I had a “go no-go” list in my head when I was dating. I fatigued early in my dating career, and around 23 decided I was done wasting my time. I had burned through my college church group and come to the conclusion: it’s not me, it’s guys in Orange County. And, I didn’t want to raise a family in southern California. There’s a special kind of dumb here when it comes to parenting. I think it comes from a combination of affluence, attitude, permissiveness, and the weather.
Quick story to illustrate my point: Back when I was around 20, and living in Huntington Beach, my good friend at the time was telling me about a mutual friend whose parents bought her and her boyfriend a house, after she got pregnant, so they could raise their child nearby—while they were still in high school. These same parents would later foot the bill for the boyfriend’s celebrity rehab, when their daughter got pregnant again, (still in high school). I know stupid parenting isn’t unique to California, but its prevalence certainly seems to be.
I can appreciate why the whole list idea turns people off—it’s sterile and impersonal, and the longer it gets the more obnoxious the “must haves” become. My “go” list was short and sweet: Christian, conservative, smarter than me, had a life, didn’t want to change me, funny, and kind. My “no-go” list was a little different in that it was really just an itemized account of superficial snobbery, which is why I’m not sharing it. Okay, I'll share one thing: flat, round, or wide noses were right out. I wanted a husband that had a better nose than mine, that way our children had a fighting chance. I wasn’t worried about other physical characteristics; the strength of my gene pool would take care of those.
I realize people aren’t made to order, but I don't think it’s a bad idea to have a few guidelines. It’s easier to do this when you know yourself, really well, before you dive into looking for a spouse. Which is why I advise waiting until you’re at least 45. Seriously, who really knows themselves in their 20's? I thought I did, but looking back now I can see that I was still basically an inexperienced, sheltered woman-child.
According to a Psychology Today article, entitled, “How To Choose A Mate,” we often think we know what we want, but are willing to compromise (or completely disregard) those ideas when we meet someone we really like, but doesn’t comport with our set of requirements. (Most likely because they’re hot and we like their face enough to make allowances for everything else.)
“As with everything else, our conscious minds play second fiddle to our unconscious desires. That is to say, we may think we know what we want in a mate, but the real qualities we find attractive—the real reasons for the choice we ultimately make—are often quite different from what we tell ourselves they are.”
This is because our unconscious mind is as lousy at choosing a mate as our conscious mind. We are only able to make determinations about our potential mate based on today’s information, we have no insight as to what the future brings. Although, I’d argue history is a good predictor, but even then, people can and do change — often without consulting us first. So when we're pressed to make a decision about someone, we dismiss our guidelines in favor of what feels right. Personally I think this is a terrible idea, but if you are going to let emotion rule your brain, check first to make sure its pants aren't on fire.
The article makes a good point I would agree is important, and often overlooked when choosing a mate: Who am I when I’m around this person? Am I myself? Does this person bring out the best, or the worst? Now, it may not always be your mate's fault if you don’t like yourself in the relationship. It might be you. Either way, it's an indicator of a problem that should probably be addressed.
So what are you thoughts about choosing a mate? Is it wise to have “must haves” and “deal breakers” in mind before beginning the selection process? Or should we throw caution to the wind and let our emotions be our guide? Or some variation in between?