Why checklists are a good idea to find a life partner

Why checklists are a good idea to find a life partner

Do you know what you expect from a partner? Is it a good idea to have a checklist for this purpose? Read on to see how best to use a checklist and also how to use it realistically.

Here’s a little story I’d like to tell you before we go into this post. Not too long ago, I made a checklist for myself- a checklist of what qualities I would like my potential partner to have. It contained the following- Must be artistic, have a serious hobby or absolutely love his job. And then I met someone who fit the bill, rather uncannily well. Lots of excitement and couple of dates later, I learned that the said person did not want to be ‘emotionally involved’. There ended my excitement and this story.

While I’m not one to judge another’s preferences, it sure is to be said that from this encounter, a few lessons were learned. That, coupled with insights I have gained over time from the psychology of relationships, is what this post is going to be about.

Checklists are innate to humans. The activity of listing out tasks to complete and things to achieve before venturing out to actually doing them gives us a sense of calm in a chaotic world. While it may seem more obvious to use checklists in the context of everyday life, or even in planning out a major career move, making checklists to create an idea of a relationship is not all that unnatural. Even if you’re not someone who has a real list called ‘My Ideal Partner’ pinned on your vision-board, you’re most certain to have a general list of things you would like in your partner, tucked away at the back of your mind, at least.

So why checklists for relationships?

Like in the context of everyday life, they help us get at least a vague idea of our needs. Relationship-checklists help us see what we seek from a relationship or in some ways even why we would like to be in a relationship, in the first place. For example, you might be someone with a list that says: The person I end up with must be ambitious, driven and respect my choices. If you are someone who is driven and ambitious yourself, this list may reflect your need to share your independent, achievement-driven life with someone similar. Listing out these characteristics therefore makes it easier (and more fun) for you to proactively look out for them when you meet new people.

On the other hand, if you’re someone with a relatively laidback approach to life and have the same checklist as above, you’re probably seeking to be with someone who ‘complements’ that part of you. This is where having a checklist, or a set of decided ‘criteria’, can have a flipside. Like I mentioned in the post about similar v/s complementary characteristics in couples, in wishing for the complementary in a relationship, you may run the risk of overlooking a basic reality that when you start off a relationship, having common goals, attitudes and styles of relating to each other always helps.

The other extreme

Many a time in our quest to chalk out our life’s plans and to make these plans easily accessible, we may get tempted into creating a clearly defined image of the person we want to be with. Hard to imagine what could possibly go wrong in being too clear about what you want? Here’s how it works. When you have a list of clearly defined characteristics that you are looking for in a potential partner, you are creating for yourself a utopian image of someone that’s perfect for you. Consequently, nothing, or no one, may seem good enough. Whereas the truth is that relationships run on the principle of ‘good-enough’- that people are happiest together when a few basic, essential needs are met and when they prioritize these needs over preferences.

Caution: Keeping a checklist – and not revising it

Coming back to my own story, as I previously mentioned, there were two things that struck me the most. One, a list you make has to reflect not only what you want, but also what you need. I may most certainly want someone “artsy” and passionate, but it would also help to write down, however obvious, about my need for a serious, emotionally invested relationship. Two, a list has to be organic. As you go along your path of looking for someone to be with, it helps to be prepared to make changes to the list you carry with you. The list needs to evolve along with you.

It’s important to understand that checklists are not an unnecessary baggage that may lead us down the wrong path and neither are we better off plunging into relationships without any criteria in mind. Lists are good because they cater to the very human need of ensuring that an endeavor of any kind goes well. Having said that, these lists are subjective descriptions of what one would like and possibly dislike in another and no one can really judge what is right and wrong when it comes to defining the desirable. But what certainly helps us while we are in this quest, is having the knowledge of the differences between wants and needs, and an insight into what possible consequences any of the items on your checklist might entail.