Single? Check. Ready to date? Check. Not going to compromise this time around? Check. Got a checklist to ensure that doesn’t happen? Check.

Checklists. Everyone has one when they embark on a dating life, even if they don’t realise it. There’ll be some minimum requirements you’ll have in your subconscious – being sober, no gaping wounds, no outstanding police warrants … stuff like that. You’ll have an idea of the sort of companion you want to spend time with, based on your own preferences but also perhaps some close encounters of the annoying kind in previous relationships.

eharmony encourages its members to think about compatibility when they are building their dating profiles.”What is the most important quality that you are looking for in another person?” is one of the questions you are encouraged to answer. I listed table manners and opposable thumbs. It is a checklist that has served me well.

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I asked a friend of mine, separated from her husband for a year but not yet back in the dating saddle, what her checklist would be. This is what she wrote:

  1. Proficiency with cutlery (seriously, so many people eat badly)
  2. Passion – for something/anything – other than their job
  3. A healthy lack of interest in motor racing
  4. Clean fingernails
  5. Being comfortable naked
  6. Curious
  7. Disinclined to discussing ablutionary matters
  8. Happy
  9. Communicative
  10. Single

That’s not a bad list, and seems reasonable. But then she said something interesting:

“Surely the trouble is that people have too many checklists? How can you tabulate who you might love?”

Indeed. Having a checklist of fundamentals is wise. Being prescriptive about superficial things, such as bank balance, fashion sense or choice of wheels can mean you potentially miss out on some great opportunities to find love in unexpected places.

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“Visualising what a partner will look like is inevitable as one starts to prepare to go from a party of one to a bona fide couple,” says clinical psychologist Seth Meyers.

He says checklists happen because “we have an innate need to be able to predict our environment and ensure our own safety and survival”.

Insisting on traits such as honesty, integrity and intelligence is just being smart. But Meyers says having a checklist for physical, professional or financial characteristics is an unhealthy focus on the superficial.

Lori Gottlieb is the author of the New York Times best seller “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” In it, Gottlieb tells women they should stop holding out for the man of their dreams because the man of their dreams is illusory. Gottlieb told CNN it’s not about lowering standards or settling, but rather prioritising preferences over requirements.

“If you really want to find the person that makes you happy for the rest of your life, you need to be picky about the things that matter – and the rest of it, be open-minded,” he said.

Gottlieb says people often overlook character issues just because they find a person physically attractive, but it should be the reverse.

“We treat dating like shopping, and what happens is you forget that you aren’t exactly a perfect physical specimen yourself,” Gottlieb said. “No one is critiquing their own flaws; we’re acting like we’re all supermodels.”

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By trying to dial up a perfect date and being strict in the enforcement of a narrow checklist, you run the risk of not recognising that the person opposite you is a genuinely interesting or quirky character who might just be your soul mate. Other than requiring some basic decencies in prospective dates, the only checklist you should have is about yourself. Try these:

Before a date:

  1. Attend to some personal grooming. Cut and clean your fingernails, wash your hair, brush your teeth.
  2. Be rested. Have a nap beforehand if necessary.
  3. Go to the toilet. Seriously.
  4. Dress comfortably in clean and ironed clothes. No need to be a fashion plate. Think style AND substance.
  5. Don’t get nervous drunk.
  6. Be positive. You’ve got nothing to lose.

During the date:

  1. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Being only one of those will lead to a boring date.
  2. Keep an open mind.
  3. Don’t talk about your exes or your mother.
  4. Be prepared to pay your way.
  5. Don’t get nervous drunk.
  6. Be positive. You’ve got nothing to lose.

All you can do is attend to the things you can control. Do that, then let nature take its course.

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Do you have thoughts you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on FacebookTwitter & Instagram. And if you are ready to narrow down the world of possibilities, sign up to eharmony today- find someone made for you.

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