Like many single folks, I’ve thought a lot about my dream partner. Like a lot. I’ve even made a mental checklist of all the qualities I want him to have, which changes regularly as my taste (read: standards) evolve.
This list is ever-changing, but certain elements remain the same. My dream man is taller. He’s fit, but not in a scary CrossFit kind of way. He’s well educated and successful. Funny, but aware I’m much funnier. Type A, but responsible. Laidback yet assertive. Good with a drill (surprisingly literal with this one).
And he’s the spitting image of Henry Golding.
I haven’t met this man, as you probably guessed. I doubt even Henry would live up to these standards. But that hasn’t stopped me from holding every man I date to them.
- “He’s smart but he’s not funny.”
- “He’s successful but not athletic.”
- “He’s funny but lacks ambition.”
My standards seemed reasonable at first. I was just avoiding unnecessary compromise. Why settle for a guy when I was content being alone? Why give myself to one guy when there might be a better one right around the corner?
The dating checklist was an exit strategy, a safeguard protecting me from getting hurt. I knew that.
What I didn’t know is how or why certain qualities ended up on it. Why did my dream man have to be taller? Why did he have to be assertive? Why did he need experience putting Ikea furniture together?
If my dating checklist was just an arbitrary way of protecting myself from men, why was it SO oddly specific?
In some ways, I think I aimed absurdly high because I saw my potential partner as a reflection of me. Finding someone smart, successful, and attractive signaled I was those things as well. Being loved by someone worthwhile signaled to others (and myself) that I was worthwhile too.
And if I was loved by the best maybe all those feelings and hangups I had around being unlovable would just disappear.
But the dating list wasn’t just that. It was a reflection of how I felt about myself. My ideal partner was my antithesis, the manifestation of all the positive qualities I thought I lacked or needed. That’s why he was supposed to be tall and confident, smart and masculine, assertive and mature. He needed to make up for all the things I was: small, self conscious, effeminate, timid, and immature.
He was never meant to be my “better half.” He was meant to be “more” to compensate for me being “less.”
Or maybe I was looking for someone who embodied the person I wanted to be, so I wouldn’t have to become that person myself. Instead of facing the frustration and discouragement that comes with trying to be better, I could find someone who was already that. I could stay safe in my lane, unhappy but comfortable.
Thanks to quarantine, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am, who I want to be, and the kind of person I should be for others. While I’ve grown in many ways, I have a way to go in the self-love department. There are many parts of me I still feel aren’t good enough. I don’t feel I’m assertive or smart enough, or capable of taking care of myself like a real adult.
I don’t believe in myself and what I’m capable of nearly enough.
But I know that I shouldn’t look for some guy who is “better” than me. I shouldn’t treat my potential partner like a survival strategy. I shouldn’t search for someone who is the polar opposite of me because I can’t stomach the idea of spending my life with anyone like me.
None of us should. We should all look for someone we see as an equal, someone who brings out the best in us and encourages us to do and be better.
I want to believe I’m enough before I go looking for more. I want to push myself to be the kind of man I’m looking for, so I can focus more on what I bring to the table instead of what I’m missing. Maybe then I can throw out the checklist and start appreciating what my potential partners have to offer. And find someone I’m compatible with, not just someone who checks off some boxes.
Moving away from my dating checklist will take time. God knows the whole height thing will take eons to unpack. But I promise I’ll do a better job at trying to become the person I want to be.
And I promise I’ll at least try to learn how to use a drill (supervised, of course).