I thought I knew what I wanted. Here's why I was wrong.
When I was a young man I thought I knew exactly what I wanted from a relationship. I had what I regarded as “standards", and thanks to those standards, I was confident that I could never, ever be in love with a woman who didn’t live up to my high expectations.
That’s how young men think. And, by “young” I mean “stupid".
I was a big ol’ dummy who made imaginary lists in my mind of what my ideal relationship partner NEEDED to have.
I thought they were dealbreakers — the things, important things that would define the love of my life.
She had to like the same movies as I did (same books and music too). She had to be funny in the way I thought I was funny. (Just FYI — I’m not funny.) She had to be cool, bored with politics, and outgoing. She should hate mayonnaise and never pressure me to try foods I didn’t like.
She should be open-minded, but exactly in the way that I imagined myself to be open-minded — which meant no religions, no dissenting social views, and no liking the kinds of people I didn’t like.
Oh, and she absolutely could not be a smoker or have any tattoos.
Cut to almost two decades later and I’m about to celebrate my 17-year wedding anniversary with a tattooed smoker.
(OK, she doesn’t smoke anymore — she did when we first fell in love — but the tattoos are still there.)
She loves mayo, is interested in politics, and our pop culture books/movies/music venn diagrams barely overlap.
So, what happened?
I grew up. I realized that my manic dream girl dealbreaker checklist didn’t really count as “standards.”
It was just a bullshit fantasy football version of dating.
It wasn’t based on any reality or experience. It was a lonely guy who’d tried nothing yet imagining what he might like one day.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have ANY dating standards. I’m pretty confident that avoiding drug dealers or people with a history of racism and/or violence is a prudent way to approach dating. But, when I was imagining my perfect Frankenstein girlfriend in my head all those years ago, it didn’t occur to me to see the woman as a person rather than an accumulation of things I liked.
Sure, it’s nice if your partner likes the movies you like, but it should, in no way, be a dealbreaker.
Why can’t you each have your own perspectives on art, music, and literature? Why do they need to be 100% in-sync? Does it really matter if she likes Raising Arizona as much as you do if she’s funny, smart, attractive, empathetic, and makes you feel amazingly, amazingly loved?
In a relationship, you need to make allowances.
You need to accept — and enjoy — that your partner is their own person.
Because, think about it, what’s the real appeal of being in love with your twinsie? Are we really looking for idealized versions of ourselves or adolescent fantasies brought to life?
I fell in love with my wife because I’d NEVER met anyone like her before in my life.
She’s beautifully unique and realizing that this woman — a woman I never could’ve dreamed up during my teen years — wants to spend time with me and love me… it’s so much more satisfying than any Weird Science fantasy girl I ever could’ve cooked up in my head.
Yes, I wasn’t a fan of the smoking at the time. And, yes, I’ve completely changed my mind regarding tattoos (so hot). But that’s because I’m a human being who, surprisingly, grows and evolves over time.
So, don’t limit yourself with silly, frivolous relationship dealbreakers, people.
You will never know what’s really important to you in a romantic partner until you stop making wish lists and start going out into the world and figuring out what feels right for you on a person-to-person level.
Because real people are so much sexier than anything you could ever imagine.