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“I love your legs,” he said.

I smiled and took note of their general shape and form. Sure, they’re nice, but I’d never thought of them as a key element to my looks…

“I really love legs,” he added, as if there were people who looked on legs with disdain.

This went on for about three weeks. Not just the legs, but compliments to my habits and preferences. At first it was flattering and then it became unnerving. One day, feeling insecure about the glaring lack of depth between us, I asked, “What drew you to me?”

He was stumped. I clarified: “When you met me, what made you want to ask my number? What was the tipping point?”

More hemming and hawing. “I don’t know, I just did.” Then he proceeded to list off all the superficial things he liked about me. My appearance, my music and movie tastes, my vague interest in ‘travel’ and ‘adventure.’ My sex drive. He also commented on my frugality.

This was not the right answer. My ego was satiated but my heart was starved. I was merely a series of checks on a cursory list of dating needs. After nearly a month, the man had no idea who I was, and later proved he did not really care.

Checklists are natural

A huge part of the dating process is learning what you need in a lover through trial and error. You date someone who is a free spirit only to realize that you need someone more stable. You try your hand at dining with a vegan and discover a latent love for barbecued ribs. And so it goes…

The experts recommend formalizing this inner checklist. Barbara De Angelis published a great book called, “Are You the One for Me?” which walks you through the process, step-by-step. The Dating Optimist also advocates building a checklist for love. At times, the entire dating blogosphere appears to be in a global effort to make rules and formalize the chaos of dating; checklists are just one tactic in that arsenal.

After the experience above, I began to reconsider the checklist process. It turns out, even the most expert romantic strategies have their pitfalls…

Pitfall #1: A list that requires a bibliography

Romantic love is a huge commitment. When you put your heart on the line, you’re risking it all. You want to get it right so you pay close attention to the different people you attract and what catches your eyes. You take note of all the little quirks that either seems endearing or make you want to punch a baby.

Over time, the list of must-haves, red flags, ideals and deal breakers amasses naturally. It ticks off in your brain as you meet new prospects; as you reject and are rejected. It’s critical to know what matters most to you in a relationship but if left unchecked (ahem), this list can turn into a sieve so fine that not even the most polished sample can pass through it.

Pitfall #2: A Superficial Checklist

Each person wants to be wanted for their uniqueness and loved in spite of their flaws. They want to feel like the last piece in a challenging jigsaw puzzle, not like a universal adapter. That’s how my ex made me feel. I met his minimum requirements. I could almost hear the pencil scratching off each checkbox on the list, like nails across a chalkboard.

If you’re going to be picky and take the time to find the right match, be picky about the right things. Focus less on duplicates in your DVD collection and more on how your lover makes you feel, about the creativity your partnership will create and whether or not you can challenge each other and grow together.

Your Checklist (Pitfall-free!)

Despite this experience, I’m still a fan of the checklist. The only guidelines are that you take a deep breath, listen to your heart, and promptly put pen to paper.

When you’re done, go through the list and ask yourself, “Is this true? Is this what I really want?” Let the words resonate and then be ruthless. Scratch out the superficial and excessive so that you can focus on the things you really need and want.

Finally, make sure to review the list frequently. This keeps your positively-framed desires on top of mind. Pretty soon, you’ll find someone that fits, or mostly fits, this frame.

About The Author 
Alex Wise is blog contributor and dating consultant of Loveawake.com – the fast-growing online dating site. The site uses your responses to pair you with compatible Asian dates across SingaporeThailandPhilippinesMalaysia and etc, promising a high accuracy rate as long as you know what you want and are honest about it. He has been covering online dating, relationships, breakups and marriage niche since 2008.

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