Create a Must Have List to Recognize Mr/Ms Right

MUST HAVE LISTThe last blog discussed how you have to first know yourself well before you can recognize the “right” person for you in a romantic relationship. I hope you have taken the time to begin to think about those qualities that fit you. These qualities become the “air” you breathe when you are with that special person day in and day out. What do you need to experience in the other person to be a good match? Most people know what doesn’t work for them in a relationship but haven’t thought as much or clearly about the positive qualities they need for a fulfilling and nourishing relationship.

Turn negative qualities you never want to experience again into positive qualities for your Must Have List. Examples:

  1. Someone who cheats on his or her taxes or persistently lies is more likely to be dishonest in other ways. Restate this positively as ”Has Honesty and Integrity”
  2. A “couch potato” would not see travel as an adventure. Nor would they likely want to hear about someone’s experiences. Restate this positively as “Enjoys traveling and seeks new adventures”.
  3. Someone who has a small “comfort zone” might look like they do not grow intellectually or emotionally as much as others. They often are more easily disturbed by even small, life situations. If they don’t actively work on this, the comfort zone remains the same or shrinks as one ages. Turn this attribute around into “Easily adapts to new situations or is open to new situations or unexpected circumstances”.
  4. A person with anger issues presents a difficult challenge in relationships. The positive side to this attribute would be someone who is aware of their feelings and has learned to deal with anger and frustration and demonstrates this. They would express themselves clearly and before things build up inside them. They would be an “Effective Communicator”.
  5. One who drinks excessively or uses drugs to excess presents a difficult challenge to a happy ending. If this is something you never want to deal with again, turn it around into: “Doesn’t drink or uses drugs at all” or “Drinks without excess and exhibits no negative effects from their use.”

Some qualities are not necessarily negative, just different from what you want. They should still be on your Must Have List in a clearly stated manner. For example:

  1. There is a difference between an athletic person and one who enjoys inside activities, such as going to the movies or playing games. The distinction is important as it will determine how you spend your time together as a couple.
  2. Someone who wants to spend a lot of time together as a couple would not be quite as easy a match with someone who requires a lot of alone time.
  3. Conflicting spiritual or religious orientations can create significant friction in a relationship, especially if the couple wants children one day.
  4. Someone who is very frugal with money may struggle with someone who spends more freely.
  5. Someone who very much wants children one day versus someone who either does not, or doesn’t “care” one way or another. How involved might a person be as a parent if they did not care about having children to begin with? Do you want an active partner in child rearing or are you willing to be the only active parent?

The Difference between a MUST HAVE item and a STRONG PREFERENCE:

Important: It is crucial to recognize the difference between an item that should be on your Must Have List versus a strong preference. When a must have item is missing often if feels like a hole inside you from not having that quality in someone. You can feel empty inside. It may feel like a strong desire to experience a certain quality in someone, but one is less likely to feel the lack of it the majority of the time. Usually a Must Have item does not go away over time. We may try not to focus on it or play it down, but it most often comes up again and again. If you NEVER want to repeat a negative experience, then restate that attribute as a positive item on your Must Have List. A strong preference is not as likely to produce that empty feeling.

Putting the Must Have List Together:

I recommend no less than 5 Must Have List items and no more than 15. This makes your list more manageable and realistic. Between 5 and 10 Must Have Items is even better. List each item in the positive. Be able to recognize the item when you see it or experience it in dating. And remember the distinction between a Must Have item and a Strong Preference item.

I also recommend that you practice recognizing the Must Have List items in other people, even if they are strangers. This is great practice for recognizing the attribute in dating.

Remember, ideally speaking you are making your decision about a relationship based upon the qualities you recognize as must having in the other person. In principle, you are saying that if that particular quality is not present, it is a deal-breaker for you; that you do not want to be in a relationship without this quality because of how you will feel. You may always choose to override this missing quality, however, the impact of this decision will be felt in the relationship. You are basically saying this person is so important to you that you are willing to accept that this quality is likely to remain a constant in this relationship. You are also saying that you are willing to experience the effects of this missing quality. Do not make the common mistake of believing the person will somehow change over time. This rarely happens.

Action Items:

  1. Show your friends your Must Have List. Do they agree with you in terms of how they know you and your dating experiences?
  2. Really think about the difference between a Must Have item and a Strong Preference.
  3. Make a list of past relationships. List the deal-breakers you now see, as well as the Must Haves. Check this list against your Must Have list for accuracy and to see if you missed any items.

Before creating your Must Have List, be sure to read the last blog: DATING 101: YOU MUST KNOW YOURSELF FIRST TO RECOGNIZE MR/MS RIGHT


About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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