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Dating Advice #113 - Check List
Dating Advice 113

Dating Advice #113 - Check List

Imagine your ideal image of a spouse -- and then discard that image.


Dear Rosie & Sherry:

I recently read a book for singles that discussed "looking for love in all the wrong places." The advice was to make a list of all the "must-haves" and "can't-stands" you are looking for in a marriage partner. The idea is to save yourself some heartache in the end.

So I went ahead and made up a list, and now when I'm on a date, I reflect back to this list and compare the other person's qualities with what I'm looking for.

The problem is that I am not getting anywhere. Every guy I go out with has more "can't-stands" than "must-haves." At this rate, I'll be single for the rest of my life. I'm thinking that it's time to lower my standards.

Any suggestions?


Dear Annette,

The problem with this suggestion is that most people develop a list of "must-haves and can't stands" that are too long and unwieldy. They spend their whole date comparing the person across the table with the items on the list, and they miss the opportunity to get to discover that their date has some wonderful qualities they never thought of before!

When we present programs for singles, we often have our audience perform an exercise that helps bring this point home. We ask them to close their eyes and imagine their ideal date. He (or she) has every quality they ever thought was important, and we ask them to think about these personal traits. We suggest that they picture how this person looks the first time they meet: the smile, the hairstyle, the overall appearance. What does their voice sound like? How do they react when they see you?

Next, we ask the audience to make a mental snapshot of this ideal person, and hold it in their hands for safekeeping. When they open their eyes, we tell them to take that photograph and tear it in half, and then in half again. Because they will never marry the person in that picture. He or she is a fantasy that doesn't exist. Their future spouse is undoubtedly very different from that picture.

Of course, we follow that exercise with a suggested "better way" to choose someone to date. First, start by looking for someone whose values are similar to yours, and someone whose plans for the next several years will be compatible with the goals you would like to accomplish during that period of time.

Next, think of four -- and only four -- personal qualities that make you a unique individual. These are the qualities the members of your "network" will use to describe you to potential dating partners.

Finally, think of four (and only four) personal qualities that you would like to see in your future spouse. When you hear about someone with compatible values and goals who possesses three or four of these qualities, go out with him. Give yourself two or three dates to break the ice. Spend some time together and learn a little about each other before passing judgment as to whether it's worthwhile to continue seeing each other. At the same time, resist the urge to compare him with a checklist.

Ultimately, you will marry someone whose good points and less-than-good points combine to make the right person to spend the rest of your life with. So give yourself the chance to get to know the full human being, rather than focusing on each individual point of his persona.

This method has worked for hundreds of our clients, and following it could make a big difference in your dating success. If you want some more ideas, try our book, "Talking Tachlis." It was originally written for an observant Jewish audience, but the dating method we describe can be adapted to every courtship.

Rosie & Sherry

Rosie and Sherry will be holding another of their popular workshops for prospective dating mentors on Sunday, November 24, at the Israel Center in Jerusalem, from 6:45 to 10 p.m. For more information, call the Israel Center at 02-566-7787.

January 19, 2003

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 4

(4) 29SJF, February 8, 2005 12:00 AM

pickiness is a smoke screen for fear

Well ...I just broke up with a man who insisted that we are far too different cause I am not as observant as he is. I was willing to learn about Kosher, Shabbat, etc, but did not grow up with this lifestyle. I asked him to be patient with me, but he was so focussed on out differences and on his "list" of the perfect spouse, that he preferred to let the relationship go. This only happened 2 days ago so I'm still trying to pick up the pieces. I think this is an example of someone sticking to the letter, rather than the spirit of the torah..

(3) Anonymous, December 3, 2002 12:00 AM

limit the list

I don't see anything wrong with figuring out what you want and don't want in a potential spouse. I do see something wrong with letting it get out of hand.

There's a young man I know who insisted on only two things: that the woman have a good character and that she wants to live in Israel. I had insisted that the man be educated, good character, Orthodox, and not against living in Israel. We're married now.

(2) Anonymous, November 14, 2002 12:00 AM

Right on the Mark!

This is excellent advice! All my married friends and I joke how our spouses couldn't be more different from the "ideal" we'd imagined: my cousin always says she had 5 "must-haves", and her wonderful husband ended up being the exact opposite of all of them!

Not that we don't have lots in common with our spouses - it's just that you find good qualities and love in the most unexpected places!

What do I mean specifically? That things like education, whether or not someone likes sports, whether or not someone is intellectual, family background, and all sorts of other important information that people call "must-haves" or "deal-breakers" can fail to capture a person's essence.

For instance, someone can be smart without having gone to a prestigious college. Someone can be committed to Judaism even if the rest of their family is not. Someone can be nice and caring and a good spouse even if they have one "flaw" like being too messy or too neat or too shy or whatever. (I know of happy couples where all these examples apply.)

Finally, looking at all my married friends, and my own married life, I'd point out that so long as you have basic values in common, you don't need to share specific interests. So you go to art films with your friends. So your spouse goes jogging without you. You can't have everything in common, so don't expect to. Focus on the big picture, and you might find love in some surprising places!

(1) Jen, November 14, 2002 12:00 AM

Standards are not such a bad thing

I'm familiar with the concept of "must-haves" and "can't-stands". In fact, the creators of that theory recommend that you keep your "must-haves" and "can't-stand" list as small as possible, choosing about four of each from a much longer list. How is making a list of "must-haves" any different from looking for someone with similar values and life goals? Those look like "must-haves" on Rosie and Sherry's list. I agree that it's easy to go overboard in making a list of your ideal traits in a spouse, and it's vital to be open to possibilities you may not have considered, but I also think it's good to have an idea of what meshes best with you, and what you are not equipped to deal with.

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