How To Fall In Love With Mr. Good Enough

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The Mr. Right you want to date might not be the one you need long-term. Lori Gottlieb explains.

Until very recently, Valentine's Day often passed with my friends and I sitting around wondering where all the good men were. And then, last year, something hit me: maybe they'd been right in front of me. As I looked around at my friends in happy marriages to men who might not knock your socks off at first glance, I started to realize that I'd probably passed up tons of great guys in the past because I had a fixed image of The One in my mind. I said I wanted to be "more open," but out in the dating world, I was still drawn only to my "type." Discover Your "Type" (It Really Exists)

Then one day, one of these married friends told me that if I wanted to find love, I had to let go of my list.

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My list? Oh, puhleeze! I told her I didn't have a list. After all, I wasn't a 16-year-old girl scribbling in my journal. I was a sophisticated 41-year-old woman with several significant relationships under my belt. Do We Find Love Or Decide To Love?

"I can't quantify what I'm looking for," I explained. "I always just fell in love."

But my friend was right. When she asked me to write down what I was looking for in a guy, it took me all of three minutes to give a detailed description of more than fifty characteristics I was seeking—with specifics from hobbies to hair color! Even if I'd never written a list, I'd clearly kept a mental file. No wonder it was so hard to find my dream guy—I'd actually dreamed him up. Advice: Does Mr. Right Exist?

The problem with a list, I realized, is that it's hard to translate the bullet points into a real, live human being. The fact is, you can't make a list that doesn't either oversimplify or take things out of context. For instance, even if you make a list of qualities you want, they aren't all weighted equally (is height as important as honesty?), and with many qualities you want, it's not like people have them or they don't. Often, they have some degree of that quality—like sense of humor or financial stability—which may not be exactly what you had in mind when you wrote it down.

Lists are also confusing because they're about qualities a man has independently—they don't account for the qualities he'll have inside a relationship. He may be the right age, have the right sense of humor, and have the right job, but what is he going to be like when he's with you? How are you going to feel when you're with him? Will you get along well? None of this can be captured on paper. Why Do Smart Women Settle For Mr. Wrong?

But still, I told my friend, I have to have some way of screening the men I'd go out with.  I mean, I couldn't just go out with everyone, right?

And that was the problem. How did I know if I was being too picky or if the guy just wasn't right for me?  When I asked a dating coach this question, he told me that instead of focusing on my "wants" (my wish list), I should focus on my "needs" (my bottom line) and then see if some of the wants were there. When "He's Not My Type" Ends Up Being "The One"

I told the dating coach about two guys I'd just met online. One was a very attractive divorced dad with two little kids, who was kind and family-oriented, but the more time we spent together, the more we struggled to keep the conversation going. I'm an intellectual who's into books and witty banter, and he was a laid-back non-reader with a penchant for the Grateful Dead. Then I met a lawyer with the clever humor of Jon Stewart, but he turned out to be emotionally questionable. Discover The Psychology Of Attraction

"I don't think it's unreasonable to want intellectual stimulation and a devoted dad," I told the dating coach. "I have friends who have husbands like that. It's not impossible to find."

"It's not," he agreed. "And if those two things are absolute needs, then you should look for that. But then you can't go around nixing guys who are devoted dads and intellectually stimulating because they wear Pink bow ties. You can't have everything."

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