the list

I’ve always heard it’s a bad idea to have a laundry list of qualities for your ideal mate. It’s self sabotaging, they say, because you risk ignoring advances from suitors who don’t fit your criteria. However, as an unadvanced-upon female, this does not concern me! Looking around at all the men at Hope this morning wearing wedding bands, and just now vacuuming my car and filling the tires, I got to thinking about mates, as I’ve done many a time before. I’ve even put a list up here before, which makes me think I should go back and compare after I’ve finished writing this one. I wonder if my preferences have shifted at all…

These are mostly superficial attributes. Well, maybe not superficial. They’re just little things that may not even matter in the long run, but when I meet someone who fulfills these qualities, I always say, “Oh, I hope my future dude is like that…” Maybe there is no “future dude.” In which case, I should learn all these things myself.

1. The desire and ability to fix stuff, or at least the intelligence to know where to find the answers: One of these is not good enough without the others. Knowing how to install a new part on a car is nothing without the desire to do it. Even more, the enjoyment of it. I like hearing people get excited about stuff like that. Being able to use one’s own two hands to make something good as new again – that’s a very big deal. Men who fear getting their hands dirty bother me a little. Bull-headed men who don’t know what they’re doing and don’t care to find out the right way to do it bother me too. Well-meaning men who can look things up on the Internet: good. And those who are skilled in all things mechanical and have a knack for righting a problem as soon as its discovered: awesome.

2. An acceptance of all people: I never realized until the last couple of years how important this is to me. I hate haters. (Please overlook the hypocrisy.) Sure, there are things I disagree with, viewpoints that frighten me, outlooks that frustrate me. But I’m not about to proclaim myself right in all things. Maybe those scary views are the right ones. Maybe no one knows what’s really right. But I cannot stand to be around people who are condescending. Express your opinions, fight, debate and wind up disagreeing – all that is fine, so long as you’re not convinced that the opposing party is a bad or stupid person because of his or her opinions. There many people who are undereducated (myself included), and you’ll always be better informed than someone, but there’s also a host of people smarter than you. I don’t want a wishy-washy pushover guy. But I do want someone who’s open-minded, kind, accepting and positive.

3. Integrity and honesty above all else: I think this entered the list because of my own problems with dishonesty. I have grown so loathsome of liars because I have struggled my whole life with telling lies. Sometimes they’re little and white; others, they’re monstrous, black and oozing outward in all directions. The little white ones sometimes turn into the huge dark ones too. That’s why I make an effort now to eradicate all of them. Sure, I’ll still make someone feel better about something stressful or negative in her life even if I have no guarantees that that thing will go away anytime soon. I’m never so pointed as to say, “Your worries will vanish by tomorrow.” This is what I want in a mate as well. Worried about our relationship? Please tell me. Find yourself looking at other women longingly? Painful as it is, I’d rather know than not. Despite the cliché nature of the statement, I still think significant other should mean best friend. I want to hear about your annoyances with your job, if something’s amiss among your friends, etc. And I’ll do the same.

4. Computer knowledge… not obsession: I have decided the perfect combination for me is a man who knows how to use computers very well – maybe even knows how to fix them or improve them – but who isn’t a gamer. After years of dating gamers, I have come to dislike the whole notion. Play a Wii on occasion, but don’t sit around in front of WoW or Halo all day. It drives me nuts, especially among men who are over 30. I think computer games are fun, too, but there’s got to be a cut-off point for LAN parties, Mountain-Dew-infused all-nighters, etc. I know this will sound offensive to all my readers who are former lovers, and I apologize for that, but it probably doesn’t come as much of a shock. It’s not really about the time spent away from me that’s the problem; it’s the wastefulness. You have a whole day to do whatever you want, and you choose a video game? Meh. I don’t get it.

5. Love of animals, and indirect love of children: I want dogs and other animals. So I want someone who wants those things too. Not necessarily someone who wants terrariums full of snakes and lizards, but dogs, cats, horses. Even if we end up with just one dog, the desire to share a home with non-human creatures is a must in a mate. Also, I do not want to have kids. I will never be forced into the mother role. If I ever choose to have any, it will be because of my own change of heart. However, since I don’t foresee that happening, I would like a man who likes kids… from afar. I want someone who’s a dependable uncle and godfather, but isn’t pining away to be a father himself. I still see children as important and special; I would rather improve the life of someone else’s, or of children with no families, than create any myself.

6. Relationship with God: I believe this used to read “belief in God,” but that’s no longer sufficient. There are many men who believe God exists and do nothing about it. Because I have been that way so often myself, that seems worse to me than not believing at all. I want to be with someone who trusts God and involves Him in his daily life. I want someone who reads the bible, actively engages his mind during church and wants to be part of a believing community. I always wished back in the day that I’d meet a sweet bible study leader who played guitar and sang worship songs, but I never did. I guess those days aren’t gone, but my range of vision has expanded a bit since then. I still swoon over that sort of thing, but there are only so many men who fit that exact description, so I’d rather have the basic message behind #6 and leave all the musical talent and group leadership behind. The older I get, the more I know that I could’ve left God behind long ago. There were moments that I did wander far afield of Him, but I always ended up back in His neck of the woods. There’s a reason for that. I wasn’t raised believing anything, so I don’t use my childhood churching as a fall back. I am with God because I want to be and because He’s constantly calling me to Him. A man who believes that same thing is high on my list.

7. Dedication to family and friends: As we all know, the way we treat our current loved ones reveals precisely how we’ll treat our potential mates. If I meet a man who’s detached from his family or who despises his parents, it makes me nervous. It doesn’t eliminate the possibility of his being a great guy, of course. Like any item on this list (minus 6), this is not a deal breaker. Especially if the disconnect was caused by serious circumstances or elements outside his control. Being a loner is scary business. I know that for a fact. I don’t want a guy who is a loner, because I myself don’t want to be a loner either. Self-assured and capable, yes, but separated from any sort of support system, no. However, all this aside, if a man does have a family and a circle of friends, I want his words about them to show great affection. Most of us are bad at keeping in touch and performing those small gestures that exceed their apparent worth. But if a man glowingly describes his young cousins, his kind-hearted aunt, his childhood memories of his father – that means a lot too. I want holidays with at least a few people around the table who love each other. My family isn’t perfect, and we don’t all get along as we should, but we have all made strides to make amends. If nothing else, my mate should be able to do the same for his own loved ones.

8. Making people feel special: This is that thing that occurred to me yesterday that broke a little bit off my heart. But it simultaneously empowered me to super glue that little corner and press on. I am sick of not feeling special. I know that the men I’ve dated have tried (at least most have) to make me feel like their number one. But I have sabotaged their efforts with my low self-esteem and sadness. As I work on these elements of my psyche, I realize how important it is to feel important. In the past, I was striving too much to be the center of my significant other’s life. It is an unattainable goal unless you’re dealing with a man without any other loved ones or a job. What makes more sense is to choose someone who obviously values you and knows when to put you first. I too have put others before S.O.s, so I’m just as much a culprit myself. But when someone opens up to you or obviously has had a trying day, that’s when you lay down your own needs and tend to theirs. That’s when you stop whatever you’re doing to listen, when you look that person in the eye, put away your cell phone, turn off the TV, mark the page and close the book. It is essential to feel as though you’re being listened to. That’s why I try so hard to be a good listener, to let people know that I do care about what’s bothering them or disrupting their lives. It’s not about being polite or making small talk – it’s about connecting, showing compassion, being a true friend. I think this may belong at the top of my list.

9. Thinking things through: I am a big fan of discussing relationship stuff. I guess that started when I realized that the men I was with wouldn’t be straightforward about their feelings or their worries unless we were in the midst of a serious discussion about our relationship. That shouldn’t be the case, but since it was, it became essential to knowing what was going on in their heads. But sometimes I get tired of constantly discussing how things are going. I want someone who’s actively thinking and willing to bring things up. I want someone who likes to debate and challenge me. Someone who’s sarcastic and daring, but simultaneously willing to listen and understand me. I don’t like the going-through-the-motions types. Life isn’t about routinizing and internalizing – expression and openness are so essential to our daily lives. I want someone who’s beyond the status quo and who questions the forces behind it. I’m OK if it stops at questioning and discussing – I’m not looking for a revolutionary, per se – but if a man isn’t active enough in mind to engage in a heated late-night debate about religion or politics, he’s not the right one for me.

10. Laughter above all else: I take things way too seriously sometimes. I strive for a balance between solemnity and frivolity. I want my mate to do the same. I don’t like being constantly teased, nor do I ever want to be the butt of a man’s jokes. But a little friendly ribbing is fine with me, so long as he can take what he dishes out as well. I want someone who encourages me to smile in the saddest times, but isn’t doing so in an admonishing way. He will understand that I am upset, that I may remain upset, but that maybe a hug or a kind word is all I need to see things differently. Please make faces and sprinkle our conversations with sarcasm. And even if you aren’t big on laughter, then smile. Always smile. It makes such a difference to me.

…I think that’s all for now. There are more things on this list, but these were the ones that stood out to me today. Feel free to criticize as you see fit.

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