Your marriage is over and now you’re ready to plunge into the dating world again. What can you do to find someone compatible? You should never rush in unprepared.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to have a clear indication of what you’re after.
Some dive right in without a good plan. Filling out an awesome online dating profile or taking the time to research good social gatherings are great things to do, but if you want to have a good experiences along the way and eventually find the perfect match, I recommend doing something that was highly effective in helping me to narrow down my choices. Ultimately, I believe I saved myself a lot of time and resources and probably some headaches, all because I prepared myself before I ever went on my first date.
So here it is:
Take thirty minutes or so and compile a good list of the things that you disliked about your former long-term partner. It sounds simple, but taking the time with a good cup of coffee or a beer to really focus will reveal a lot of things that you might not have ever realized. An excel spreadsheet works great because you make two columns: The first column is about the things he or she did that really unnerved you—their habits that brought the most negativity into your life. The second column is about the things that you might have disliked but it’s not a big enough deal that you can’t compromise on.
Once you’re done with that list, I recommend you spend another thirty minutes compiling a list of things you would like to see in a new partner. What’s really important to you? What are some of the things that would really bring you fulfillment? Once the first list is finished, this second one will become relatively easy.
Trust me, getting all these thoughts on paper will give you a focused idea of what you’ll get the most fulfillment from.
I don’t recommend getting too restrictive. You might not ever date again if you do. The purpose of this exercise is to focus on all the things about your former marriage partner that you know you could never be with again. Equally important, this exercise is to make you consciously aware of what you can compromise on. Remember, nobody is perfect, including yourself, and you’re always going to find some flaws. A healthy, enjoyable balance is what you want to secure.
I’ll give you an example of one of my lists in no particular order, just so you can see where I’m coming from. Keep in mind finding someone that you’re initially physically attracted to is a given. The list below goes below the surface and reveals what’s important to me in any potential long-term partner:
- She will have to have an appreciation for and connection to nature
Being out in nature is important to me. I love being a couch potato every now and then, but being outdoors often is something I need. Whether it’s on the beach, the lake, or the occasional camping trip, I want to be with a girl who has a true appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Enjoying gardening and getting hands dirty every now and then is a bonus!
- She’ll have to give me breathing room when I need the time to pursue something important to me.
There are times when I get into project mode and I need days at a time to really focus. She’s going to have to accept that.
- She has to be willing to keep fit
I’m not talking about working out five days a week and eating all organic. I’m talking about being conscious of her body, and finding it important enough to maintain. Everyone ages and begins to change in unwanted ways, but doing certain things to maintain health is a must.
- She has to be a team player
I’m not going to settle for anyone who is too distant, likes to spend ALL their time with their girlfriends, or makes excuses for not taking care of things together. I’m in a relationship to enjoy what teamwork can bring to the table, not just for the sake of being able to say I’m with someone.
- She has to be intelligent and be able to hold good conversation
This isn’t important for every guy, but I’m an air sign (Gemini). I love intelligent discussion. About life. Spirituality. Conscious growth. History. Culture. The list goes on. I could never involve myself with anyone who only has an interest in their own world, or only wants to complain about everything wrong in their life. Sure, everyone has these moments and needs to vent. That’s perfectly fine. But when it becomes a long-term pattern I’m out.
- She has to have a big heart
I like a girl who cares for others. She’s willing to lend a hand to a neighbor, or even a stranger. She feels compassion when others are suffering. She’s willing to get involved when she’s able to make a difference.
- She has to be social
Not only do I want her to have good girlfriends in her life, but I like a girl who can come onto a new scene and strike up a conversation with others. For example, perhaps we move into a new neighborhood. She’s quick to meet the neighbors and invite them over for an evening of grilling and a few beers or glasses of wine.
- She likes adventure
I enjoy a person who’s willing to be adventurous from time to time. Maybe its rock climbing. Maybe it’s a road trip somewhere new. Maybe its white water rafting, or visiting a remote or exotic place. Most of us don’t have the luxury of doing this often, but when possible, an adventurous spirit is wildly attractive!
- She must like a lot of foreplay in the bedroom
I don’t think this is a problem for most women, but there are some. Being married for fourteen years gave me a deep appreciation for how satisfying good foreplay is. Not only does it build the excitement, but it connects two people emotionally. I’ve also learned that if you can please a woman first, she’ll usually take care of you afterwards in deeply satisfying ways. The point is, she must have an appreciation for really good, passionate sex.
- She must first and foremost be my friend
Any good relationship is built on friendship. A true friend is willing to lay themselves aside when the other truly needs it. We all go through trials, some bigger than others. But a friend will take notice and be proactive to support you through it.
- She can’t use emotionally trying times for justification to treat me negatively long-term
Everyone lashes out from time to time if they’re having a bad day. I can take some of that. I do it. But when it becomes a pattern, adios. I will never again be manipulated.
- She must be forgiving and not prone to hold long-term resentment
I’ve dealt with an unforgiving person before. It’s no picnic and I’ll never involve myself with someone who can’t learn to let go of a mistake. I am a deeply forgiving person. There’s always a new day. Learn from mistakes, and move on. Months or years of resentment makes for the worst kind of relationship.
- She can’t rely on me for her happiness
This is a tricky one. Some people get more fulfillment than others being in a relationship. Some people are meant to be alone in this world, and some are meant to be with someone to help complete them. But there’s a difference in being completed by someone who brings you extra joy and fulfillment and someone who needs to be in a relationship to just to survive. I like a girl who’s content with herself. Sure, we can bring each other greater fulfillment and joy through the things that relationships provide, but someone who isn’t content with themselves is only going to drain and use you, even if they aren’t consciously aware of it.
- She has to know who she is, and be comfortable with that
This one follows up with number thirteen. Not only must she be content with who she is, but she must be consciously aware of who she is, and own it. This is also wildly attractive in a woman.
- She has to be active
Not going to be with a woman who works all day and then comes home and watches television until falling asleep. This is okay from time to time, and I’ll occasionally do it. But long-term patterns are too unattractive.
- She can’t spend every waking moment of her life on her cell phone or Facebook account
Sorry girls, but some of you have lives that revolve around your cell phone and Facebook account. Don’t get me wrong…I have a Facebook account and I use my cell phone every day. Nothing wrong with that. But I don’t go through withdraws if I’m not on them every waking moment.
- She has to accept me for who I am
I refuse to date a girl that can’t accept me for who I am—what makes me tick. It’s your job to date me long enough and get to know me. If there’s something about what makes me ME, just let me know and I won’t waste your time.
- She can’t live for her career
I think it’s great for any women to have a career. But that shouldn’t define someone. A career that takes long hours and hard work and dedication is great, especially if you love it. I don’t mind if I have to sacrifice spending time with you, but when your career becomes your life to the detriment of everything around you, I’d rather find someone who has time to have some fun on occasion.
- She has to be faithful and honest
An easy one. I can’t stand cheating. If I don’t fulfill you enough, just tell me up front.
- She has to dislike gossip
Unless you’re a saint, I believe we have all been involved with gossip before. But I’ve known some women who get their kicks off by talking about everyone else’s problems. So unattractive!
- Money should be important to her, but she has to realize it doesn’t buy happiness
Everyone needs money to live. But I like a girl who can have fun on a small budget just as much as a big one. I like to splurge as much as the next person, but I don’t need tons of money to have fun.
- She can’t wear so much makeup that I can’t appreciate her natural beauty
Don’t misunderstand. I love a girl who can get dressed up for a night out. Makeup is fine. But I’ve been on some dates with girls who wear so much make-up and jewelry that I had no idea what they really look like.
- She will have to accept and love the kids from my marriage
I have two wonderful children from my marriage. I have saved this for last because it’s so huge. If she cares enough to build something lasting with me, she’ll have to accept them as her own. No questions asked.
Advantages to Compiling the List
The main advantage to compiling such a list is to keep you from settling. If I met someone really strong in most of those areas, I could easily compromise on a few others (except for the last item on my list, the kids). But I will never again get stuck in something that I didn’t really think through and know I could be happy with.
After a divorce or separation it’s easy for some of us to just jump right back into something else because you miss that feeling of having someone. This list serves as a safeguard against getting into another negative situation. Dating again will always involve some risk, and that’s part of the journey to enjoy. But when you compile the list before giving someone a chance at least you’ve helped mitigate a potential train wreck in the future.
Even if you’re an emotionally strong and independent person after divorce, compiling your own list will remind you to be true to yourself and what’s really important to you.
When I compiled my list, I discovered many things I had no idea bothered me so much, and I was able to reaffirm what really mattered. When I met the first girl that seemed to fit my list pretty well after months of dating, I felt confident enough to close down my online dating profiles and give it a chance. I’ve had a few disappointments, as will everyone, but nothing big enough to move on…yet.
I also recommend revisiting your list during the dating process. Some of the things on your list will not be noticeable until they are tested through time. But that’s part of the fun. So revisit the list once a month or so. This ensures that you will stay grounded and true to yourself. Good luck! 🙂