I have done a little bit of dating since my divorce and I’m finding myself now, at age 30, having much clearer ideas of what I want in a relationship, in a partner, and what I can and cannot live with and without than I did when I was younger. I’ve also realized that it is in fact better to be alone and be good company to yourself rather than settle for someone who doesn’t meet your standards. So today I wrote up a list and figured I’d share. Not everybody’s list is going to be the same, and different people will have different priorities, interests, and dealbreakers, of course. I think knowing what you need is important because that way you’re not leading anyone on or pretending to be something you’re not and they can check and see if they are willing to give what you need given, as well as whether or not they are interested in receiving what you are able to give. So here goes mine:
1.) I need a beautiful person. Not someone with movie star or airbrushed magazine beauty, but with the inner beauty that results from a positive attitude, self acceptance, taking good care of their hair and skin and body, keeping good hygiene, and wearing clothes that are fitting for their figure, personality, and occupation.
2.) I need someone who likes connecting, over homecooked food and with extended families and with friends at barbecues and when cuddling together, sharing perspectives on life and personal journeys, and sometimes just listening to music or each others’ heartbeat and saying nothing at all.
3.) I need someone who is unashamed of satiating desires and engulfing their senses and experiencing pleasure, wanting good food, good sex, good conversation, good movies, good travel, and good adventures as much as I do.
4.) I need someone who is cultured and capable, who keeps up with current events and is not only respectful of but generally interested in other cultures’ way of doing things, and is in touch with their own.
5.) I need someone who accepts difficult feelings and can get through the day without drinking, drugs, a shopping habit, or other forms of escapism to regulate their mood.
6.) I need someone who has a sense of humor and appreciates sarcasm, wit, jokes, and other ways of making the difficult things in life funny. Because if you can’t laugh about the big things and the small things in life, what else can you do?
7.) I need someone who will often say yes to trying new things, even when they feel scared or out of their element or likely to be embarrassed, realizing we were all born into this world naked, inexperienced, and silly looking and not much has changed since.
8.) I need someone who is good with children and pets and grandparents and little sisters, and who is respectful of his mother, the waitress, and his ex girlfriends.
9.) I need someone who gets joy out of giving to loved ones and strangers, not because they expect something transactional in return or are keeping a running score, but because of the intrinsic happiness it brings them and the good feeling that comes from being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
10.) I need a patient listener with whom I am able to openly analyze and recap and storytell (within reason) without being shut down, even when the stories are traumatic or personal, or both. I worked too hard to have my story become unspeakable again and sometimes I need to put my thoughts into words to know what I think.
11.) I need a collaborator, someone who shares information about what they want to do together so I can know and share too, and then we can each be a full participant, not blindly led or carelessly caught off guard by the other as we go along. Bad communication screws up the power dynamics and the fun.
12.) I need someone who says “ok, what works for you, baby?” when I say “this doesn’t work for me,” instead of making fun of me or talking about how it should work.
13.) I need someone who can handle their partner being a pain in the ass sometimes, making mistakes, having personality flaws, and struggling with bad habits, and who expects the same level of tolerance for themselves, knowing that nobody’s shit, including mine and theirs, doesn’t stink.
14.) I need someone who doesn’t put me on hold for too long, and if they need cool-down time due to a disagreement, tries not to draw it out, recognizing that their cool down time is my stewing time, and stewing time is best minimized.
15.) I need someone who can say they are sorry and is also able to forgive, tell me when they feel I owe them an apology, and has the courage to have hard conversations on these things when they need to be had, considering their own behavior and faults as well as mine.
16.) I need someone who is capable of supporting themselves and has at least some idea of what their current or near future career path and skill set is and what they’re doing or gonna do to make it. I don’t need him to be rich, but I want a guy who can pay his share of the bills, and if we were to have a baby, I’d want a guy who could find a way to provide for us during that vulnerable time.
17.) I need someone whose income exceeds his outgo and whose upkeep isn’t his downfall. Hobbies and shopping and sports and travel and investments and student loans are all fine, but so is a balanced bank account and regularly paid bills and a home that isn’t overflowing with too much stuff.
18.) I need someone who will always try to work problems out before throwing in the towel, and if he feels close to throwing in the towel, will admit to feeling like giving up, talk about the dealbreakers as part of trying to not give up, cluing you in to the gravity of the situation and allowing you the information needed to try and help remedy it.
19.) I need someone who can handle me occasionally having dark days where getting out of bed is hard and not take it personal. I have my demons and my bed is my “safe place” where I go when I’m battling them in my head. Guilting me about being in my safe place when I’m dealing with a rough time disrupts my sense of safety and self-care. Asking me if I’d like to voluntarily leave my safe place and go for a walk or a bike ride or a bite to eat is different and a good thing, and often can help me get out of a funk.
20.) I need someone who is accepting of other people’s emotions, even when they are difficult, like anger or sadness, and knows that my tears are not a punishment, a guilting tool, anybody’s “fault,” or even a problem, let alone their problem. They must be able to also recognize that they are not a plumber and I am not a leaky faucet for them to fix. I am human and I cry sometimes, and the most they ever need to do is put their arm around me and be a good listener while I feel my feelings, knowing that soon the clouds will clear and the sun will reappear and I will be smiling at them again.
21.) I need someone who won’t put their happiness on hold for me and who will instead have a hard conversation and say “this doesn’t work for me” when something doesn’t work for them, and will then give an example of something that would or does. I don’t need people-pleasing behavior. It might seem like the “nice” thing to do at the time, but it leads to misunderstanding and resentment.
22.) I need someone who realizes that a lot of things in this world are preferences and not absolutes and who is tolerant of someone else having different preferences than themselves, seeing that if I prefer vanilla ice cream and they prefer chocolate, that we’re both right and even if he doesn’t understand it, that he can be happy that I’m happy with my preference and see me enjoy vanilla ice cream without complaint.
23.) I need someone who is interested in bridging the gaps in a creative and giving way. If one partner is more extroverted and the other more introverted, or one wants sex more or less, or even likes to go to restaurants or movies more than the other, that the one who wants less tries to do their maximum and the one who wants more accepts their minimum and if a gap can’t be bridged, alternative arrangements where both people can get their needs met get discussed.
24.) I need someone who respects character more than money or looks or prestige or fun or age or education level or race or color or creed or religion or language or any of the other things that make us a little bit different from one another.
25.) I need someone who believes in love and the world having much to offer in the way of beauty and hardship, and who thinks having a trustworthy partner to share the good times and the bad times with is one of the best feelings in the world.