Ask Dr. Tracy

Developing Realistic Criteria


Achieving any goal has a lot to do with your ability to visualize that goal. Great athletes visualize themselves crossing the finish line first, getting a hole-in-one, or batting the ball out of the stadium.

However, it may be hard for you to visualize success in love if your previous love relationships didn't provide a good model of what you are looking for.

I'm going to give you a concrete, step-by-step method for figuring out what you want and need, so you'll have a positive love goal to visualize. It will be a process of self-discovery, and along the way, we may discover some preconceptions and misconceptions which have hampered your search for love in the past.

Unlike most of the articles in my Love Library, which you can read quickly and then go on, this one involves a little homework. It's actually a "Mate Selection Guide."

But there's no rush and no teacher grading you. So you can skim through the following exercises, see where they lead, and then decide for yourself what you want to do. If you decide to have some fun and complete the Guide, I promise it will be rewarding, but I suggest you take it an easy step at a time.

The first step is to write down a "wish list" for your ideal mate. Following a form similar to Exercise One below will help. I suggest you create a private file in your word processing software which contains the lists for all six Exercises in this Guide.

Since this Guide is for your eyes only, be totally, outrageously honest. Have fun. Describe your ultimate fantasy mate.

By making a list of what you want, you may be surprised to find that you get exactly that. Many clients of mine have reported that really focusing on what they wanted in a mate somehow caused that exact person to materialize in their lives.

You may be thinking, "But wait, I don't want to limit my choices!" I understand your concern, so trust me. The lists which follow are exercises, not stone tablets; they're meant to change and evolve, and you're creating them not because you're sure you know what you want, but because this process is an excellent way of finding out what you want.

And these lists work for everyone.

Even if you're sophisticated and highly experienced at love, you can benefit from some quiet reflection and note-making on what you've learned. Even if you feel that love is hopelessly subjective and undefinable -- even if you want to keep it that way -- making these notes will identify certain patterns which might prevent the repetition of past mistakes.

Learning to be wiser about love doesn't make it any less romantic. When that right person steps into your life, "chemistry" takes over, and lists and notes go flying out the window. These exercises only help you find love sooner and more surely, not change it.

So whether you start with a fully-fleshed-out fantasy mate or just a few wish-list desires, start with something, and start now.

My only request for describing your fantasy mate is that it be YOUR fantasy, not your family's or your friends' or Hollywood's. Avoid writing down something just because it reflects our society's belief system, such as "the man shouldn't be younger than the woman," or "the man always has to make more money than the woman." This also suggests you concentrate on inner qualities rather than things like physical appearance and social status.

Exercise #1: My Ideal Mate

Looks:




Personality traits:




Other Qualities:




What did you write down? Your list may be different, but in my seminars and private counseling, I've noticed that "Ideal Mate" lists generally follow a predictable pattern. Both men and women want a certain age range, plus a few generic good qualities like "Sense of humor" which everyone wants and no one could argue with. Then, abruptly, the lists diverge.

Women usually want "Financially secure" or "rich" (expressed more politely as "Well-educated," "Ambitious," or coded by occupational preferences).

Men usually want "Sexy" (expressed more politely as "Good Figure" or "Attractive," or coded into height/weight criteria).

In my seminars, this pattern provokes lots of snide remarks. The women accuse the men of being superficial (or worse), and vice versa. Hardly ever does anyone ask, "where does this pattern come from?"

The reason women want security and men want a sexy figure is biological. For the first million or so years of human existence, a man's role was to father as many offspring as possible and protect them from saber-toothed tigers. If a woman was able to have many offspring, and nurse them all, and had picked a strong man who could protect them, offspring survived.

In the Cro-Magnon "singles" world, women looking for strong and men looking for sexy were the ones who perpetuated our species, and they passed along and reinforced these preferences over countless generations. Saber-toothed tigers have been gone for less than 10,000 years -- not nearly long enough for our basic instincts to change.

The answer, of course, is to understand that the instincts exist, but they don't have to rule our lives. They're knee- jerk reactions, not absolute needs. The successful, well- paid woman manager doesn't really NEED a killer executive husband for security. She might actually be more happy with a sweet sculptor who's totally supportive of her career.

The old instincts still tug deeply, of course. So a warning to the men: that long-legged blonde with the big breasts may have gotten away with murder all her life because she's so beautiful, and she may sleep 'til noon, be very "into herself" and extremely expensive to maintain.

Similarly, a warning to the women: that succesful politician or real estate developer whose power just draws you to him like a moth to a flame may not be a paragon of sensitivity. Then again, he may have so little time for you, you'll never find that out.

For women, this programming goes beyond biological. Your Mom probably told you, "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man." The problem is, being married to a wealthy man can be hell.

Wealthy men usually know how to be very charming, but that charm is often as thin as a hundred-dollar bill. If he has inherited wealth and grew up as a rich kid, he's probably spoiled and insecure underneath. If he's a self-made man, he may be a driven, compulsive workaholic who's equally impossible to live with. Either way, you wind up with money, but you may learn the hard way about Mom's other words of wisdom: "Money can't buy happiness."

Am I stimulating your thinking about what you want? That's my purpose. You're the one who gets to decide, and there are no absolute "right" or "wrong" preferences -- only what's right for you. While you're mulling over all the enticing attributes of an ideal mate, let's move on to you.

In Exercise #2, list all the good qualities that you have to offer a potential mate. Making this list will keep you from selling yourself short. It's also good for your self-esteem and will help you crystallize exactly why you deserve a special person in your life. If you have trouble making a list, get a good friend to help, or ask yourself, "What are the good things my best friends would say about me?"

Be sure not to overlook "Special Skills." You may not think that making your own pasta or being an expert on the Civil War would attract anyone, but it makes you different and interesting. It makes you you.

Exercise #2: Why I'm So Terrific

Good Personality Traits:




Other Good Qualities:




Activities I can do:




Special Skills I possess:




Now, let's have a quick, interesting check on something. Very often we want to be judged on "internal qualities" -- our warmth, affection, supportiveness, etc., but we want to pick on the basis of "external qualities" -- tall, thin, sexy and rich. So compare your first and second lists. Does this apply to your lists?

Either way, I'm sure you have a list of good qualities long enough to have people standing to meet you. No one's perfect, though, so in the next Exercise, I want you to list some of the imperfections that make you human.

This list, of course, doesn't have to be as long, but see how objective you can be about yourself. What you write down is just between us.

Exercise #3: Why I'm Not Such A Bargain




We'll come back to this list later, but for the moment, it serves as a little reminder. When each of us finds someone who will love us for our good qualities, we naturally expect them to put up with our "other" qualities as well. Does that suggest anything to you?

Right. When you find your "Mr. or Ms. Perfect," they won't be. Perfect, that is. If you keep looking for someone perfect, you'll only find them when your eyesight fails of old age.

Imperfect is inevitable. The key question is: what are you willing to put up with and what are you not willing to put up with?

The answers to that question will become your threshold Standards for dating and mating. And the sooner you establish them, the better. If you wait until you're lost in the thrill of the chase or the heat of passion, it's too late. Start by listing, in the next Exercise, some likely imperfections you are willing to put up with.

Exercise #4: Five Things I'm Not Too Fond Of But Could Learn To Tolerate For The Right Person






OK, now that you've shown flexibility and a spirit of compromise, it's time to get tough. What are you not willing to put up with?

Exercise #5: Five Things I Can't Stand Under Any Circumstances






The last step in setting your standards is more fun. Instead of thinking about what you can't stand, now's the time to think about good qualities that are important to you in a potential mate -- those particular qualities that are so important, in fact, that you absolutely must have them.

You may want to review the qualities you've already listed in Exercise #1, your "Ideal Mate," and simply pick the most important. Or you may want to test yourself a little, by first writing down what you now think is most important after having completed the intervening exercises, and then check this list against #1.

Exercise #6: "Must-have's" -- Five Things I Can't Live Without






Good work! You now have your own private "Mate Selection Guide." These lists, and the thought process which went into them, can help you in many ways. For example, if you meet someone new who seems to be interested in you, you'll have a basis for determining what your interest should be, instead of automatically responding because you're flattered by the person's interest.

You now have a guide to help you decide whether or not to show an interest in that person down the hall at work who's always seemed kind of attractive -- or if you're not sure, what to find out about him or her from your co-workers in order to decide.

I suggest you re-visit these lists as you date and change them as experience dictates, while trying to follow the thought process we've just gone through here together.


Related Keywords: Your Requirements, Meeting People



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