Are We Falling In Love With A List Of Qualities Rather Than A Person?

by Love and Relationships, Morals & Values, Vocation

I was 18 years old when I wrote my first ‘list.’

The ‘list’ was introduced to me by a friend of mine who wanted to know what kind of men I would like to date. She explained to me that ‘the list’ is a carefully thought out list of qualities that single people would like their future spouse to possess.  The list is referred back to when separating friends into a potential boyfriend or girlfriend.

At that point in time, I found books more interesting than boys. I had a list about books not about qualities I’d like in a future boyfriend.  However, I loved making lists, so I wrote mine. My list started of simple enough with just the core values I wanted in a potential spouse: faith, family and community.

Oh if it only remained that simple.

By 21, my list grew to have three categories with multiple qualities within each category.  With each quality that I added, each category that I drew up, the list became more unrealistic and idealistic. I thought I was the only one with an out of control list. After conversations with other young single Catholics I realised we end up pursuing an unrealistic, excessively long list and that proves elusive.

A Reflection of Who We Are

Who is the ‘list’ really a reflection of? You! Although in theory the list is a reflection of someone else that you want to end up with, the list is like a mirror it can often reveal who you are.

The best part about the list is that it will tell you, your core values. When you think of the core values you want in your spouse it usually tells you what values are extremely important to you. Seeking a spouse who loves God, loves family (and wants a future one!) and loves his extended community shows the important ‘trinity’ In your life (God, family and community).

Perhaps unknown to most list makers is that the list can be revelation of your weaknesses. Recently I was told “I want someone with the same values as me, but different personality so she balances out my weaknesses.”  When writing the ‘list’ we subconsciously write qualities we seek in our spouse that compensate what we lack.

Opposites attract means that someone who is different to us may be more attractive to us than someone like us. Dating someone who has an opposite personality to you is fine. Dating a person because he or she compensates for your character weaknesses is building your relationship on shaky ground and is bound to hurt someone in the end.

There is only one person who can help you with your character weaknesses and that’s God. I struggle with anger, for a short skinny person I can sure have temper. Dating someone deliberately because I know that they are slow to anger and have a calm character is guaranteed way to hurt and harm my hypothetical boyfriend and relationship.  

Rather than seeking to find someone who ‘compensates’ for your character weakness, deal with it yourself with God’s guidance.

An Imperfect Person Cannot Compete With A Perfect List

Let’s be honest, society doesn’t love imperfection. There’s a quick fix for every imperfection available. Overweight? Gym. Acne? Proactiv. Nervous public speaker? Speech therapy. We’re engrained to believe that we are perfect, we can be perfect and that every imperfection is a failure.

There is a danger when writing these lists that we’re setting impossibly high standards that no person can or will reach. We encounter great people but don’t consider dating them because they don’t tick 9 out of the 10 things on our list. Or because they make mistakes after you choose to date them revealing they are not the perfect-list-ticker that you first thought.

Pursuing a list that has an extensive number of qualities should result in you find that perfect person. However life is not perfect neither are people. Life brings out the imperfect in all of us. If the person we marry no longer is that perfect spouse who ticks off everything on our list do we follow society’s quick fix and give up on real love?

To a love someone unconditionally, knowing the worst side of them is unsurprisingly hard. The Mentalist is one of my favourite television shows and there’s a beautiful quote in the show where the lead character, Patrick Jane, played by the extremely good looking Simon Baker says “I want someone who knows the worst side of me and still loves me.”

I used to be quite adamant that I wanted my future spouse to tick off every single thing on my 3-categories-multiple-qualties list. If he wasn’t into The Mentalist it was “see you later.” Blinded by finding someone who ticked off everything on my list, I used it as a reason to not consider putting myself out there and making myself vulnerable.

I was pursuing a list to prevent myself from getting hurt by pursuing real love.  Creating a list that is impossible for someone to fulfil is an easy way to shield yourself from building a real relationship. To obsessively pursue an unachievable list is an easy way to avoid pursuing real love. Real love is risky. You could get rejected, break-up or hurt one another.

Pursuing real love means you have to put yourself at risk of being vulnerable. That’s why pursuing the elusive ‘list’ is an attractive short-cut avoidance.

The List Is Not Completely Obsolete

While I’ve savaged the ‘list’ in the past 900+ words, don’t give up on the list. As Catholics, we date with a purpose, to get married and live a married life that glorifies God.

Having an idea of the values, interests and qualities that you want your future spouse will allow you date with a purpose.  But becoming obsessive about the ‘list’ is what takes us down the wrong path. Constructing a multiple category list with each category having multiple qualities, not dating someone because they don’t tick off everything on your list, are some of the signs that you’re pursuing and falling in love with the list.

After being disappointed by someone who ticked off everything on my ‘list’ I tore it up. I started afresh. I wrote a new, made a much shorter list to guide me and made a promise to pursue a real imperfect godly person rather than a 2 page-3 category-multiple-qualities list.

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