The List: Should You Have a List Of Requirements For a Potential Mate?

BY: - 21 Apr '10 | Relationships

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by Aja Dorsey Jackson

Since the debut of TLC member Chilli’s dating reality show “What Chilli Wants” there has been a lot of conversation over her list of dating requirements.   While it is not my place to tell another person what should or should not be important to them, in my opinion Chilli should change the name of her “perfect man” list to “the reason why Chilli will be 50-years-old still on a reality show looking for a man” list.   The list has at least 15 necessities that range from “can’t smoke” to the seemingly meaningless “he can’t eat pork” or “he has to have a six pack”. Chilli says that she will not compromise on her list items and encourages every woman to have a list of her own.

I never had a list that I actually wrote down or even thought of as a list, but if I am to be honest with myself, there are certain requirements that I had in mind, even if I hadn’t given them much thought.

Had to believe in God: There was no compromising for me on this one. I believe in going to God for answers and if my husband can’t go there with me then there will be problems.

Had to earn a living: I don’t mean earning enough to buy me designer handbags on a regular basis, but enough so that he could support himself. That is not to say that there aren’t situations like layoffs that are outside of a person’s control, but I have always tried to work hard enough to provide and I expect the same in a partner.

Be taller than me: I know this sounds superficial and it probably is, but I admit that it is an attraction thing for me. Luckily I’m not that tall, 5’4″,(although at my last doctor’s visit they said I was shorter but I’m still claiming it!)   so this has never actually been an issue.

No kids: This probably seems like the craziest one being that I was a single mother. My thoughts were that I didn’t want to multiply my own parenting issues by throwing in somebody else’s baby momma.

Be in good physical shape: I’m not talking about big biceps and washboard abs. This goes beyond the physical appearance to me. I enjoy moving, whether I’m running or dancing or flying on a trapeze. I want to be able to stay active and healthy with my husband into old age, and I know that a couch potato won’t be able to keep up.

Although I had my list of ideals, outside of believing in God and having financial stability, none of my preferences were automatic deal breakers. My husband is physically active and not in bad shape, however some of his health habits could be drastically improved. At the same time, I know that prior to meeting me he had been leery of dating a woman with kids. Had we shut one another down because of perceived shortcomings, we would never have been able to discover and build the relationship we have today.

I often hear that compromising on those list items is the same as just lowering your standards or settling for less.   CNN’s Audrey Irvine has a great article where she compares using the “list” to baking a cake: There are essentials like eggs and flour that you need to include or the cake won’t work at all; everything else, frosting, sprinkles etc., is an accessory.   Everyone has standards and there are some requirements that should be too important to compromise, but if you are looking for perfection you are bound to get exactly who you are looking for: someone that doesn’t exist.

What’s on your list? If you have a spouse, did you get what you were looking for? Do you think having a list helps or hurts you in the search for a mate?

Aja Dorsey Jackson is a freelance writer and public relations consultant in Baltimore, Maryland. Find out more about her at www.ajadorseyjackson.com/about.html or follow her on twitter @ajajackson.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2199 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.

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28 WordPress comments on “The List: Should You Have a List Of Requirements For a Potential Mate?

  1. Roger Madison

    My wife and I were “smitten” with each other in high school. We didn’t have a chance to think about a list. However, my son had a list. We weren’t privileged to everything on the list, but one of the items was a movie he would watch with each of his new girlfriends. The response to that movie would give him the strongest indicator of the potential for the relationship going farther.

    It worked for him. He and our daughter-in-law have been married for 12 years. We have since learned that his wife and my wife have similar qualities., and they get along very well. She is fashion-conscious, and they enjoy traveling. I don’t know if those items were on his list. The movie he watched with each of the candidates for marriage was “Pulp Fiction.”

    I think that lists should have an “outcome” criteria associated with them that has some predictor for the future — things like education level, religious preference, social activities, comparative social class, views on upward mobility, career choices.

    I recall the advice a business leader gave to a young man who dsired to move to the highest corporate ranks. The executive told him that if he wasn’t yet married, he should choose his wife well if he wanted to achive his goals. I think that is important advice whatever one’s goals for the future are. This advice applies equally to women choosing husbands.

    Perhaps a list is need to choose well.

    Reply
  2. King James

    I think we should all stop saying ‘lowering standards’ as it has such a negative connotation. Re-evaluating standards sounds much better and is more appropriate to me.

    good list. it’s funny… sad.. how we all feel the need to tip toe around anything dealing with appearance. It’s our right, eh?

    Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
  3. AJ Bell

    This is a great article, and I was wondering when someone was going to call Chili out for her rediculous list of qualifications in a man. I would never say that these seemingly “perfect” men don’t exist, because they do. They are just already taken. Any woman who has one of these men is holding on for dear life!!

    That said, I think we focus too much on superficial needs when making these lists. I comepletely agree with the cake analogy. But at the end of the day, if you don’t agree or share certain beliefs about many things, none of the other stuff matters. Why not look at things such as his family background and how he was raised? Long and short term goals? Child rearing beliefs and the importance of family?

    Being able to provide is wonderful, but how do you provide? Are you the type of guy who will work the same job for 30 years without complaint? If so, can you support my need to have diversity and choice in my career path? What if I want to move from Texas to Chicago? Those type of things tend to become more of an issue for marriages, and not just, do you have a job?

    I’ve always kept a list, but it includes things like “must be a hard worker” because there are lazy men with jobs. But a hard worker will take care of his career and home.

    “Must love and respect his mother and have a healthy relationship with his father.” Men who don’t respect their mother or know their father will give you constant grief and not be there for the children like you need him to be.

    However, I am with you on the height requirement, sadly, I am six feet tall, so this has limited my options over the years, but, honestly, not been much of a problem.

    Reply
  4. Aja

    @ King James, Yes, please repost!

    I agree with what everyone is saying that there should be reasons behind whatever you put on the list. If you know that something might cause a real issue in a marriage for you its important to know that up front. However if you have an extensive list that includes stuff like there are certain things he can’t eat, you might be limiting yourself when something like that may not really have an effect on your relationship with that person.

    Reply
  5. Shayla

    Great article Aja as always!! When I watched Chilli’s show the other day, I was wondering when you were going to put her out there! LOL! I agree that when you list frivilous things on a list such your mate can not eat pork, drink, or smoke (the only one I have to agree with since I have asthma) you could truly miss out on someone who has great potential. My list was simple, believe in God and employed. Reason, I have a belief in God and I go to work everyday. Like Aja, I am challenged in the height department so for the most part everyone is taller than me. I am happy with what God gave me. He even threw in thoughtful, caring, and selfless which were things that I knew I wanted but never thought about.

    Reply
  6. NADIA

    It is important to have a list , but i think more so we should stick to it . That baby mamma issue is a really big one . I think it should also be done after speaking with the older folk in our family. And sticking to it might help some people raise their own standards and morals and we might have better marriages and relationships and our children should be alot better off with their selection

    Reply
  7. Ruby Griffin

    Back in the days, what was a list? we knew what our duties was as a wife,on a daily basic….in a marriage you put the exactly amount of seasonal or ingredients into it,that you want to receive back out of it…with me having a list could be unbearerable,i can’t go into a grocery store,and shop with a list,cause i come out with everything,except what on that list….i disagree with a list in any relationship,or marriage,but each it own…on that list it’s going to be hard for you to find that perfect person,cause it’s not real….in life you going to have to give a little,take a little …you going to have to work on your foundation,to build it up to what you all want it to be…life is funny like that,it’s not alway a box of chocalate…

    Reply
  8. AJ Bell

    I agree with Nadia, talking to older women is a great idea. The problem with that is just what Ruby said. They are going to tell you that you don’t need a list and they are probably correct. It’s just that times have changed and with women being more career oriented, our priorities have shifted. We have to contribute to the household income or we’ll be in trouble. How do you shift from having a fulfilling career to doing all that is needed at home? Men have to understand that women have evolved quite a bit and be able to adjust to that, just as we adjust to the changes in men.

    Reply
  9. Kisha

    I most certainly agree with making a list! Often we focus on what we DON’T want. The law of attraction says these are the exact things you will manifest into your life.

    When I made a list of must haves: intelligent, spiritual, involved father, goal oriented, etc with a list of deal breakers: smoking (that is a HUGE deal, not superficial at all), any type of illegal drug use, etc and Bonus items: at least 6 ft tall, dark skinned, muscular, etc.

    I found my perfect mate. He is all the things on my must-have, none of things on my deal breaker, and some of the things on my bonus items.

    6 packs disappear, just like perky breasts and slim hips! :) but character doesn’t. That’s what we need to focus on!

    Reply
  10. michele

    I had a list before I met my husband, and I think that’s part of the reason why I was so attracted to him. He wasn’t my type at the time, but he had my interest from jump start, and had I been confounded to sticking to every quality I’d written down on my list, we wouldn’t be together today, nor would we have the beautiful family that we have. I addressed specific qualities he had to have, but I kept it realistic, and qualities that were questionable, but wouldn’t be deal breakers. I don’t feel like I “settled” or “lowered my standards” at all. . .I found my “diamond in the rough,” and even got some bonuses out of it!!! He is not perfect, and neither am I, but he’s perfect for me!

    Reply
  11. Ronnie

    People should always have requirements/list and they should know how they want to be treated. But the problem is that people get caught up with the superficial items on the list instead of the meaningful qualities that a potential mate should have.

    just having a job is not enough for me..because jobs come and go for various reasons that are sometimes out of a persons control. …but is this potential mate willing to do whatever it takes to make ends meet? Would they be willing to work 2 jobs if need be …(my father worked more than one job when I was growing up.) …or would this person say( for instance): I have a degree in accounting and there are no accounting jobs out there..and I am not taking a job that is beneath me… and just let the finances go down the drain…

    People really need to communicate and talk with people while they are dating. Find out how they would handle the difficult situations…find out how this person treats their mama and their family and kids if they have them. And pay attention to those red flags!
    .-= Ronnie´s last blog ..Can A Mommy Wear That? =-.

    Reply
  12. Aja

    @ Ronnie I completely agree. I think that what often makes things superficial is having that requirement without having any basis for it. For instance, I often hear “have a college degree” as a requirement. I’m not saying that should not be a requirement if that is important to you, but I think its good to go beyond that and figure out what that means to you and why it is important. Do you equate a degree with a certain level of financial security, a level of intelligence, or does it symbolize a certain level of hard work? If so, is it possible that you could find those qualities in someone who doesn’t have one? I think thinking beyond the appearance of certain things can help you to really think about the qualities that you desire in a mate rather than the surface things that we associate with those qualities.

    Reply
  13. Connie

    I admit I did write out a list. Funny part was when I started dating, I never looked at the list (probably because I couldn’t remember where it was). My ex came back in my life and I thought he was everything that I wanted (or remembered) from the list. There is truth to the statement “there’s a reason why an ex is an ex”. Oddly enough, after the ex crashed and burned I found my list. He had 3 of the qualities (God fearing, knowledgable, expressive). However faithful, honest, and compassionate were qualities he lacked. Another man was there the entire time but just didn’t climb off the fence until after I decided to give the ex another shot. After reviewing my list again (only a minute ago) he seems to meet all those qualities plus a few more.

    Did I select him based upon my list? Obviously not since I didn’t review the list until a minute ago. But based upon my history, there are things I had in mind that were a requirement. I’m 5’8 so yes there is a height requirement for me.

    I do agree with Aja completely that you must go beyond the requirement and determine why it is important to you.

    Reply
  14. Fran

    @ aja are you me? omg your list and mines sounds the same,esp the kids as i had been with a guy or two who had baby mommas and it was so much drama. it burned me and i never wanted to do that again. i dont call it a list though. steve harvey said everybody has to have standards. just remember that the cute guy or hot chick u want to get with may have standards to and you might not qualify. so chilli is setting herself to fail,maybe she doing it on purpose. i am shorter that 5ft and my hubby is 6ft. i kinda kept most of my standards, but when i met my hubby again for the second time in our lives i fell so deeply in love with him that all the superficial stuff fell by the wayside. when you meet the RIGHT ONE…. maybe eggs and butter,sugar and flour are all you really need. frosting and sprinkles are not needed.

    Reply
  15. Cecilia

    I’ve met a lot of jokers who profess to believe in God, so belief systems don’t mean much to me. It’s about what one’s belief system would have him do that means something to me. Gotta walk the talk.

    My husband of 28 years is agnostic. He puts the responsibility for his choices, his plans, his conduct, squarely on his own shoulders. He is loyal, a deliberate spouse and father, and values family above all. And, he doesn’t believe in God. He believes in good character and a sense of belonging.

    My sister, who is Calvinist in her belief system, has met many a dog in the church. More than one has taken her to bed even after they said to her that they believed in chastity! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall listening to the rationale that got them into bed together.

    Other things I value in a mate certainly would be that he has strong work skills and ethics, that he indeed have employment and a college education. Although I know a college education is no insurance for good employment (a friend’s husband is a very successful plumber–they pull in more than we do, if I am to judge by their home and neighborhood), I have yet to me a man who is not college educated who likes to talk about the things we enjoy discussing.

    In addition to character and work skills, my mate takes care of his health and takes care of his money. Also, he has no children prior to our relationship.

    Above all, we are a good match in that we both are willing to learn from each other. We have our flaws, heaven knows, and we are mismatched in a number of ways, but overall, neither one of us has some stupid stereotype for men and women and how they should relate.

    He is a great cook, too, which our child and I value quite a bit! Our division of labor is not fixed, but it is fair given we both work. He is also a handy honey–knows his way around the infrastructure of our home. We don’t have to call the plumber or electrician, etc., too often!

    Reply
  16. ThePoshMiss.Com

    Once a sat down and thought about it, I realized I had a list as well. I also found out that 95% of women want the top 5% of men or what we perceive to be the top 5%. I am learning that I have to be open to a person in a different package than what I am use to. What I am looking for may come in a different physical package and I have to be wiling to accept that. Men don’t go for the top 5% they go for what will work in a wife.

    Reply
  17. Brotha Tech

    To add,

    It really doesn’t bother me when people make lists. What does strike me as odd is when those same people based on their own current situations get crossed off of somebody else’s list have the NERVE to get mad.

    For example if I said “I am a single father, and I won’t date women without kids, because I want her to be able to know what it takes to care for a family.” Some women without kids would take that as an insult because it implies they have NO CLUE on how to raise a family.

    Yet, on a GREAT DEAL of women’s lists, is the requirement that their potential partner not have kids because “I Don’t want to deal with baby mommas running around causing trouble”. Implying that most men with kids have issues with the children’s mother.

    See the hypocrisy? All I am saying is if you’re willing to make a list, be prepared to accept the fact that the other person has a list as well AND YOU MAY NOT BE ON IT!
    .-= Brotha Tech´s last blog ..Adobe scraps iPhone Flash Work – Your Move Apple =-.

    Reply
  18. JE

    How can two walk together accept they agree? We all have “list, requirements, standards, etc” whether they are written or not. But they must be looked at as guidelines not “written in stone” requirements. Although some items can be deal breakers (non-believers, drug or alcohol abuser, etc) never close your eyes to a potential treasure chest just because there is 6 inches of dirt on top of it. Life is a journey and it is best when it can be shared with loved ones.
    .-= JE´s last blog ..Can A Mommy Wear That? =-.

    Reply
  19. Jo

    I think the problem is that the new generation has a “free for all” mentality and lack discipline. I don’t think I quite understand the negative flow of “having a list” except its inability to appease to individuals who fall far from it. What is the problem with a person not wanting to mate a smoker, atheist, or “pork-eater? The list the author presented appeared complicated to me. Why? What is important to her is not important to me. Nothing is wrong with what she stated; it speaks volumes to her — I respect that. She mentioned a height criteria and having no kids; height and no kids are not issues for me… I mean… I am only 5’4 and spend much time in a day caring for other people’s children .LOL. Therefore, things like that don’t hold much importance to me. That’s me though; not everyone else. I do have a specific… long… requirement as to what type of relationship a potential mate should have with God… not just god-fearing, but one that includes true knowledge and commitment to his WORD. For me, a man with a faithful relationship with God is deemed appropriate for a woman like me. We all have a list; whether written on paper or somewhere in the mental realm. I doubt our desires are suppose to appeal to all. However, I believe that a list should be viewed as a guideline, not a requirement. My 2 pennies

    Reply
  20. Jo

    @ Brotha tech
    I agree with your thoughts. I remember telling a colleague something similar. We are both teachers. At a happy hour one evening she stated that she would not date nor marry another teacher. Huh? Why? “A teacher does not make enough to take care of me.” I said, well you may need to find another profession because how do you know the senior executive or entrepreneurial man you desire wants to take care of you? He too may be looking for a “money maker.”
    There is this sense of entitlement among some”sistas”: I am entitled to everything though I have nothing.” CRAZINESS

    Reply
  21. AJ Bell

    @Jo, I don’t think people necessarily have a problem with a list, it’s what’s on the list. We are looking for this perfect, well evolved creature, and no one is at that point in their life. So what if he smokes or eats pork? Maybe he’s trying to quit and eventually will, does that rule him out as a mate? Many of us ate pork at some time in our life, but stopped later on. Were we not worthy because we hadn’t stopped eating pork yet?

    I have a friend who smokes, and he fell in love with a woman who said that was a deal breaker. He hid it from her for over a year. They are now happily married, and she loves him and his flaws. He respects her space and doesn’t smoke around her or in the house. I know several couples where one smokes and the other doesn’t. They learn to respect their partners wishes. It shouldn’t determine a persons’ worth.

    My sister would never date a man with pets because she doesn’t want to clean up after it. That’s just rediculous.

    Chili’s list is rediculous, not because of the no smoking, drinking or pork eating rules, but he must be super fine (not just attactive) and hung. She will soon be settling or alone.

    Reply
  22. Aja

    @ Jo I don’t have a problem with a list and I also don’t have a problem with what people have on their list. I agree with what you said there are things that are important to me that may not be important to another person and vice versa. For me it is more a matter of putting thought into it and truly understanding for yourself why the things on your list are there. I think that every one could come up with a long list of ideals if they were asked to build a perfect man or woman but I think people need to realize that you aren’t creating a person, you’re looking for someone that already exists and isn’t going to be perfect. Because of that, I think its important to put thought into what is truly important to you and if its that he not eat pork, so be it, but just be sure to know what it is that you really need out of a relationship verses who you think the perfect man or woman is.

    Reply
  23. Jo

    @Aja

    You’re right, there is a difference between reality and fantasy.
    I only used pork as an example. Pork and I have a special relationship; we may only part when the Lord calls me home. LOL….however, I would not deny a brotha because he doesn’t eat it (hope he wouldn’t deny me for loving it). But, I’ve had interesting conversations with people who have very strong convictions and have valid reasons for not eating it– I try to be fair.
    I enjoyed reading your article!

    Reply
  24. Amber (future Akins) Smith :)

    When I started seriously approaching dating with the intent of being married instead of looking for the end result of a person’s qualities I looked for those key character traits. Such as instead of hoping and praying that he did not come with any previous children, was a certain weight, dressed a certain way, drove a certain car, or even made a certain amount of money. You see those are statistics to me and even though I majored in Economics I didn’t want to marry a %. I looked for things like the ability to love unconditionally, an avid communicator that never wants to stop talking to his mate, the drive get up and go to make things happen in life. So you see with qualities like that it doesn’t really matter if I didn’t really like the way he dressed. If he loves talking and sharing things with me we become best friends and we all know you can tell your best friend “Hey you those pants are a little short, your favorite Nike shirt is dead due to fading, or that shirt is not the business…” But on the serious tip instead of searching for people that come to the “table” with a list of “things” why not open yourself up to a love where once you all get together everything and anything is possible. When you both have all the individual personalities when combined anything can be achieved… even stop eating pork together, work out to get a 12 pack, stop smoking, or even deal with parenting a child together from a previous relationship.

    Reply
  25. Vince

    I can understand the benefit of writing a list to get a clear idea of what kind of person you want. However, taking that list with you and holding others to that list is absurd. In my opinion, people would benefit more by writing a list of things they can do to improve THEMSELVES instead of looking for flaws in others.

    I really dont care what your mother, best friend or self help book says/reads…people need to bring their best to the table. You cant make a forty point list for the prospective mate and think you are just dandy as is.

    There is nothing more pathetic than a boring, broke, unemployed, uneducated, out of shape person with multiple kids from multiple relationships with bad credit and a bad attitude writing a list of how great the OTHER person should be.

    Reply
  26. Pingback: Sistas, Who’s Checkin For You? « From Ashy to Classy

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