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?

Annette

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.