The day after my friend’s wedding, she found herself on the floor of her bedroom going through a box of her old things.
That’s when she found it.
Sitting at the very bottom, folded tightly enough to suggest she was embarrassed by its contents, was a piece of paper torn out of a notebook.
Written on it was a list of all the things she wanted in a future partner. Specific things.
It included values, characteristics and interests, and ranked what was most important to least.
Once she had done that, she later told me, she realised how different this person – the one imagined on an A4 piece of paper – was to the people she was actually dating.
As New Age and frankly corny as her list sounded, I did wonder how anyone is meant to hit a target if they have no idea what that target looks like.
The question about love, however, is whether or not we can consider it a ‘target’ at all. Romantic relationships are so much about chance. I remember once recounting a series of awful dating experiences to a psychologist, and telling her that the common denominator was me. What was I doing wrong? How could I fix it?
She responded simply: “What if it’s got nothing to do with you at all? What if it’s just a string of bad luck?”
And she had a point.
If you’re single and you don’t want to be then you’ve probably just had a bit of bad luck. And aside from showing up to a date every now and then and showering regularly, there might not be a whole lot you can do.
But The List?
Just about all the women I know who are in happy, functional relationships wrote something that resembles The List.
I sat down one Friday night and wrote a list of the things that matter most to me in a future partner. Within the top three was the word ‘kind’ – a quality which I hadn’t, if I was entirely honest with myself, been actively seeking.
Six months later I came across someone who before I would’ve quickly dismissed as ‘not my type’. But then I thought about my list.
I’d been boarding a plane to New York, over and over again, when what I really wanted was to go to London, and then I couldn’t understand why New York inevitably disappointed me.
We often don’t give ourselves enough time to sit down and think about what we want; not just romantically, but when it comes to career, friendship or family.
There’s a lot about our lives that we can’t control.
But having The List tucked away in your bottom drawer means that when you find yourself walking around in circles, unsure of which way you’re meant to be going, you’ll discover that there’s a compass sitting right there in your back pocket.