It took a long time, a lot of disappointment and many years of being happily single to learn the difference between a perfect man and the right man for me.
Several years ago, I was involved in a woman’s group that focused on creating successful relationships. One of the tools they suggested was “your essentials.” It was a carefully considered 10-item list of what each of us needed in order to be content and satisfied in a long-term romantic relationship.
Before trying this exercise and getting clear on my essentials, I accepted the default setting we women grow up with: look for a guy with money, power and prestige. Grab on and take possession of the highest status male you can wrangle, or in the words of my Aunt Martha, “Marry the richest man you can stomach.” Was it any wonder that I’d grown up clueless about what I really needed and wanted in a romantic relationship?
So, after spending a couple of decades dating guys that looked great on the outside and then revealed a not so great inside, I was eager to try this exercise. The magic number for the list was 10. Not less or you might avoid something crucial — and not more, because you risked being so persnickety that no one on the planet would ever measure up.
With only 10 items, I carefully considered what to include. Was being tall an essential or just a preference? It was a great tool for getting clear and specific about what I needed — not just what I liked.
What I found fascinating and most valuable about this exercise is that it helped me realize how clueless I’d been in my dating relationships — even in my marriage — about what were my deal-breakers and what were my “must-haves.”
It took me a long time to understand that my “essentials” had to do with me — not with him. That my list was not going to be the same as your list, and that settling for a relationship where even one essential was missing, would risk my ability to reach my full potential as a human being.
I’ve heard relationship coaches say that we should be willing to marry Mr. (or Ms.) Almost Right. Well, I think that many of us did that already (I know I did) and we learned how easy it is to get married and how hard it is to get divorced, especially when children are in the picture.
So armed with my essentials list, I made a commitment to hold on to my integrity. There’s no way I’d trade my singular life with my personal freedom, my wide circle of friends and my joyful independence to be tethered to Mr. Not Quite Right or Mr. Looks Good on the Outside.
I’ve seen what a thing of beauty it is when people really do find their true love — the person who they inspire and who inspires them to become the best they can be. It’s not that they’ve found a perfect mate; it’s that they’ve found the right mate for them. It’s a rare and lovely thing to behold — and anything less than that is simply not worth settling for.