Let’s confront a very touchy subject in dating & relationships. It is a thorn in the side of many people searching for a serious relationship. I’m taking about: The List.
Definition: “The List” – a carefully constructed outline of the requirements, pre-requisites, and qualifications to be considered in evaluation of a potential suitor.
“The List” is what you use to make decisions about your love life. It’s the litmus test for many second date decisions and perhaps the culprit for keeping some people perpetually single. People use The List to evaluate their love interests or they bypass it in pursuit of passion. If you’re single and waiting on a long term relationship, the question becomes should you have a list or shred the list?
For some, The List is simply a casual point of mental reference. It’s a “nice to have” summary of qualities you desire in a mate, but not a definite must. For a select few, it’s an idealistic wish list for relationships that is not fully expected or required.
But for others, The List is more like a legally binding document for anyone who expresses even has an inkling of romantic interest. These individuals treat The List as a holy grail for relationships that serves as a roadmap for the journey to the altar. For these folks, The List is a mandatory must-have summary of the traits that a suitor must possess before being seriously considered.
What’s the right balance? There is a fine line between adhering and obsessing over The List. One approach allows grace and wiggle room for adjustments along the way. The other requires strict laws and rules like, “Thou shalt not be less than 6 foot 2 inches tall.” Or maybe, “Thou shalt possess no less than a minimum of a Masters degree (note: JD and MD also permitted)”. Rules that demand, “Thou shalt be able to make me laugh uncontrollably.” The rules span far and wide and there are no boundaries for the reach of The List. But, how far is too far?
To be clear, everyone should have non-negotiables. For example, liars, cheaters or otherwise shady people are off limits. However, beyond major character flaws or theological differences, everything else is circumstantial. In other words, while the items on some lists are important, isn’t sharing your life with someone about more? It’s about the connection you have, the good work you will do in the world and the way that you connect. In 50 years, when your spouse is taking care of you on your deathbed, will it really matter that they didn’t go to an Ivy League school? Will their graduating GPA, list of publications or whether they made partner carry much weight at that point? When they hold your hand through one of life’s most difficult challenges- will the fact that they are shorter than you be significant? In the long run, some things just won’t matter as much. So, it’s important to be conscious of the fine line between standards, preferences and demands.
Make no mistake- I am not giving you a license to continue in a dead-end relationship because “someone on Urban Cusp said it’s ok to settle for less”. And I’m not advocating blind ignorance or just straight up stupidity. What I’m saying is create your list of non-negotiables and then allow grace for the other things.
A non-negotiable is a critical area where you are not willing to bend, regardless of the situation. For some, that could mean that you won’t date anyone with kids or that you are only interested in dating someone of a particular race (I think that is limiting, but it happens). It might also mean that someone with a criminal past is off limits. To be fair, I know plenty of folks who have dated and also married folks who had run-ins with the law and they are very happily married. The point is not to judge others, but to be clear about what you are comfortable with and what you can’t tolerate in relationships.
Ultimately, if you find someone who treats you well, makes you happy and supports your goals, aren’t you winning? If you can pray together and agree on the fundamentals in life, isn’t that a great foundation? Does The List always reveal these things? The List might be a basic starting point, but don’t miss the diamond because you couldn’t see pass the coal.
D.S. Coleman is a love, dating and relationships expert who did the dating scene, experienced heartbreak and lived to tell the story. After a string of disappointing and failed relationships, she took a vow not to entertain advances from anyone who wasn’t a suitable candidate for marriage. That meant many dateless nights and lots of soul-searching. Fast forward ten years, she’s happily married with two kids and from her experiences, she birthed: www.courtshipchallenge.com – an online community which blends real stories, inspiring anecdotes and Christian faith into practical content for singles unwilling to settle for less than the best in relationships. Find her on Instagram & Twitter: @courtship101