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Continuing the intellectual exercise…

June 23, 2010

One quick thought: One’s list of preferred qualities in an Other changes as one gets older, obviously. When I met my ex-husband I was twenty-one and he was twenty; we were not thinking about Forever back then, and one can’t ever predict how life and circumstance will change. Nor how they’ll change you. And, if I may be so bold, what you look for as a co-parent (for lack of a better term) is different than what you look for when you’re old and gray. Or getting gray.

On the other hand, might it be that this sort of list-making is pointless, not to mention crassly objectifying? I’m having a great deal of trouble writing exactly what I would look for/might look for without blushing–naturally I’d prefer to blame the LIST instead of admitting that I am terribly repressed and inarticulate.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 5:28 pm

    I look for a soft, hardly-audible “click.”

  2. June 23, 2010 8:47 pm

    He’s gotta make you laugh and vice versa. Huge, tears rolling down your cheeks belly laughs. Sometimes when things are hard that’s the only thing that grounds.

  3. Celeste permalink
    June 23, 2010 9:08 pm

    I think when you’re young, you can’t even see clearly to know what is going to be a pitfall. Once you’ve lived and been through some stuff, you know what your non-negotiables are.

  4. June 23, 2010 9:43 pm

    I want (and have) a man who shows kindness during the day and the ability to make me forget my name at night.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 23, 2010 10:22 pm

      Oooh. Now that’s good. Me, too.

  5. June 24, 2010 2:34 pm

    Now you have me thinking. I married my husband because he made me laugh. And he didn’t annoy me after spending a weekend with him (you know those guys whom you spend a significant period of time with and you want to shoot them? Yeah – I dated 100 of them too). AND he had blue eyes (for some reason, I wanted blue eyed children).

    I stay married to him because he still makes me laugh. He does the dishes every night. He gave me THREE blue eyed children (with a 50% either time of blue eyes, that’s awesome). AND I still don’t get annoyed with him no matter how long we spend time together.

    I consider myself very blessed. And hope that everyone who doesn’t have this – finds it.

    PS LOVE your blog.

  6. Anne permalink
    June 24, 2010 2:51 pm

    Hmmm…interesting points.

    I was reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert last month, and she pointed out that the there is a HUGE correlation between the likelihoof of divorce and how young the spouses are when they marry: apparently something like 85% (!) of marriages between people in their early 20s will end in divorce. So, I think you are right: We often DON’T know how our lives will change, and this most true the younger (and less experienced and less settled) we are.

    My “list” has gotten honed down over the years, and the current version dates back to 2003, when the guy I was engaged to decided he didn’t want to get married after all. I was aided in my list-making by the good people at, who make you fill out lists of requirements, and forced me to really think about what was most important to me in a partner.

    I don’t know…I guess I divide my list into the “non-negotiables” and the “nice to haves.” (Note: I realize now that I didn’t include in my previous list of “non-negotiables” on your earlier post “Wants children,” but to me that is a requirement at the same level as “Has a pulse.”) I think the “nice to haves” may change over the years, but the “non-negotiables” don’t.

    For a personal example, it would be nice if my husband was more interested in gardening and home projects and less interested in cars, and it would be nice if he was more social so that I do not have to drag him to events where he doesn’t already know everybody, and it would be nice if he was the kind of guy who liked to cook with me (and it would be EXTRA SPECIAL nice if he was the kind of guy who enjoyed doing housework without prompting from me). But the fact that he is not any of these things? I can live with that, because all my “big” stuff is met–in spades.

    And of COURSE it is objectifying to list what you want in a person! Or rather, it is “defining.” But I don’t see why that is a problem…can you explain further?

  7. yasmina permalink
    June 25, 2010 1:41 am

    I used to think it’s important that he loves me more than I love him, now I think the opposite when I am close to 50. I never made any list, but I also had not married until 42. Our marriage is still young, but your #14 reader, take 5, already made me think about change of hearts.

  8. June 25, 2010 10:05 am

    I love Take Fives list – I’ve never put mine in a the form of the list: But he has to taste right, I have to be able to sleep like a baby when he’s next to me, he has to be a grown man who doesn’t make me do all the heavy emotional lifting, self aware, and yeah, a talker as well as a listener. Basically honest (see self-aware). I have to love to look at him. And…compatible sexual imagination I guess is the best way to put it.
    If you can’t get sex right, if you don’t LOVE to touch each other as a default position – how can you even begin to talk about and get right the other stuff? The much much harder stuff?
    And …you have to automatically to toward each other instead of away when stress comes. Not that people don’t need emotional privacy, but if retreat is the default, that’s a deal breaker for me.

    And yeah, we learn these things the hard way, but I have some pretty serious problems with describing the relationships that taught me things as failures, even if the things were painful to learn. Not that that’s what you’re saying, its just something ‘people” say and it drives me crazy.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 25, 2010 10:13 am

      Who was it, Margaret Mead, I think, who said she’d had three highly successful marriages? I love that.

  9. June 27, 2010 7:26 pm

    Checklists, whether mental or written, never work for me. Maybe it’s just me but whenever I try to elucidate all the traits that I want in a mate, I find it detrimental because (1) I’m mature enough to realize that there is no “perfect” mate, and (2) the list becomes a cause for rejecting women without my giving them a full chance.

    On the other hand, we’ve all had a list of traits that we love and find attractive in others. It’s totally natural.

    But you nailed it. At this age, finding someone with whom you can co-parent and also with whom you can grow old are new determinants to the equation. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just interesting.

  10. Take 5 permalink
    June 28, 2010 1:21 pm

    Creating definition (thanks, Anne) or contour is how I see the list. It is entirely individual. For example, a good co-parent is on a lot of lists out there, but not on mine. Objectifying–making into tangible goals one’s imagined partner’s shape–seems okay, as long as we’re not heading towards Pygmalion/My Fair Lady (Lad). Having deal-breakers (non-negotiables) are a real part of the “list” making process. I’m not thrilled either with the concept of hard-learned lessons in relationships, but having learned so much negative stuff from the one I was in recently that making a list was the most practical way to move forward and yet not seem like an end-all. It did help me mend a bruised sense of what a relationship can be.

  11. July 31, 2010 9:04 am

    Hello IB:
    How is it that I have only just come across your blog? It has been like opening a jar of very complexly-flavored, and utterly delicious mince-meats. Rich, loamy, full of interesting and sometimes indecipherable nuggets, nuts, and candied fruits. I can’t stop putting the spoon back in the jar and tasting its wondrous contents…drawn to it again and again, with the lurking fear that at some point I will have finished it and find myself wanting, still, more. I am your humble servant, Reginald Darling

  12. August 26, 2010 6:32 am

    My husband and I met shortly after both of us had gone through bad breakups (i run with a crowd that doesnt marry!) and we both had very clear visions of who we wanted to be with after taking apart our previous relationships.
    He also gave me a copy of The Invitation my Oriah Mountain Dreamer on our third date or something like that, it made me weep.
    I keep a copy of it on my fridge at home and on my pc when we are having problems and its helped me.
    I guess in its own way it was his list for me, and i had one for him.
    We have been on the precipice and the fact that legally we have been divorced for longer than we have actually been married (a financial thing) makes it somehow more difficult. I cant really explain it.
    We only knew each other six months before marrying and everyone thought it was for other reasons but it wasnt and since then we have commited to growing together. and it has been hard, more difficult in fact than either of us anticipated but we try every day becouse I know i could walk out that door without looking back – but i dont want to and thats what is important.
    I got a bit sidetracked sorry. The lists work, and they still work even though it is a marriage that is in its infinacy (seven years) thanks for your blog its so well written and honest and the world needs that.

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