I’ve always found the idea of having a “love wish list” kind of ineffective, silly and a little shallow.
My perception of a love list included people crafting ridiculous lists of deal breakers or deal makers for their future, potential partners to be evaluated on in order to even be considered for a first date.
Those love wish lists that make me cringe look something like this:
- Must be six feet or taller.
- Has to make at least six figures.
- Must be handsome with perfect teeth.
- Needs to be fit and active.
- Preferably lives alone, has a dog, and a college education.
- Must love his mom, but not too much.
Sorry, but gag me. Those things tell you nothing about a person.
Think about it. He may be six feet tall, and make a decent income. Perhaps he is handsome and has a killer apartment downtown BUT that doesn’t mean he treats women with respect. It doesn’t mean he’s emotionally available, empathetic or just, like, not a serial killer.
I know, you know this. But for some reason, despite knowing this, we often act off those shallow impulses instead of diving deep into understanding why those attributes are so important to us.
Examining the List
Why does he/she need to be six feet or taller? Do you not feel safe without that? Do you feel you need some type of protection? Where does that come from? Are you worried about what other people think?
Why must he/she make at least six-figures? What if he makes six figures and spends seven? What if he spends 80 hours a week making the six figures and the other hours complaining about it? Is ambition what is important to you or is money?
I think those things are worth looking into and examining to find out what’s really important to you.
Looked deeper, and still your jam? To be fair, maybe being tall is more important to you than NOT BEING A SERIAL KILLER. But to each his/her/their own. (Can you tell I just watched the Ted Bundy special on NetFlix?)
I stand by my opinion that that type of list is useless unless observed, questioned, and understood on a deeper level. What I do think might actually be useful, is a different kind of list.
A Different Kind of List
Recently, my friend, who would like to be referred to as Captain Danger, and I argued about creating lists for dating.
“How can you possibly have an idea of what you’re looking for if you don’t have a list?” Captain Danger asked me for the millionth time.
“I have an idea, it’s just not that prescriptive and concrete. It’s more about feelings and how I feel around someone,” I said.
“How you feel around someone shouldn’t even come into play unless someone meets the requirements on your list!” he said.
“Think about it– ” Captain Danger continued, “if you make a list ahead of time, you know those are your boundaries. Because you know those are the things you will not budge on, dating is going to get easier. You’ll know right away if something isn’t going to work, so you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to get your feelings involved in the first place.”
“Yeah, yeah. I still think that sounds dumb. Maybe that’s right for you, but I don’t think it’s right for me. I have to have the feels to want to date someone,” I said, stubborn in my defense.
“It may sound robotic, but everyone has a list in their head whether they are consciously checking it off or not,” he said.
“You can choose to go about it however you want, but in my experience, it’s helpful. Plus, I think that you’re the type of person who feels comfortable around a lot of people, douche bags included. If you base who you want to date solely on how you feel when you’re around them– you’re going to end up dating a lot of douche bags. It’s easier to suss that out in the beginning when feelings aren’t involved.”
“Ugh. Stop being so logical. You’re probably right, but it sounds like SO MUCH work, Captain Danger!”
“How is making a list in 30-40 minutes more work than dating the wrong person for six months because you didn’t identify in the beginning that “feeling” good around them didn’t make up for the fact that they were rude, disrespectful, arrogant assholes?”
Captain Danger had a good point.
How did I expect to get different results if I kept doing the same thing? And what would I lose by spending thirty minutes making a list of things that are important to me in a partner?
Worse case scenario, I waste 30 minutes.
Best case scenario, it actually helps.
So, I told Captain Danger I’d make a list just to entertain him, and I was surprised with what I found.
The Examined Love Wish List
I am a nurturer. I’ve spent most of my life being a nurturer. Historically speaking, I have a tendency to take care of everyone else, and often put myself and my own needs last.
In the last year, I’ve gotten a LOT better at saying no and doing what’s best for myself, but I still have the immediate urge that tells me to say yes when I want to say no and to be a pleaser when I want to stick to my boundaries.
I don’t know if that’s because I was the oldest sister of a clan of five or if it’s because I have a deep and insecure need to be loved and liked no matter what the costs. Perhaps it’s because women are raised to be nurturers in our society, or perhaps it’s because I’m a control freak and want to be in charge of everything, including the nurturing.
Either way, I’m still learning to unlearn these things.
I have lots of theories on why I’m a nurturer, but I also know that I’m tired of being the nurturer in a relationship. I want to be nurtured. For once, I want to be a receiver.
That is, as it turns out, easier said than done. I’m not honestly sure how to be a receiver, and I think, in a way, that’s why I’ve turned down nice guys before.
I’ve had trouble accepting someone doing things for me, being there for me, or wanting to take care of me because I’ve gotten really good at taking care of myself, and I feel guilt when someone tries to take care of me. I immediately feel the urge to reciprocate or deny any offer of help because I don’t want to be a burden on anyone else.
But I don’t want to be the nurturer anymore either.
A part of why my last semi-long term relationship ended was partially because I resented my ex for needing me to be a nurturer. I hated putting my needs and passions on hold in order to help him achieve his dreams and take care of his needs.
Selfish? Maybe. But selfish isn’t always a bad thing.
Is it selfish that I am blatantly admitting to the fact that I don’t want to take care of another adult human being? That I want to put myself first? That I’m more interested in pursuing my own dreams than helping someone else achieve their’s?
Claiming selfishness is the knee jerk reaction to a woman saying she doesn’t want to take care of someone else. We like to advocate for selflessness for women, as if it’s a women’s virtue and civic duty to put herself last.
And it’s absolutely sexist bullshit.
I want to come first for me. I will not apologize for that. If I don’t put myself first, no one else will. When I don’t, my mental health suffers and my ambitions and growth get put on hold.
Call it selfish, but I call it prioritizing.
At this point in my life, I don’t want to take care of someone else. I want to need. I want to receive. Or I want to be alone.
#2: Owns Own Shit, and Takes Care of It
I don’t want to be my partner’s therapist. Let me say that one more time.
I. Do. Not. Want. To. Be. My. Partner’s. Therapist.
While I’m at it, I also don’t want to be my partner’s mom. It is way too exhausting and it doesn’t work. I want someone who owns their own shit, and decides for themself to fix it, for their self.
I do not want someone who blames the world for their issues, and I don’t want someone who does not have the capacity to look inward and say “What was my role in this?”
You know why?
People who blame the world for their problems are exactly the type of people who are going to gaslight, manipulate, and blame. And I’ve have enough of that to last me a lifetime.
Someone’s inability to look inward is a sign that they will look for places to put the blame. I don’t want to be someone’s shit receptacle.
I own my own shit. Over the years, I’ve worked on my shortcomings. I admit to when I’m wrong and I try to make amends when I realize I’ve done something shitty.
There is no way that I could be compatible with someone who makes excuses for why they are the way they are and then expects things to change by doing nothing.
I used to say that I didn’t care about someone else’s politics.
I’d say that that wasn’t an indication of someone’s character or personality, and that two people could be compatible while sharing vastly different political beliefs.
While I still believe that to an extent, and think that no one is intrinsically good or bad simply by identifying as a Democrat or Republican, I have realized that in today’s political climate, I need someone who is on the same page as me.
I want someone who will march with me, not against me.
In a world that feels divided and unstable, I want someone who cares about my rights and equality regardless of race, culture, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.
I want someone who recognizes the issues instead of turning a blind eye towards them because they do not affect him or her personally, and I want someone who actively works toward being the change.
These things have become non-negotiable for me.
Ultimately, if I continue to date men, I need him to be a safe space for me when I need a reminder that the world isn’t as terrible as it feels and that not all men hate women.
I cannot date someone who is afraid of strong women.
You cannot be my partner and be afraid of strong women.
At the same time, I have to stop dating men who want me to be less of the strong woman I am because I am unwilling to make myself less simply because that makes someone else more comfortable.
Maybe I should just stay single, huh?
I’m good with that. I would rather be alone than budge on this list, a list I originally thought was not something worth doing.
These things helped me put a name and a reason as to why things haven’t worked out with others in the past. These things also helped me realize why someone would seem nice and lovely enough, but for some reason I didn’t want to bring them any closer than at arms length.
I haven’t put it to test yet, because the truth is I really haven’t been dating all that much, and I’ve also been debating on whether or not I want to date men.
Whenever I get the motivation to try again, it’ll be interesting to try with this list in mind. I don’t know how it will change the process for me but there’s something comforting knowing I’ve created a list of real boundaries for myself.