Ditch Your Dating Checklist

When I was 20 years old, I had it all figured out. Like most people my age, I had a plan–a timeline really–of exactly how things should go and when they should happen.

I, of course, like any good Christian girl, submitted my timeline to God. I passed Him the memo, you know, just so He could stay in the loop.

Here’s what my plan consisted of:

Graduate college at 21. Score my dream job in New York, preferably working for some type of political non-profit, making peanuts, but not caring because I was doing what I loved.  Travel the world (you know with all the money I wasn’t making). Oh, and I was going to be married by 21. That’s right upon turning 21, I would have a ring on my finger and a church booked for the big day.

My husband wasn’t going to be just any man. He was to be a very specific type of man. I had a plan, remember? And with that plan also comes a list. It was the list of qualities, characteristics, and attributes I wanted in my future husband. It was quite the checklist really. It went something like this…

He would be tall, like 6’3″ tall or taller

He would make a good living doing some type of normal job

He wouldn’t care if we had kids or not

He would drink martinis (don’t ask me)

He would bow to my every whim

He would be my spiritual guru, guiding me in all things Jesus-ly

He would let me decorate the house however I wanted

He’d be perfect

Nice list, huh? Well let me tell you, that is not what I got. Like so many of us, who plan and re-plan, and then casually submit those plans to God, we are shocked when reality doesn’t line up with our expectations.

If ever there was a time to throw out the checklist, it is when we are dating. Lists are harmful and are not what God has in mind for us. Here’s why:

Lists are really a collection of what we think we want or we think we need.

Lists are limiting. They do not allow room for God to do something different (at least not without Him rattling us a bit).

Lists are us, telling God what we want, instead of us asking God what He has.

Lists are nothing more than unattainable expectations which inevitably lead to letdown and possibly heartache.

Lists prevent us from seeing all of the possibilities around us because often, if it ain’t on the list, we don’t want any part.

Lists lie to us and tell us that if we want something bad enough, we can conjure it up, instead of seeking God to bring us the desire of our hearts.

Lists lock us into “no mode” because we feel we can’t move forward, take a chance, break an item on said list, without compromising the whole thing.

Lists are usually a representation of our flesh, not the Spirit.

Lists deny us the magic of love evolving naturally and romantically, the way God intended.

You see, I have known far too many young men and women who have limited themselves, and God, by thinking that unless items 1-23 are met, there ain’t no point. I’ve seen women turn down a date from a perfectly wonderful, Godly man because he didn’t have the “right job” or he wasn’t a bonafide hottie. I’ve seen men fail to ask a woman out because she wasn’t flirty enough or she was too flirty.

My husband and I have often joked when hearing about such instances: “What are these ladies looking for? Brad Pitt with the heart of Jesus?” And “What are these dudes looking for? Angelina with the heart of Jesus?”

So often women (especially) and men think they know exactly what they want, but have never stopped to consider who God might have waiting in the wings.

My husband didn’t fit everything on my checklist. He’s tall, but not 6’3″. He’s an entrepreneur, meaning there’s no such thing as a “normal job.” He so wanted kids. He isn’t responsible for my spiritual growth, rather he encourages me in it. He has strong opinions about home decor. He is not my whipping boy and he doesn’t like martinis. But is he perfect? Well, perfect for me.

I’m glad I ditched my list. Otherwise, I might have missed out.

Do you have a checklist? It’s okay if you do. No judgement. Let’s hear what’s on it? Did you once have a list, but you threw it out? Why?

image props, yo.

37 thoughts on “Ditch Your Dating Checklist”

  1. I used to have a checklist: gets all of his/her music recommendations through Pitchfork, can put up with my mental illness, could practically live in a bookstore, looks like either Zooey Deschanel (for a girl) or James Franco (for a boy), etc. Now there only just a few things my partner must meet: loves Jesus, supportive, and some one I can be myself around.

  2. I have two things on a “must have” list: Must love Christ more than they would ever love me. Be the kind of person to me that they would want me to be to them. (In a sense, it’s a variation on Matthew 22:37-39.)

    Outside of that, I have “preferences” that I would ask God. Red hair. Brown eyes. Loves Rush (the band, not the blowhard talk show host). Understands the quirks of someone who is a writer. Appreciates Monty Python and a good pot of chili.

  3. Amen! Typically dating lists like this are detrimental to relationships. I used to have one and let’s just say I didn’t date very much in high school or college.

    Then I wised up and used the “list” my dad gave me. 1) Does she go to church? 2) Does she cook?

    I married an incredible single mom and so went from bachelor to stepdad in the blink of an eye.

    When people ask me how I “knew” I just tell them: She likes God, country music and beer more than I do and she’s a knockout cook. I put a ring on that finger after 6 weeks and we just celebrated 6 years in March.

  4. Love love love this! My husband gets so frustrated by women who want to marry a ‘Man of God’ (capital letters deliberate!) because they mean a prophet or a church leader! So stupid because a true man of God may well be serving Him in the office, or the shop, or the factory! My husband is about 2 inches shorter than I would like but his Mum smoked through her pregnancy so we joke about how that stunted him a little and slightly modified God’s original blueprint for him!

    1. Anna,
      Greta point you made. So many wonderful men (and women) are serving the Lord in the unexpected or less-desirable places. How dare we think God doesn’t want one of those individuals to be our spouse.

  5. I did create a list a handful of years ago in my first year of college, but I managed to lose that piece of paper at some point. I don’t know that I ever really thought it was that realistic. At this point, I’ve really only got three requirements: 1. He would be a Christian. I don’t expect him to be a Super Christian, but he must love Jesus. 2. He would be a considerate, caring, and friendly individual (you know, those general qualities that make for a decent human being). 3. He would have an appreciation for history. History is one of my major passions, and I find it much easier to be friends with men who at least can appreciate much of what came before us. I don’t think I’m asking for too much.

    1. Nope, you sure aren’t! I love history myself and I would be thrilled meeting a Christian girl who did the same. :)

  6. This one made me laugh Nicole: “He would drink martinis (don’t ask me)” LOL

    Here was my list:

    1. Have $20 million in the bank by the time I was 40 years old. That’s right $20 million, I had high goals!

    2. Marry a nice Egyptian girl since I’m an Egyptian-American and my parents would have loved for me to marry someone from my heritage.

    3. Travel to all the countries in the world that I wanted to visit by the time I was 40.

    How things actually turned out:

    1. I don’t have $20 million and I don’t even have one 100th of that in my bank account

    2. I married an insanely awesome half-Mexican half-white chick that I’m in love with :-)

    3. I’ve only visited one other country in the past 10 years and that was Mexico. Not sure that even counts.

    Go figure: God had other plans for my list :-)

  7. I used to have it until I threw it away in 2009.. in all honesty I just want someone who will accept my eccentric nature and who will encourage me and oh she must at least love sport( that will be a good added extra)

  8. I have to make a slight disagreement with you. I have a list of must haves that I will not get away from. It is very short and very important.
    1. That the person is a Christian!
    2. That the Lord has not specifically told me no on that person.
    In all fairness I do not think that this is the type of list that you were talking about. Great post. The great thing is my girlfriend already meets both of these requirements.

    1. I’m glad you disagree! I think the two items on your list are totally worthwhile. I wouldn’t even call that a list so much as priorities or values. Luckily, they are things that God values too, so chances are they are on His list too. Sounds like you have a good girlfriend too. Hang onto her.

  9. Okay, confession time – I have a list! But I think it’s a very reasonable sort of list, perhaps things that almost go without saying? Here goes;
    Someone I’m attracted to. Not necessarily a bona fide hottie, but if I fancy him, it’s all good.
    Someone who makes me laugh. Life without laughter is a dull place to be.
    Someone who’s taller than me. And I’m a good 5ft9 so this does rule out a few guys (but perhaps this is the item on my list I’m prepared to be a little flexible with)
    Someone who’s going to push me closer to God. This should really have been first on my list! It’s the first thing I look for in a guy and one thing I will not budge on (and in fact I’ve just turned down a guy who met every other item on the list but wasn’t a Christian. REALLY not easy to do, since he was amazing and lovely in almost every single way. But this is a non-negotiable)
    And the one bonus item? Someone who is as apathetic about football (soccer) as me. And in England, these men are few and far between! So I’d let this one slide, y’know, if I fell in love ;)

    1. Rachel,
      Totally reasonable list. Seriously. Although, I will say that before I was married, I too, thought I would find a man who would “push me closer to God.” I thought that’s what marriage would produce. The reality is, which I realized so early on in marriage, that I am solely responsible for my spiritual walk. My husband can encourage me, guide me, pray for me, even keep me accountable, but ultimately it falls on me. He can’t push me, as it were.

      P.S. I scored a guy (no pun intended) who doesn’t like sports either. I consider it a huge bonus!

  10. I stumbled across your blog about a month ago and have really been enjoying it! This post is quite interesting (and the comments quite amusing). I’ve had people tell me that God will have me marry who I least expect, and others tell me to create a list so I have a clearer idea of what kind of guy to watch out for. I think I’ve decided on a limited, five item list.
    1. Loves Jesus, and I see the evidence of that love in his life. He doesn’t need to be a super Chirstian (I’m not!), but I want to know he follows Jesus/God’s word in actions; I should see some fruit of the Spirit in his life.
    2. Makes a decent living or is driven to do so. I want to be able to stay at home with future children.
    3. No serious addictions (alcohol, drugs, pornography) or serious obsession with watching sports or playing video games
    4. Opens my car door – it’s just how I was raised, and it actually throws me off when a date doesn’t open my car door
    5. Cannot, absolutely cannot, drive under the speed limit in the left lane. That is an automatic deal breaker.

  11. I used to have a list, too, when I was single. It grew longer with every guy I dated, mostly with things I did NOT want in a man. One night, I gave God the list and in exchange asked for a godly man. Two weeks later, He introduced me to my husband, who had also just submitted his desire for marriage and decided to be happy as a single man serving God. Eighteen months later we were married. And God did include a lot of the positive things on my list, including blue eyes and dark hair, just like Pierce Brosnan (only much more handsome, IMHO) :-).

    1. My husband and I have similar stories. As soon as we “gave up” our ideal image of what a spouse was suppose to be, we started dating. 9 months later we were married. I love those types of stories and I think they help prove the point that God doesn’t care so much about our lists, as He does blessing us with an amazing spouse we don’t deserve.

  12. Growing up, especially as a teenager, I heard things like, “you need to make a list to let God know what you desire in a mate.” I cannot tell you how many times that list changed. My last list was updated in 2007. When I started talking to the man that would become my husband, I looked at the list and marked off the qualities that he had and wondered about the ones he “didn’t”. I felt that if I didn’t go by that list, I wasn’t walking by faith. Boy, was I wrong and I’m SO glad I was. I don’t know where that list is; it got lost somewhere. I tried looking for it but couldn’t find it. Thank You Lord! God put the man in my life that I definitely needed. God knows my frame and how I am made and for that I’m thankful!

    1. April,
      Love your sweet testimony! It is so true–God knows us so intimately, so completely, how can we imagine He would not bring us exactly the person we need? Thank you for sharing.

  13. I made a list after getting out of a horribly abusive relationship and prayed over it earnestly. Granted, I didn’t write things down like, “He has to be exactly this tall, with movie star looks and impeccable taste in cheeses”. Yeah, that’s kind of silly. I started my list based on Bible verses that a husband should be. That he would be the spiritual leader and warrior God wanted for me and my family. After writing down what God instructed a husband to me, I asked God to give me very specific descriptions and signs to know when I have found my husband and I prayed that no man would come into my life that was not my husband. And God did just that.

    God led me to the man He wants me with and it turned out to be the last person I ever expected to be with. I couldn’t stand him at first, but as I got to know him we learned that our lives had been intertwined before we were ever born. Now, I can’t imagine my life without him. So, in a way, lists aren’t entirely a bad thing. It depends on where your heart is. If it is with God, His desires become your desires.
    That’s just my little view I guess. Haha! It was an interesting article to read. :)

  14. I had a list and a guy that pretty much met every criteria on the list and yet I’m single now. It has also caused me to turn down some pretty great but not necessarily Brad Pitt look-alike guys in the process. I still occasionally revert back to the list when I feel controlling–especially after particularly bad dates! But I’m trying to commit myself every day to making the most of the freedom of single life and secretly hoping that God will lead me to a great (attractive!) guy who will go stride-for-stride with me in my journey, both spiritual and literal, one day. And I’m trying to teach myself to trust God that he will lead me exactly where I need to be and to who needs to be there with me. It’s hard but I have a feeling he’s got way bigger plans for me than I do for myself–he’s already brought me to some pretty awesome, crazy places! Why wouldn’t he do that with my relationships, too? Love your thoughts, Nicole–thanks for your honesty!

  15. Nicole! I just stumbled across your blog from Bianca Olthoff’s website, and I LOVE your stuff!! This post is awesome!! I can totally relate to the “planning for God” and submitting our timeline to him. I actually just wrote a blog post about it in my own life with dating/engagement, and it is always awesome to hear the lessons God teaches us through other people and their experiences! Fantastic post and awesome blog here!! I can’t wait to read more! :)

  16. I started keeping a list just a few months ago and I think a list is a GREAT idea, provided that it has the right things on it. My list helps me to stay focused on what is important when I am looking for my future husband. Here are some of the items on my list:
    1. He needs to be a strong Christian
    2. He needs to have a strong interest in missions (I fully intend on going into missions in the future)
    3. He needs to have a career that would work well on the missions field.
    4. He needs to have a drive for success.
    5. He needs to share some of my hobbies

  17. HAHA! ok I had to laugh at ‘6ft in his socks’ Let face it Ladies and Gents we all had a bit of a list. I had to let go of my list ,its funny now but man was I a little dumb.

    1) Be really super smart, had to be in university so we were guaranteed really intellectual conversations
    2) Had to be really sporty, so I could brag about how sporty he was and he would come along to all the sports I play so I could show off in front of him.
    3) Go to church (most of the time)
    4) They had to be a certain something that was hot about him, like face, eyes, chest etc… so I could brag to everyone how I had arm candy.
    5) He had to be a bit of a practical man i.e. help me fix something , build something together or help me save money on something. Basically this is so I could brag about how practical my man was; to annoy other women ; p

    The end

  18. Beyond loving Christ.. I would just like to find someone who is KIND.. and not abusive, broken, not over their past, and/or on the rebound, not knowing what they want, and will NOT pull the disappearing act!

  19. My only absolute, unshakeable requirement is that he love and follow Jesus. It would be great if he is willing to homeschool (I had a very bad experience in public school) and I would love it if he were willing to foster and adopt older kids (I feel called to do so) but if God really wants me to marry someone without the last two, then I’m content.

  20. List:
    Someone tall
    Loves Jesus
    Isn’t demanding
    has eyes only for me
    has interesting conversations and easy to talk to.
    will love my daughter as his own

  21. I have a list, but for a while decided to dispense without for a while. Bad idea! I ended up dating a man for several months and almost getting engaged to him. He was a Christian, a member of my church, but he did not treat me very well. He told me I was pretty only once during the 5 months we dated. He rolled his eyes any time I stated an opinion. He hated kids. He criticized my cooking, housekeeping, and career choice (I’m a teacher). He talked about how when we got married, we needed to get rid of all of my furniture (my grandpa died and left me a bed that had been in the family for 200 years, but he didn’t understand why I wanted to keep it). I tried to find him attractive but just couldn’t- he made my skin crawl. I had second thoughts, but I had read so many Christian dating articles and books that indicated that I expected far too much for my future husband. I finally stumbled onto my list and wondered how things had gone so wrong! Was I really going to marry a man who I didn’t even really like (and probably didn’t even like me very much, even though he planned to propose) just because he was a Christian and he deemed fit to date me? My list isn’t incredibly specific, but I’m certainly not dating without it anymore.

  22. Dear Nicole: Please come to my church and pass out this article. I ask you to do it because if I did it, I’d be shot down by eyelasers. Women are at least somewhat resistant effects. Also, I’m a coward :D

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