Gentlemen Speak: A Checklist Won't Help You Find Your Future Spouse

Are you fixated on the idea, not the person?
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Are you fixated on the idea, not the person?

the-list

Art Credit: Brittni Willie

“Please pass the The Door Test. Please pass The Door Test,” I chanted to myself as I pulled up to my date's house.

I was 19 years old and had met a girl I was convinced was The One. She was pretty, Puerto Rican, 5’5″, green eyes, with a smile like the sunrise. She was from my neighborhood, had a great family, and had a love for hip-hop that rivaled my own. If that ain’t soul mate material, I don’t know what is.

So of course, I was a bit nervous in the days leading up to the date. I washed and waxed my 1992 white Nissan Maxima. I made sure the interior didn’t smell like funky basketball shoes. I was ready for the greatest date of my life. But as I approached my dream girl’s door I was worried about The Door Test, the dating gospel delivered by Chaz Palminteri from A Bronx Tale:

"Listen to me. You pull up right where she lives, right? Before you get outta the car, you lock both doors. Then, get outta the car, you walk over to her. You bring her over to the car. Dig out the key, put it in the lock, and open the door for her. Then you let her get in. Then you close the door. Then you walk around the back of the car and look through the rear window. If she doesn't reach over and lift up that button so that you can get in: Dump her."

Today I’m 35 years old, and I'm single. Needless to say, she didn't pass The Door Test.

I always hear, “You’re too picky!” And I admit I’m selective. But is that so wrong? I know what I want. I have my list.

Don’t we all? Those things we know we can’t do without, the must-haves. My list has been my savior on more than one occasion.

Like when I dated a girl who wasn’t tall enough. Another wasn’t Puerto Rican enough. The next was too suburban. One was too religious (and I’m a Christian!). I’d date a girl, check my list, realize she didn't meet my requirements, and then move on before I wasted her time or my own.

This was my cycle. I was fixated on the idea, not the person.

My list was a woman carved from marble. A woman who will never exist. The woman of my dreams wasn’t real because, well, she’s a dream. I was approaching love as a consumer, looking for features the way I look for all-wheel drive in a car. I was asking myself, what’s in it for me? Love, like life, isn’t about getting what we want. My list had led me astray.

Recently, a friend of mine gave some of the best relationship insight I’ve ever heard. He spoke about his deep love and affection for his wife, their ups, and their downs. He said most people date someone to have fun, someone attractive and infatuating. They see a version of that person in the future, idealized to their own standards.

But what is that person like when times are rough? Or, when things don't go the way they planned? Who are they when they’re at their worst? That’s the person you need to fall in love with. In these moments, if you have the same love and attraction as when things are going great, then you need to marry them. Otherwise, you shouldn’t move forward in the relationship.

Can we love that person?

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. It's not wrong to know what you want. That’s actually very healthy. But make sure that what you want is human and stretches beyond the material. Perhaps, we need to look beyond lists towards something more than height or bank balances, and in doing so bypass the superficial and land on what’s truly important.

Instead of a list, we need to ask ourselves specific questions about a person. A few important questions could be the following:

- Are they dedicated to growth?

- How do they deal with problems?

- Do they work to resolve things or brush them under the rug?

- Are they honest even when the truth doesn’t benefit them?

- Do they blame others when things go wrong or own up to their part? Do they play victim?

- Do they apologize when they wrong someone? Can they admit their shortcomings?

With these questions on my mind and my list crumpled in my hand, I met someone, let's call her Grace, who didn’t match my old criteria, but she was a rare find. Charismatic, generous, ambitious, talented, and full of life.

On one occasion, while traveling, I had a short layover at home in Los Angeles on my way to Seattle. We wanted to see each other, if only for a short while. She drove to LAX, and I rushed off the plane to meet her. As if in a movie, we ran into each others' arms, and I kissed her as if I hadn’t seen her beautiful face in ages. I looked into her eyes and told her what I’d never said to any other woman before: “I love you.” It felt so right. That moment. That woman. It all made sense.

I suppose you're expecting happily ever after.

Grace and I didn’t work out, but I put more work into that relationship than any relationship before and this made me feel a glimmer of hope. For the first time in my life, I didn't hide behind a list and a phantom ideal. I’d had the courage to truly love someone—and that's worth more than any list.