“Do you have a car? Does it have keys?” I asked my not-technically-a-date, who had driven me to the wedding rehearsal. It’s (unfortunately) not uncommon for me to prattle stupidly about nonsensical things, especially when I am as nervous as I was the weekend of my brother’s wedding. I was trying to ask my date-who-was-not-a-date, Dann if he could give me a ride from the wedding to the reception, but I found my brain working in slow motion, near panic. I wasn’t supposed to be this nervous. My brother’s wedding wasn’t supposed to be a date. I had only asked Dann to come as a friend. Yet, here I was, speaking like a true ditz and revealing how OK I would be if he was hoping the wedding would lead to more, too. 

The power of the “list”

Before we met, I had dated a number of guys in my adult life. My policy was that if a man knows you’re open, he will ask you out, and most guys are worth saying “yes” to once. This approach required honest reflection and open communication, and sometimes more courage than I wanted to muster. But I learned so much about myself, and it taught me what I wanted in my future life partner.

I had so many reasons not to have a list for my “perfect guy”—I was afraid of being unrealistic, of objectifying men, and of missing out. But I still found myself consistently seeking certain qualities in a life partner. As I dated around, I subconsciously compared each guy to this “list.” I didn’t want it, but there it was, and I used it (somewhat guiltily) to help me navigate the dating scene.

I met and dated some really wonderful men, then berated myself for ending things with those who met most⁠—but not all⁠—of the items on my list. “Are you crazy?” I asked myself more than once. “He treats you well and makes you laugh. You’re going to end up alone forever. You’re too picky.” But my heart knew what my over-analyzing head didn’t: A list is important. You need to know what you want and not settle. But really it’s about more than that. It’s about looking for a fit.

One of my good friends gave me this advice after she met her husband: “Look for someone with whom you don’t have to work to make it fit.” I wanted so badly to believe her, but my fears and my “what-ifs” always kept me doubting that I would really meet a man with whom I didn’t have to “make it fit.” Yet, the more I dated, the more I started to believe I couldn’t accept anything less. My efforts to make pieces fit that naturally didn’t exasperated me and the men I dated. After a particularly frustrating evening, I called my best friend, crying and telling her how I wanted so badly to make things work with my amazing Frisbee boyfriend, but I felt I was ramming my head against the wall. Finally, she interrupted me. “Kate, do you think the man you’re dating is a good man?” Of course, I did. That was why I was fighting so hard to make it work. “Do you think he deserves to be with someone who loves all these parts of him that you’re not really able to accept?”

Wow. My dating worldview shifted with those words. If this man deserved to be with someone who was head-over-heels in love with him and could accept all of him, it was my job not to get in the way of that, even if I was afraid I couldn’t find someone better. Her words also gave me the freedom to seek that for myself. All of a sudden, my head could accept the idea of a “list”—a list of character traits that I had learned I needed to complement my personality and values. I needed a man who could be goofy and not take himself too seriously, someone I could respect, who would treat me like a lady, get along with my loved ones, inspire me intellectually, practice self-discipline, be self-sacrificing, simple, and down-to-earth. To top it off, I wanted to find chemistry with this superman. There needed to be a “fit.”

Finding a fit

That night at my brother’s wedding when I danced with Dann, we shared long conversations about our parish life, our teaching stories, and our running passion. I felt I had met someone whom I had known for years. The chemistry was palpable, and I reeled from how much we had in common. But, best of all, we moved like one on the dance floor—one fluid wiggle of enthusiasm and shamelessness. I finally didn’t have to make it “fit.” I returned to my bed that night too charged with energy to sleep. All night, the reality sunk in that I had just met the man I was going to marry—my fit!

Over the following months, we kept in touch over distance and attended various weddings together. Again and again, I felt convinced that I had found the man I was going to marry. Dann met every item on my list, but more than that, I felt a fit with him I never had with any of the other men I dated. Later, during our engagement, I asked him when he knew. Dann told me that the day after my brother’s wedding, when he called me and we talked for hours, he started to pray to my mom who had passed, asking her to help make him worthy of my hand.

The longer we’re married, the happier I am that I could speak to my fears and be patient. I am grateful for my friend’s wisdom, and for the list that I initially feared using. We have our struggles and we challenge each other daily (sometimes painfully) to grow. But because he is self-sacrificing and disciplined, he encourages me to be the same, and we can grow together. He fits into my life, and I into his, in such a profoundly beautiful way that I can’t help but believe that certain people are designed for each other, and Dann was designed for me.