and wants to share about his life with me.
- A partner who is interested in exploring new things and meeting new people so that we continue to grow together.
Whoa. That’s really different than the first list!
Now you may be saying, but Rachel, how am I supposed to know how to look for those things early on? What are the clues?
You’re not gonna like it, but this is where you just have to be open to getting to know someone and letting it unfold. There is no shortcut to knowing whether these things are true or not. And it will likely take more than one or two dates.
You can fast-track the process a bit by having open conversations with him about what’s important to you using the list you create. It’s a great way to share about who you are, and to invite him to share about who he is and what’s important to him.
While I can’t promise you’ll find a keeper on the first date, I can promise that you will find some truly amazing men once you stop trying to hold them accountable for your past. He is not your ex, and you are not who you were when you were in a relationship with your ex. Give both of you the gift of starting with a clean state.
Jump on over to the Facebook page and tell me one thing on your criteria list that you’d like to look at differently. I look forward to reading your comments!