Dating can be rough. Actually, that’s an understatement. Dating can be REALLY rough. Whether you are fresh out of a new relationship or if you have been on the dating circuit for a while, dating can be overwhelming, empowering, exciting, and stressful. Thanks to the insane amount of dating websites and mobile apps, many daters do not necessarily have a difficult time going on dates. What can make dating difficult is the process of filtering through the masses. But how do you find people to connect with in a sea full of possibilities? If you’ve had this thought, you’re not alone!
One of the biggest barriers to connection that I often encounter in this work are those who have the long internal check list of “Must Haves”. This person may go on many dates, and can easily find something wrong with every person they have gone out with. Someone who falls into this pattern may also have a mental checklist of qualities and characteristics that their partner must have. A person with this pattern can have a difficult time finding a connection because they are caught up in whether or not their date meets their criteria instead of being present and curious. Sometimes a person who may fall into this type of pattern may actually meet their “perfect” match. Since they have met someone who checks all of their boxes on their list, they may often mistake commonalities for true compatibility. This match may fit all of the right criteria (great job, nice family, loves dogs, same religion, and so forth), but there may not be natural chemistry or shared core values.
I will often see couples like this who end up in therapy because they decided to get married because their partner checked all of their boxes, and it seemed like it was the right age to get married and settle down or felt pressure (and let’s be real, social media doesn’t exactly help). A couple like this may end up being incompatible because they did not look for the important qualities in each other before tying the knot, such as shared values, personality, mutual respect, attraction, and a genuine fondness for each other.
The best way to break this pattern is to re-examine your criteria and checklist for your future partner. Throw away superficial qualities, such as how they look and what kind of job they have, and focus on deeper qualities that will take the relationship to a more intimate level. If you are aware that you may fall into this type of pattern, give yourself a little more time to get to know someone before deciding they are not worth your time.
Ask yourself, “Is this my checklist or my gut telling me this isn’t right?” The more in-tune you become with your gut and what your body tells you, the easier it will be for you to identify if this is a good match. Questions to consider asking yourself that can help you tune in are:
- How do I feel about myself when I am with this person?
- Does this person highlight positive qualities or values I have?
- Do I enjoy spending time with them?
- Am I attracted to this person?
Whether you are single and dating or you have been in a long-term relationship, it is always important to be curious and maintain an open mind. When we weed out so many potential partners due to a check-list, you could be missing out on an opportunity to connect with someone who’s really amazing and may challenge you in a meaningful way. So please, don’t date someone just because they “check the boxes”, and don’t partner with someone just because it seems like everyone else is. Instead, focus on what your body and gut are telling you!
~Rebecca Hirsch, LMFT