real life

"I found my life partner using a checklist. And it was the best decision I ever made."

Head over heart… works every single time.

Four years ago, my best friend and I consumed two bottles of cheap white wine and agreed on a fact that had been glaringly obvious for years: I had truly, laughably, disturbingly bad taste in men.

From an athlete who insisted on calculating my body fat percentage to a cocaine-obsessed man-bun wearer, the dudes I brought home as a teenager were either dreamy artist types or Alpha Males with Outrageous Egos.

The one thing they all had in common? They were always met with tight, polite smiles and tactful “she’ll-grow-out-of-it” eye-rolls over my head at the family dinner table.

“They were always met with tight, polite smiles and tactful ‘she’ll-grow-out-of-it’ eye-rolls over my head at the family dinner table.”

My shocking taste in men didn’t particularly matter while I was busy being young and ridiculous. But, as I grew to full-time-work age, I got serious. I didn’t want to waste my emotional energy dating a handsome architect only to discover he’d been a member of the Young Liberals, or invest three weeks into a guy before realising he was a misogynist who’d always insist on ordering (salad) for me on a date. I had a career and some travels to get started with.

And hell, call me a tragic, old-fashioned cliche but I just wanted an awesome, well-matched male human to do those things with — wich meant I had to try to resist my emotional pull towards loud-mouthed deadbeats and start listening to my brain, which knew my bad taste in men wasn’t doing me any favours.

Related content: I went on my first date in 13 years. It did not go well.

So, two bottles of cleanskin wine down, my friend and I wrote a checklist for our future life partners — and I vowed to only date men who ticked off every item.

Relationship-wise, it was the best thing I ever did.

“I wrote a checklist for our future life partners — and I vowed to only date men who ticked off every item.”

Before you shout me down as an unromantic spontaneity-hater with a cold dead robot heart, this wasn’t one of those insane checklists covering everything from hairstyle to jocks-or-boxers preference. This was a bare-essentials, non-negotiable list of qualities without which I knew (from experience) I’d end up miserable.

Top of the list: kindness. The other nine items ranged from honesty, to similar political alignment, to a love of travel.

Related content: The most ridiculous “who I will date” checklist you’ve ever seen.

My list worked like magic. Not immediately, because I soon started dating a sweet, skinny guy called Noel. He was funny and considerate, but I could tell he was nervous: in fact, he grew so awkward around me he would only kiss me on the cheek for a month.

The whole thing clearly wasn’t going to work out — he was worried I wouldn’t like what he had planned, so he’d always leave the plan-making for our dates to me — and eventually I called time, conceding my checklist hadn’t worked out the first time around.

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“Top of the list: kindness. The other nine items ranged from honesty, to similar political alignment, to a love of travel.”

I resolved to move on. So, at a gathering with some old school friends, I accepted a date with a well-groomed guy I’d once crossed paths with as a teenager.

He picked me up from my house. He took me to a slick, beautiful restaurant in a trendy part of town. He asked all the right questions, initiatived a democratic food-ordering process (no salad in sight), lent me a  CD I’d been wanting to get my hands on and sent a warm, gramatically correct follow-up text.

He was nice.

More than nice: he ticked off most of the checklist.

But there was a niggling problem. I couldn’t get excited at his suggestions of a second date. I kept forgetting to respond to his messages. I didn’t bother Facebook-stalking him when he requested to add me as a “friend”. I just didn’t… care.

” He took me to a slick, beautiful restaurant in a trendy part of town. He asked all the right questions, initiatived a democratic food-ordering process (no salad in sight), lent me a CD I’d been wanting to get my hands on and sent a warm, gramatically correct follow-up text.”

Then, some time after Noel and I had parted ways, there was a ring at my doorbell.

It was shy, skinny Noel, and he wanted to hang out one last time.

Pre-checklist, I would have said no. I would have expected some sweeping romantic gesture. I would have politely turned Noel away and awaited the next loud, plan-making, man-bun wearing ratbag to sweep me off my feet.

But a little part of my brain said: He’s kind! He’s honest! He loves travel, for God’s sake.

And luckily, a little part of my heart chipped in: You’ve missed this guy. He may not take you to the hippest restaurant in town but he’s funny and sweet and he buys your nanna flowers and it’s worth a go.

So I made plans with Noel.

“I made plans with Noel. Which led to us planning to move in together, which led to us planning to get married later this year.”

Those plans led to some more plans, which led to some more plans (by which time he’d learned to actually plan a date).

Which led to us planning to move in together, which led to us planning to get married later this year.

So to those who write off checklists as a romance-killer, I say: try it first.

Jot down the top five or ten “non-negotiable” qualities you need in a partner, and make yourself a promise to date outside your usual dating box but squarely within that list.

It’s not enough on its own, sure; some guys who tick every single checklist quality might leave you cold, chemistry-wise. But, if you have my luck, it might open your eyes to someone you’d otherwise assume you wouldn’t realise you’ll click with — and for once, your head and your heart might actually find themselves in agreement.

Related content: You might think it’s the right time for success, but sometimes life has other plans.

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