22 August 2013

The Husband or Wife List

                                                                                    Photography by Kylie Whiting
So.  Huffington Post Live.

The topic they wanted our thoughts on was intriguing to me...

"Marry Him.  The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough."

The author, a single mom by sperm donor, thinks that women should throw out their list of unreasonable deal breakers and SETTLE for DECENT guys instead of holding out for your PERFECT, fantasy guy.  She thinks that settling will probably make you happier in the long run since many of those who marry with great expectations often become more disillusioned with each passing year when the earlier "fantasy" doesn't maintain itself and the conversation morphs from romance and vacations into discussions about who's changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook. She also recommends making this jump to "settle" at a younger age so there's time to construct a family together and also so you don't end up having to settle for guys everyone else has passed on.


Loaded conversation.  So much could be discussed.

But here are some of my own thoughts today on the subject of LISTS:

I think it's a no brainer to ditch superficial requirements that won't matter in the long run and to go for qualities that DO matter.  I love that the author is trying to promote that.  And for the record, I think that going for the qualities that DO matter is not actually settling one bit!!!  :)  That's more like going for the gold, instead of going for some superficial bull crap.  I think the sooner people shift their priorities towards what matters most, the closer they'll be to a healthy and good relationship.  The key is figuring out what matters most!  :)  Oye.  It's not so easy - I know.

Here's a tip that might be helpful...(this is for married people, too!)

Take a look at your "list" of requirements or needs, whether it's a physical or mental list, and ask yourself - what is the root of the attraction to these qualities?

-Are you after a certain type of guy who makes you feel comfortable, beautiful, whole, complete- because maybe you don't feel that way currently?

-Are you after a guy who will accept you in areas where you feel insecure?

-Are you after a guy who looks good on paper or in person (success, ivy league, tall, handsome, fancy lifestyle) and therefore will be someone who will boost or maintain your confidence or status in life in addition to impressing others?  And maybe he'll provide a lifestyle that will also be a boost to your ego (or maybe it will just help to maintain it)?

-Are you after a guy because he just gets your taste, music, preferences - and people who don't are inferior/less popular/less desirable, etc.?

-Are you after a guy because he needs you?  And that feels great to be needed?

-Are you after a guy who will ease some shame you feel about your current state or your past or your background/family?

-Are you after a guy who makes you just feel awesome and sexy and wanted because he desires you physically?

-Basically, are you after a certain kind of guy to soothe your ego or make you feel whole or boost your self-worth?

Too often, the ego has "needs" while dating and if those "needs" are met by another person...people can mistake that for chemistry - for love - for connection!!!!!  Yes!  I think this happens non-stop! We humans loooove having our ego boosted and our insecurities soothed because it feels so dang good.

But I can tell you with my life that starting a relationship because of this "false chemistry" will lead to a very rocky road.  You may learn a better way as you go...and that is GREAT...especially if the marriage survives...but I think you'll have a much better experience and happier relationship if you can recognize from the beginning that the best partnerships are not based on "soothing each other's egos" and "fulfilling each other's needs" but instead they are based on two people who are trying to live as their best selves...and have done and are doing the healing work in their own lives to bring their OWN worth and wholeness to the table. And when that happens, one can more easily ditch the "must haves" on their list that were simply there to ease their insecurities.  The neediness/desperation factor can lessen.  And one can have more focus to pay attention to the qualities in someone that DO matter...the qualities that would make for a great life partner.  When you care about these qualities more and you find someone who also feels the same, THAT can be what you bond over...and THAT can be the best chemistry ever!!!  :) :)  [And in case you want to see what qualities I recommend...I wrote them all out here in an earlier post.]

And finding a good life partner (and being a good life partner) is way, way, WAY beyond Mr. & Mrs. Good Enough.  I'd say if you could build up your worth enough to remove the ego-based needs from your list and find someone who is working on the same - - you could possibly have one of the best relationships on earth.  :)  :)  :)

And now, I'd love to hear what you think of this idea.  Do you think "attraction" and "chemistry" often happen simply because it feels so good to have a void filled - or to have our ego/worth soothed? Also, if you are married now, would you say that the qualities you once cared about are a lot different than the qualities you now think are important in a marriage? 

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  1. As I watched the interview, I just kept thinking of my own perspective while dating, which was that I had a couple "deal-breakers." There were a few things that I'd insist on in a husband and I knew that these things were worth waiting for. And I knew that if I didn't happen to find someone with those qualities, I wouldn't marry. I never wanted to "settle" in a marriage because I'd been in dating relationships where settling brought me extreme unhappiness. I decided I'd rather be alone than with someone who wouldn't help me be the kind of person I wanted to be. (I hope that makes sense and doesn't make me sound conceited!)

    Luckily, when I started dating my husband, he was not at all what I expected in the person I'd marry in a lot of ways, but he SO exceeded expectations in those two or three things that were essential to me. I HAD to marry him. :) And to answer your last question, those two or three qualities I insisted on are the things I still love and appreciate most about him--mainly his devotion to God and his love and respect for me.

  2. Such a great post, Mara. I sort of hate those "lists" and i've never heard it put exactly this way, but I think you are absolutely right. (I wish my YW leaders would have worked this concept into our "eternal companion" lessons!) I married a wonderful man who didn't quite fit my ego-centric lists and thank goodness for that.

  3. Growing up in the church, i had this idea of the type of man i should marry. I wanted someone that was like everyone elses someone. I wanted a guy that had te same upbringing as i did. Which isnt a bad thing. Now my husband is not tge type of person i had envisioned marrying, but im so glad for that! He has all the core traits, qualities, and values that make us.compatible as husband and wife, and as parents. I wish i had realized the things that i "thought" were important in a husband weren't as important. I wish my yw leaders had said that just because a man didn't grow up Strong in the church or didn't serve a mission doesn't mean they are bad guys, and that they cant be faithful in the church.

  4. I like your overall point here. I'd just like to point out two things here. One, to emphasize that it is about TRYING to be your best self, meaning it's okay if you're still working on it, okay if you're still healing, okay if you're not perfect, okay if you still have one or two voids that a partner happens to fill nicely along the way.

    Two, whenever I hear people say something they wish their Young Men / Young Women leaders had taught (like some of the comments above), I think to myself, why don't we first wish our parents and families taught that? Certainly teachers and church leaders and community members can be influential for good and for bad, but nothing beats what you learn in the home (also for good and for bad). All our most important lessons should be coming straight from parents, and hopefully complemented by others.

    1. That is a really good point--it absolutely should be taught in the home. Unfortunately for me I guess, I wasn't getting any lessons like this in my home and also unfortunately, was getting some off the mark lessons at church. As a teen, what I was taught there had a lot of influence on me. And it was a sort of typical lesson to "make a list" for your future husband--well-intentioned, but also potentially damaging. No judgement to those women, but I do wish more thought had been put into the presentation.

      We live and learn and I am hopeful our generation is going to do/teach things differently than our parents/leaders did.

  5. Whew, this *is* a loaded topic! I think the overall message of this post (and of your blog, really!) is sound, but I also wonder if readers can get a little caught up in trying to match this level of love and happiness that you two have found without understanding the importance of letting things come to light organically in their own lives first, and by this I mean:

    I was in a long term relationship that I in no way thought was rooted in some of those insecurities you've listed above. It took me four years to realize that I was looking to him for self worth, but I in no way knew that's what I was doing when we first started dating, nor was the reason for my unhappiness in the years that followed. Once it came to light, I ended things immediately because I knew that I *needed* time to grow into my own person (I was also very young when we met and saw a great importance in being single for a little while). I met the man I'm going to marry about one year after my first relationship ended; that was three years ago... and we were just 21 years old.

    So how much of myself did I "grow into" in 365 days and at the ripe young age of 21? Not nearly as much as I've grown since meeting the Mr. Not to say that I couldn't have grown this much on my own or attribute all my lessons learned to my relationship, but what I'm trying to share is that I don't think you have to be in a place of utopia, or even anywhere near it, before you can pursue love in a healthy way. The point: had I not learned more about my own insecurities and lived through the false happiness they can create first, I wouldn't understand, or fully agree with, the message of your blog or would've made the choice to pursue love differently than I had in the past. That truth had to be realized *first*, and it had to be realized in it's own time.

    Do you agree? How much of these beautiful truths do you think you would have understood had you not both lived and loved in a different light first? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

  6. Mara - How do you know the difference between the wrong chemistry and the right chemistry? How does it feel different and how do you know you have it?

  7. This is such a good topic! I had so much anxiety with this when I was trying to decide to get married. After a couple of relationships that didn't work because I was searching for my "list," I decided that ultimately the person I wanted to be with was someone that I could feel like I was completely myself around, good or bad. This meant that I first had to know who I really was. That was a long journey but once I found my own self worth, I found someone who I could be myself around and I got into a relationship with my now husband. He had all the foundational things that I knew had to be there but a lot of the superfluous qualities I thought I needed were no longer important because I knew who I was. That said, it was still extremely difficult to try to decide to get married. I was so fearful that what I had wasn't good enough, and it scared me that both he and our relationship were different than I had imagined. (I realize now that this is because the relationship I had imagined was one where I was insecure but now that I knew who I was I didn't know what my relationship would look like) Anyway, one thing that really helped me decide to get married, to put aside the fear and accept the beauty of what I had was a reflection article by Bruce Young entitled "The Miracle of Faith, The Miracle of Love." It's still one that I refer back to occasionally when I start to let fear overcome me. Reading your post reminded me of it and I thought I would pass it along since it helped me so much! Here's the link or you can google the talk and it should come up. http://english.byu.edu/faculty/youngb/faith.htm

    1. Bruce Young is my brother-in-law and is such a great man. I love getting to hear him teach

    2. Thanks for this, I took a quick pass over the article and saw some great stuff, I'm excited to read it through a little more carefully.

      And Gabrielle, why doesn't it surprise me to learn that there is yet another amazing person related to you somehow.

  8. I can totally relate with this post. I had once dated a guy who seemed to be my ideal in so many ways--back then I was big into style and music and really wanted someone who had those interests. However, I ALSO wanted a good guy, who was spiritual, kind, loving, etc. I didn't think they had to be mutually exclusive (and they don't). Anyway, I thought this guy was the man of my dreams and eventually he became the man of my nightmares. OK--that's a little dramatic, but he was manipulative, dishonest, and just all around bad news. While I always thought I placed more importance on truly good qualities, I was definitely placing a higher amount of importance on the superficial stuff.

    Fortunately my husband had all the truly good qualities I wanted in addition to so many more things that weren't on my radar, but things that I thank my lucky stars for all the time. Like the fact that he's a great father who enjoys spending time with his kids, he's great with babies (bonus!), and he really encourages me to pursue my talents and interests. And not just encourage with words, but helps facilitate the things I need to make it happen. If I hadn't dated the guy who wasn't so great, I may have still been disproportionately interested in the superficial qualities I always found myself drawn to.

    While my husband wasn't as into music and bands, he is very good looking. In addition we do have other things in common (which I think are important), he's funny and we definitely had/have chemistry--which I still think is important. There were other good guys that I dated, but didn't "feel it" with. A couple in particular who I would think, "I wish I was in love with you....I want to be in love with you and on paper I should be. But I'm just not." So in one way I got over certain superficial qualities, in another way there still had to be an attraction, that was beyond just spiritual/good qualities. I was wondering if you could comment about that... I'm assuming you and Danny have a connection/chemistry that isn't all based on good qualities and a good heart.

  9. When I met my husband, he only somewhat met my list (the most recent in a line of very ridiculous lists... yikes). But so much of why I wanted to be with him couldn't be itemized.

    I feel blessed that my husband's best characteristic (and one that never made one of my lists) is how hard he tries to make everything and anything better. My perception of our chemistry or the degree to which my good husband meets my expectations changes as frequently as my mood (read: far too frequently), but he is always trying to be a better husband, to improve his character and habits, and enrich the lives of those around him. I now have a new list, for myself, and this is at the top of it.

    I also kept copies of my various lists. Just so, if anything, my future children can have a good laugh at my expense. I'd like to think that they would learn from them, but I doubt it. I probably wouldn't have.

  10. Before I met my husband, I went through about six months of saying "yes" to every single date I was asked out on. No discretion based on job, looks, potential chemistry ... just a yes to a first date, at least. It was an exercise I made myself walk through to get over a lot of fear-blocks I had put up in my life where relationships were concerned, but it showed me REALLY quickly how many of the things I thought were important on my "list" were so, so superficial. I met my husband in that six months, and honestly, if it hadn't been for my challenge, I never would have said yes to him [um, even though he had to ask me out THREE times before I actually DID say yes, and he still gives me grief about that to this day ...] He is almost the complete opposite of what I thought I "needed", but he had such strengths of grace, of compassion, and of humility that I quickly discovered how well-equipped he was to deal with the level of crazy I can bring to this life. It's like I knew that I would never be embarrassed in front of him, which in our marriage, is a huge deal. We've dealt with situations & issues that people who have been married five times longer than we have have barely begun to scratch the surface of; knowing that there is nothing I could say to him that wouldn't be met with grace & compassion ... well, it's how we've survived, and grown more in love with each other, as jobs have changed, and looks have changed, and interests have changed, and income has changed. The grace is always there.

    1. Loved this story of how you found your spouse. I think the main point the author of the book was trying to make was sometimes the guy you think is only Mr. Good Enough is actually Mr. Amazingly Awesome. It sounds like, especially after 3 rejections :), that was the case for you.

  11. Yeah, I made the lists. I got a good chuckle over finding my original YW list after I was married... and finding out how spot on my new husband was!

    As a mother of many boys, I still encourage my boys to make lists. Figure out what your "deal-breakers" are (and there shouldn't be more than just a few of them), and then be elated if you can find half of the rest of the list. Anything else is icing. The most important part is to make you the best you, and trust those gut feelings.

    Thanks so much for your discussions!

  12. Mara this is SO good. I love your perspective on this and agree so much. There is such a trap in being with someone because you can be the fixer, the nurturer, the Savior, etc. The only thing we can do it bring our best selves like you said and then be confident in that. The things that drew me to my husband are the wonderful qualities he has that I admire, and that inspire me to keep working on me. My most valued part of our relationship is the fact that we are entirely honest with each other, warts and all, and that we are both committed to a life of progress. In many ways my husband does not meet certain very important 'list' items I've always had, but because of the aforementioned qualities I felt ok not following the list and trusting my hear. I do think there is some 'chemistry' involved, but I think that is something that really changes when you focus on the most important things first. The

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  14. I am forwarding this blog to a good friend of mine who is dating right now :).

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  16. What a fascinating topic! I have to admit, when you first mentioned Gottlieb's book, I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. As a 30 year old single woman who hasn't given up on finding the right partner, I was worried that Gottlieb might have a point...and I shouldn't hold out for some ideal I've constructed in my mind. But, having read your post above, as well as others' comments, I'm a lot less worried. Sure, making superficial lists is a juvenile approach. And yes, outsourcing one's self esteem to a romantic partner is a recipe for disaster (in fact, I found your blog when I was in the throws of just that, back in November 2011; the relationship ended at the beginning of December 2011, and I've been working hard in and out of therapy to locate and nurture my self esteem on my own). That being said, I do believe in the importance of not settling. If it feels like settling, it probably is...and I can't help but think "settling" isn't the taste one wants in one's mouth, just prior to commitment. Maybe "surrender" is a more appropriate word (some folks in the comments above described this sentiment, which I was glad to see); when one realizes the lists and the requirements are nothing compared to the lovely, flesh and blood person before her; when one realizes the whole package is imperfect and individual and deeply human -- but comprised of some essential values -- maybe surrendering is what we do in that case. We surrender ourselves to the real thing instead of holding out for some perfect-on-paper phantom. But certainly that's not settling. It's allowing the non-essentials to fall by the wayside in favor of what's indispensable.

    I'd love to hear what others have to say about this. :)

    1. H.M., I think you are very right. Personally, I think the title of the book is designed to stir up intrigue and insight opinion...which it does.

      But when you really listen to what she has to say, you find that she isn't telling you to settle at all for some barely-fits-the-bill-but-decent guy. She's making the case that letting go of some superficial ideas allows you to settle in on things that are truly important, character and values, etc. She also shows how men are much more likely to go on a second date with a woman, sighting 3 basic reasons why they wouldn't consider at least a second date. Whereas women surveyed had hundreds of reasons they wouldn't go out on a second date. Some of those reasons may have been so silly that they would have kept you from getting to know a truly wonderful human being.

      I think the example Katie Fiddler shared above is a great example of what the author is trying to get at.

    2. Thanks for your reply, Mara! And yes, totally -- Katie Fiddler's comment really resonated with me. In fact, I'm going to be a bit more open-minded about going on first dates when asked. You never know what you're passing up when you dismiss someone simply because of something like age difference (in my case).

      The title definitely stirs up intrigue and goes for what will get a rise out of the audience. Still, as a writer myself, I have a hard time with the word "settling" and the moniker "Mr. Good Enough" -- I think both undermine and devalue how awesome the truly good, decent guy really is. Though I do understand her word choice might just be cheeky -- gently teasing the women who would label such things and people as "settling" and "Mr. Good Enough," respectively. In any case, all great food for thought!

      Thank you, again.

  17. I love this post and it has given me a lot to think about. I also love how in love you and Danny look in those pictures. And you're hair is so beautiful!

  18. My 'list' was simple (written in Apr 2012)
    1. respects my religion/faith
    2. family first
    3. honest
    With hopefully
    4. generousity
    5. forgiving
    6. selfless
    There's another list somewhere else, about work ethic too. But I feel like none of these things were about my ego - and I'm happy to be corrected or discuss further. I agree, don't settle, but at the same time, I don't think everyone will always have fairytale love (which is sometimes what it seems you two have - but you both didn't have in first marriages, i can only assume!) Relationships take work, and won't always be rosy and happy like the photos we see of you, or in movies. But that doesn't mean we've settled either.

  19. I passed this post on to my sister. :) My list was two-fold. First, I made one with qualities I wanted in a spouse. Problem is, tons of guys met my requirements of being reasonably attractive to me, kind thoughtful, hardworking, etc. Once I started dating my future husband I was like, "Ok, I know I could marry him. But could I really marry him?!?" I ended up making a second list that enumerated situations I wanted us to experience together before I would be able to decide whether or not I could marry him. "Before I can decide," I said, "He has to see me cry." I had to know how he was going to respond to that. He had to have a chance to forgive me. We had to discuss certain things. Some people don't need to make a list of all this, I guess, but I did. Sunday is our 7th anniversary!

  20. This is an interesting post that I have a feeling I will be revisiting again in the future as I start dating again after a long relationship. I think making a list is a great way to state your values and what is most important to you, but even more important as you say is to analayze the list to determine what lies beneath those values. Some will stand the test and others may not turn out to be so important after all.

    1. Ginna, I love this reflection of yours. And I couldn't agree more. If you did actually watch the HuffPost video we linked to where Mara and I were part of a panel, I mention there that I did indeed have a list, but it was very short, and consisted only of those things that would matter most to me in the long run. All other things, though nice, were not really that necessary. If someone was going to possess more superficial aspects that were on some other less important list of mine, well that was just icing on the cake, but was never going to be the main reason I settled down with the right girl.

      In my case, I freely admit I was more than lucky to have not only my core items met in Mara, but a whole host of other things as well.

      Anyway, love what you said, and I wish you all the best!

    2. Would you and Mara mind saying what were those 'core items' on your respective lists? If I'm correct, you talked about two of yours, but Mara hasn't had a chance to talk about hers... If it's not too personal, I'd really like to know. Thank you.

  21. I always laughed at the idea of a list even when I was younger and encouraged to make a list. My parents are polar opposites in so many, and my mom freely admits that my dad wouldn't have made her list.

    I have some basic requirements: honest, happy, passionate, kind, generous, loving, compassionate, active in his faith; however, these are the requirements I have for myself.

    I really like what the author says, and what you said your earlier post. It helps me confirm that I'm on the right track. Thanks!

  22. Wow nice couple. Actually you both looks awesome.

  23. I love this blog post! Thank you. I have actually recently decided that my own list was actually a little ridiculous and that it needed a revamp, and now my new list has only one item - a worthy priesthood holder who loves God - so much simpler! The items from my old list really didn't matter in the long run. I also realized that having a list of qualities I want in a man is NOT as important as having a list of qualities I need/want to have in myself in order to attract the type of person I want. No matter how great my list for "him" is, it isn't going to help me become a better person, which is more vital in the long run, because what if I remain single?

  24. I was lucky growing up because my mum always said that you should go on dates with lots of people so that you know when the right one comes along. She said this to me when I was about 14 or 15 and was always more than happy to meet which ever boy I wanted to bring home without judgement or negative comments. She always found something nice to say each one but would always be on my side if I decided not to see them any more. My dad was pretty much the same, although maybe shared his opinion a little more freely after I'd broken up with the ones he didn't like!
    I think it made me willing to give most people the benefit of the doubt and some of my friends still find some of my ex-boyfriends strange choices but at their core each of them was what I would consider a good person and that was the most important thing for me.
    I've never really had a specific list but looking back each boyfriend informed the next one, i.e. I avoided guys that shared 'bad' traits with the previous person I'd been out with. In the end it turned out that a deal breaker for me was how well they got on with my friends. I have a group of friends from school which consists of 10 pretty formidable ladies (we have know each other for 15 years and what they don't know about me isn't worth knowing) and I think we all use each other as a test :) I broke up with the guy I was going out with before my fiancé for a number of reasons but a big one was not making the effort to get on with my friends.
    My fiancé has a lot of qualities from Mara's list/older post but essentially he is one of the kindest people I have ever met (I started to fall for him when he got out of the car at traffic lights to tell the lady in front she had a flat! Who does that?!)

  25. I'm hoping you two could discuss further what a healthy relationship would look like. You mention your belief that a happy relationship stems from two whole ("complete") people coming together and bringing their individual strengths to the table. I love this idea, and I'm hoping you could talk more about it because I'd love to hear you refine and develop that thought further.


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