With love: Check your list. Check it twice
She was five inches taller than him. They were the most magnetic couple on the dance floor. Yet my friend, the host of the party, called them ‘most mismatched yet romantic’. My friend’s social conditioning was that a man had to be taller than his wife. She later admitted that they seemed genuinely happy,especially for a couple that had been married 15 years.
Sadly, this is how most people view potential partners—first comes a checklist that can only be random (age, height, earning capacity; because what else can you assess at first glance). Then comes all the stuff that really matters. By which time you’ve ruled out so many people based on that initial checklist, that you could very well just be wasting your time.
Everyone who has an initial list seems to have the same one. It usually looks something like this actual list sent to me by a matchmaker who wanted to partner with me in her latest search. A man was needed, she said, who was 1) 28-30 years old; 2) 5’6” – 5’9” in height; 3) very fit; 4) based in Mumbai, Singapore, London or the US; 5) open to global travel; 6) from a business family; 7) ambitious; 8) a non-smoker; 9) with a great sense of humour; 10) and family-oriented.
I felt like an Amazon vendor (who’d been asked to source a unicorn). Can you imagine trying to find a human being to match those exact specifications?
And what really is the point of that list? Is it likely that 15 years down the line, the woman will turn to the husband that was found for her (in their home in Mumbai, Singapore, London or the US), smile to herself and think — yes, 5’6” to 5’9” was absolutely the right way to go?
Better questions to ask are, how does he makes you feel? Are you comfortable around him? Do you feel heard, seen, safe?
Then you can go back to your list and ask yourself, does it still matter where he lives or what his family does (all that can turn on a dime anyway)? Is it really a deal-breaker if he doesn’t jog or go to the gym? Because anyway, how many of us have made all our life choices by age 28-30? Isn’t it around that time that you start to realise you might like to travel, or take up quizzing, collect teas from around the world, or Scotch?
In the Floh Single in the City Survey 2020, 73% of respondents said they were single because they had not yet met the right person. Most go looking with a checklist similar to the one above. They’re shopping for a partner rather than seeking a relationship.
As part of my own professional research, I spoke to over 300 newlyweds and they all said their partner did not meet some, many or indeed all the criteria in terms of what they had thought they wanted in a spouse.
In our own lives, we frequently hear from friends, ‘Oh, I started to travel only after I met him’; ‘I gave up smoking because she hates it’. What you need is not someone who checks all the boxes, so much as someone who is willing to hear you out, maybe meet you halfway — someone with the good nature to learn to laugh at knock-knock jokes because you like them; the sense of adventure to go cycling in the rain (if that’s what you like); someone who will stub out that cigarette once and for all because you hate it, or s/he has learnt it’s not a wise choice.
They don’t need to be right when you first meet them, like some ready-made gift hamper. They need to love you, have values that are aligned with yours, be able to talk to you, and listen. All the rest is just window-dressing.
Simran Mangharam is a dating coach and founder of floh.in, a real-world community for singles seeking a meaningful relationship