We speculated as to why my generation has gotten more selective, and my mother noted that online dating might have played a small role. "In the 70s, we didn't have detailed profiles and questionnaires and compatibility tests to consider. Nowadays, it seems a lot of people do online dating, and it naturally makes them think about all that stuff more than we ever did."
She also noted that women today are more educated and more concerned with their careers than they were in the 1970s, which would then lead them to want men with comparable backgrounds and goals. "But, was there any specific way that you and the women in your office approached dating?" I asked. "Not really," she said. "We just went out with whomever we wanted and decided from there."
Go out with whomever you want and decide from there? A novel idea, isn't it? In the spirit of balance, how might my generation learn to do the same thing—while still maintaining some sort of standards, of course? Here are a few ideas...
1. Make a list, but don't let it rule you. Dale, age 32, is a single Christian who tells the story of his female friend who allowed her list to rule her dating life. She was in her mid-twenties and had been single for quite some time when she finally met a guy she was interested in at church. They began to date and to care for one another, but before she was able to make a commitment to him, she felt it necessary to consult her list.
"I couldn't believe it when she brought it out because it had something like 200 things on it," Dale explains. "When she wasn't able to check off more than 20 items from her list, she got concerned and thought, maybe this isn't the right guy for me. Yet, the irony is that before she looked at the list, she told me she was crazy about him." Allow Yourself To Let Go For Good
The point of making lists is to give yourself a general guideline, not to create some sort of law that you set in stone. Dale's friend wasn't allowing her intuition to guide her at all, and neither were the following women my friend Kari told me about.
"I've seen women use their lists as a way to justify staying with guys who treat them like crap," says Kari, age 25. "They ignore the way they are being treated simply because their boyfriends fulfill a good 50 percent of the items on their checklist. There's this fear that if they break up with them, they'll never find anyone else who fits their list so perfectly. Meanwhile, these guys aren't even good for them!"
To avoid both those traps, Tracy McMillan, author of Why You’re Not Married . . . Yet, encourages women to choose two or the dealbreakers from their lists and then let the rest go. She writes, "When you're faced with an actual human being, sometimes things that you'd think you just couldn’t deal with suddenly turn out to be not that big a deal. The other factor is that being in a relationship matures a person, so what [you] consider a dealbreaker now might just be a preference five years down the road."
2. Recognize that there is a difference between preferences and dealbreakers. The reality is that you're probably not going to find someone who fits all of your preferences all of the time. For Dale's friend, her massive checklist was likely packed with preferences—some of which may have even changed between writing the list and meeting her potential boyfriend. Yet, preferences are not needs, they're wants. For example, I can want to find a guy who is tall, with dark hair, and a high-paying job, but none of those things are actual necessities.
In regards to the women Kari spoke of, I don't know what their lists looked like, but my gut reaction is to think they might have been heavy on superficialities, such as tall, dark, handsome, drives a nice car, owns his own home. Perhaps the men they were dating had all of these traits, but did these men treat them with respect and kindness? Not so much. Which brings me to my next point...
3. Ask yourself if the traits on your list are overly shallow and superficial. McMillan calls it "thinking like a teenager" who doesn't know how to make clear decisions because she's too busy trying to impress the people around her. McMillan writes, "A key feature of adulthood is letting go of what other people think and making choices that are right for you even if other people don't approve of or understand them." She also adds, "Unless you are planning to be someone's trophy wife, adolescent thinking will tend to keep you from getting married. And even if you do manage to wangle a husband who fits your list, the marriage itself will be sort of shallow. How could it be anything else? It's all based on superficialities."