by Alisa Goodwin Snell
As a dating and relationship coach, I encourage singles to trust that God is invested in the big and small things they care about. Consistent with this principle, I help them create a “Top 10” list of what they want in a partner. The first five attributes on the list are considered non-negotiable, meaning one knows he or she would be unhappy without those qualities in a spouse. The next five attributes are also important, but one could accept them as works-in-progress within his or her partner or relationship.
Below are the qualities singles most often place in their top 10 list.
Empathy, kindness, respect, charisma, humor, playfulness, shared chemistry, good looks, physical fitness, spirituality, love of God, physical, emotional, and financial self-control, financial security, honesty, faithfulness, ability to be open, ability to ask for help, focus on family, desire to have children, motivation and drive, skills in social settings, awareness of other’s feelings, education, interest in learning, good commuication, availability, responsiveness, dependability, vulnerability, lifestyle compatability, shared long-term goals, mutual interests and hobbies, deep friendship, etc.
To create their top 10 list, singles clump these (and other) qualities into the categories: non-negotiable needs and work-in-progress desires. This helps them discover what they value most.
After creating their top 10 lists, singles must then acknowledge that no one is perfect. Life and relationships are complicated and require commitment and investment. Nevertheless, they can confidently embrace the challenges of real relationships when they’re committed to what they want and understand why they want it.
To balance their top 10 list, I require singles to review the issues below. They must either accept an issue as one they can learn to live with, designate it as one they can’t accept (it’s a deal breaker), or remove something from the top-ten list so they can make room for a different priority there. This forces them to distinguish what they truly value from those things they simply wish for.
Below are issues singles commonly designate as cons (and even deal breakers).
Lack of attraction, height differences, weight differences, mental health issues, excessive debt or spending habits, athletic disinterests, lifestyle differences, parenting style differences, conflicting religious beliefs, complicated relationships with family or exes, conflicting interests and hobbies, poor communication habits, messiness, conflicting political stances, differences in desire for a certain number of children, frequent lateness, long work hours, previous marriages, low income or education level, dating long-distance, past or present addictions, struggles with past trauma, grief, or loss, infidelity, unresolved resentments, anger management issues, employment problems, verbally or emotionally abusive behavior, dishonesty, etc.
When singles are forced to face the messiness of life, they often become more avoidant of dating and marriage. They naturally want the ideal partner and none of the negative realities of life. This prevents them from trusting the many joys that life, love, and marriage have to offer.
Doing this exercise not only helps singles gain clarity about what they want in a partner, but it also helps them to recognize which of those qualities are worth letting go of. Too often, the flashy, attractive, and unsustainable qualities in singles are over-valued, while other stable, strong, and healthy traits are dismissed. When singles know what they really want, they are more likely to find it.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
What does your top 10 list look like?
Alisa Goodwin Snell spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist before becoming a dating and relationship coach. She’s written several books for singles, been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide, and is a sought out public speaker.