Like most unmarried young adults in my age bracket, I have a list of the things that I want in a significant other. Over the years this list has evolved from a paragraph to four pages single spaced in Times New Roman font. The list has been influenced by many things including past experiences, the observation of relationships and marriages, and the couples I’ve seen in therapy. It’s updated each year and undergoes a makeover with new details and ideas of what would be best. The thing about growing older is that it’s easier to become more set in your ways. As a result of this, the list of things you don’t want to put up with becomes longer and longer. There’s less room for flexibility because you feel like you’re on a countdown and you don’t want to have to try it multiple times to get it right. There’s less patience and a more purposeful intent. So the list sits there. Collecting dust on the hard drive of my computer. The funny thing is that while I rarely take the time to refer back to it, I still know and remember what it contains. The challenge with making such a list is that you have to leave room for reality. No one is going to be perfect and that’s something that I’ve always taken into consideration. Rules that were absolutes have not become preferences instead of deal breakers. Of course there’s the basics; love, respect, won’t beat me black and blue, and can be assertive. But then there are other things that would just make life easier in the long run. Everyone doesn’t come from a traditional two parent home and while that might make life a bit easier, it’s not something that I expect. The great thing about the list is that it lets you make decisions about people pretty easily. You can cut out a lot of unnecessary drama and save yourself heartbreak and time because you cut them off at the beginning because they didn’t meet criteria. One double edged sword in my case is that I’ve met my list. An individual who embodies all four pages single spaced of expectations, criteria, and preferences. Which, by the way, is not an easy feat. While I would never go as far to say that this person is the embodiment of perfection, I will say that they have some core character traits that align perfectly with the list. It’s been one thing to meet the list and another thing to interact with the list and have conversations. Does The List know that they are the list? No. And the jury is still out on whether or not they’ll ever get that information. However, maybe that’s the nature of the list. The fear of messing up a perfect fantasy with an imperfect reality that results in the admiration from a distance without action.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had conversations with women in which they talk about a man’s good traits and bad traits but then say that something that he does or believes in is an automatic deal breaker for them and thus, he is no longer under consideration for anything other than a distant friend. I believe in standards. I have them and for the most part, I stick to them. But the common theme that has been the deal breaker in conversations with numerous women is that the man does not have a college degree or above. The reasons given for this blatant disregard for anyone who doesn’t meet this standard is that there will be nothing to talk about if the man isn’t educated. In today’s society, so much weight is placed on where you went to school, what your grades were, what your degree was in, if you finished college. This has happened to the extent that there are people who honestly think that going to college is an indication of intelligence. Maybe it’s the homeschooler in me, but I honestly think that having an education is not an indication of intelligence at all. At all. These days you don’t even have to be smart to make good grades. I’m definitely a witness to that. You just have to know the system and how to find the right resources to get the information that you need. While I don’t necessarily consider myself “educated,” I probably somewhat fit the criteria for that particular term. I can honestly say that the many of the smartest and most intelligent people I know do not have college degrees. People who think outside the box tend to make more money and are more successful than those who don’t. Education is a box. My point in saying all this is that you miss out on a lot when you immediately disregard someone because they don’t meet a particular educational requirement. College is honestly not for everyone and there are plenty of people who have made millions without stepping foot inside a college classroom. It’s about the desire to learn and the ability to find the resources you need to get where you want to go. These days, almost everything you would get in a college classroom is accessible on some level through the internet at a much lower price. There are so many better things you can use to screen potential significant others but I don’t think that highest education level should be one of them.
If I wasn’t in the counseling/social work field one of my ultimate dream jobs would be to live in a little apartment off of a library and just read books all day. However since that is so obviously unrealistic, my second job choice would be a private investigator. The character trait of being nosy was directly passed down to me genetically from my mother and it has not diminished in my adult years. I learned from an early age how to look things up in courthouses and then later online. I remember looking up property deeds with my mom and finding out how much people paid for their houses (it’s public record). I think that my nosy personality is the reason why TV shows like Catfish are so intriguing to me. How someone can be in a relationship for years with someone who they’ve never met or even seen on Skype or Facetime. It requires a lot of trust that I do not possess. Come to think of it, part of my job as a therapist is to be nosy—but with a specific purpose in mind. I ask “nosy” questions because they inform the techniques and interventions that I use in the therapy room. I also like discovering information outside the realm of my profession. My friends tease me that I need to acquire more information the old fashioned way–by just asking people. But I digress. My point is that sometimes it actually pays to be nosy. You can find out a LOT about someone by a) talking to them, and b) doing a simple Google search. And who knows, you might be able to save yourself from a lot of hurt and unexpected surprises if you can do it before your feelings get involved. Kinda like a preliminary screening. But maybe that’s just me….