BY Katie Marshall
A friend and I were recently discussing the space between his bad break-up and his current, beautiful and healthy relationship. He was explaining that in the time he was single, he decided that he would never go back to the unhappiness of the first relationship. He decided to make a list of everything he was looking for in his next relationship and that his next partner would fit every single one of the qualities he was looking for. After all, now that he had experienced what he didn’t want, he could decide what he did want. He told me, “Look, it’s like this: I didn’t need a car at the time. So if I was going to get one, it was going to have everything I wanted.”
I love that line. I’m keeping it for a long time.
In his list, he wrote down absolutely everything he wanted in a partner, ranging from broad characteristics (kind) to the very specific (must be willing to have my dog lick her face upon meeting her). Nothing was off limits. Nothing was “too much” or “too specific.” He’s married now, post-list. This is the point where I’m supposed to tell you that he had to give up some things, but he says he didn’t compromise on a single thing. “If I’m lyin, I’m dyin,” he said. “She matches every single thing on my list.”
He’s encouraged me to make a similar list, so in the space at the end of the year reserved for reflection and preparing for the absolute best ahead in the new year, I did. I did it. I made a list.
The first thing that happens when you make a list about everything you want in someone else is a little bit of guilt. There are the fears that you’re being too picky and how many “required qualities” is too many and what if the love of your life is actually 3 inches shorter than you when you specifically listed that they must be taller than you, even in heels? What if the person you’re describing isn’t actually a real person and is in fact some daydream hybrid of Jim Halpert and Khal Drago? What if listing all of these qualities out means you’re closing yourself off to so many wonderful people? And aren’t you supposed to be super open to every gift that the universe brings you, regardless of whether that gift’s tattoos are “legitimate” by your standards or not?
I’m not entirely sure what to do with these fears besides tell you that I have them, too, but I pushed through. With each new quality, I thought, remember, I don’t need a car, I am fine with where I am in life and what I have, I love my friends and my family, so if I get a car, it will like cats and know cool things about at least one type of alcohol, be it craft beer, whiskey, or wine.
Other things happen when you make a list of your ideal mate as well, including, but not limited to introspective questions about why you like what you like (direct foil to what you’ve had before or life-long thing for Uncle Jesse?) and long, rambling texts about where your life is going to your patient and very kind friends.
But the big thing that happens in this list-making process is that with every hope that you have for someone else, you learn something new about yourself.
If your next relationship must include regular camping trips and dancing, then maybe you have found a new love for the outdoors and all of that car-dancing to Taylor Swift’s “1989” really made an impression on you. If your ideal characteristics are things like “must be emotionally stable” or “takes responsibility for their actions” then maybe you are finally at that magical place in life where you are generally emotionally stable and you take responsibility for your actions. Maybe you are looking for beauty because you have accepted your own. Maybe you are seeking humor because you took the time to laugh, big and loud and in public on a regular occasion. Maybe you are open to finding someone because you have found yourself.
So I pass on my friend’s advice to you all. If you’re looking for something in life, whether it’s a significant other, a new job, or your goals for 2016, write them out in a list. There is no number too high or quality too specific. If it’s what you want, you want it. And there is something to be said for you get what you put out there in the world. So why not go big?
Sometimes, to know what we want, we have to start with what we don’t want. I can easier choose what I want for dinner because I know I definitely don’t want Chinese leftovers (again). Other times, to know who we are, we have to take the time to decide what we really do want, and decide that we are worthy of wanting these things, and go from there.