I Dated Like It Was My Job For Three Years. Here's What It Taught Me About Finding The One
“You can totally manifest your dream guy!”
I remember when my colleague assured me of this with such conviction that I actually felt surprisingly open to the idea.
At the time, I was working at a yoga studio and nursing a freshly shattered heart. I had recently begun to play with the idea of getting back out there but felt clueless about what my “dream guy” even looked like. The idea of manifesting him was not something I was into. But I was open to anything that would stop my pain at that point, so I humored her. I thought carefully about the qualities that were most important to me in a partner, and jotted some down in an email to myself:
- A university education
- Athleticism. Preferably a former varsity athlete. Preferred sport: tennis
- A good job —100k+ annually
- A solid sense of humor — someone with whom I can banter
- Someone who knows when to use “with whom”
My list went on.
I refuse to attribute it to that manifestation exercise, but that guy soon appeared. Multiple times. Over the next three years, I went on upward of 100 dates with men who fit that type. Sometimes I found them online — adjusting my sliders to filter out anyone who wouldn’t fit my criteria. Other times, I met them more organically — through a friend, a setup, a bar, a recreational sports team, and so on.
The mantra “It’ll be a good time or a good story” kept me going when I was feeling discouraged with the dating game. Being the only single one of my girlfriends at the time, I always had entertaining or embarrassing recounts to share: awkward setups, painful rejections, dates on which I literally thought I was being Punk'd…
Sometimes it was obvious why my checklist date and I didn't go out a second time — like that one time the guy told me he likes to “sexually harass his assistant” (WTF?), or that dinner when the waiter called me out in front of my date about having been at the same restaurant with a different date a couple days earlier (what were the chances we were going to have the same server?!!).
Other times, I couldn’t put my finger on it. They were great guys, but the connection just wasn’t there. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, so I kept focusing on finding guys who met my checklist.
Consider which “musts” come from your heart, and which come from your ego.
It’s natural for us to look for “perfect on paper” individuals and get consumed by a person’s decorative qualities — their achievements, assets, and aesthetics. But consider your oldest friends. Why do you admire them? Is it because of their style? The really nice apartment they have in the city? Probably not.
These things might impress when you first meet someone, but after some time — whether it be a couple months or a couple years — you’ll become immune to the perks and start to see the person for who they are underneath all the decor.
The person I’m with now didn’t fit all my criteria, yet I felt a different kind of attraction to him. I felt understood, accepted, and “seen” by him. And over the past couple of years, he’s made me realize that the qualities I thought were important weren’t actually that important at all.
He's shown me that a six-figure salary isn’t the glue that holds a relationship together. He's helped me see that I care more about being with someone who supports and encourages me than someone who can advance my tennis game.
After reflecting on my years of long lists and serial dating, I now know that these are the three qualities I consider most important in a partner:
How do they view others’ pain, including yours? Do they have capacity for empathy? Forgiveness? Understanding? Are they self-compassionate or self-critical? Compassion is at the root of trust, commitment, intimacy, and support.
Self-awareness, personal growth, and nonessential knowledge in life are generally acquired through curiosity. Do they ask questions? See possibilities? Wonder? Acknowledge that they don’t know?
How do they see the world? How do they respond to challenge, disappointment, and hardship? By seeing opportunity and meaning or persecution and defeat? Life is far more beautiful when we can view it through a positive lens, and your partner will have a significant influence on your worldview.
Maybe these three qualities don’t resonate with you, and that’s totally OK. But, in order to find a meaningful relationship, consider the personality traits that are really important to you. Authenticity? Loyalty? Integrity? Commitment? Consider which “musts” come from your heart, and which come from your ego.
Take these into account when you decide what it is you’re really looking for. When you adjust your preferences on your online profile. When you tell your friends your “type.”
There are so many potential partners out there who have the power to enhance your life immensely, and they're all likely beautifully imperfect on paper. So, if manifesting is your thing, make that person appear.
For more tips on how to navigate the dating world to find the partner you've been looking for, check out my new course, How To Find True Love In A World Of Tinder & Texting.