I meet with people every day to help them on their journey to finding a partner in life. Often times my advice can only be so effective because of the expectations people have established over years of fantasizing about what they think is their perfect match. I’m here to help people realize that who they think they want to be with usually isn’t the right person for them, and unless they’re willing to accept that and compromise on their perceived ideal then they’re destined to be alone, unhappy or both. You may think that I’m only talking about physical characteristics, which is usually a large part of it, but people also get hung up over things like hobbies and lifestyle habits.

It’s not uncommon for people to have a long list of traits they want their partner to have, but they’re setting themselves up to fail. When you think about all the things you want in a partner, stop and consider why you think this aspect is important. Try to figure out the underlying value that you place on that specific attribute for example a request I’ve received a few times is for someone who plays an instrument. This is a very appealing skill, and yes it demonstrates dedication and hard work, passion, an appreciation of the fine arts, a love of music and they have the ability to serenade you and entertain future guests. All of these things are very important, but do they have to stem from someone playing an instrument? Or is it enough that your partner possesses these attributes in other forms? Of course this is just an example, playing an instrument maybe a deal breaker for you if for example you’re a composer and you want you and your partner to be able to create together. But this exercise is all about diving into your ‘must have’ traits and realizing why they have become important to you.

People tend to treat dating like job interviews, they go down their checklist of what they’ve predetermined to be important but in the process they don’t end up actually learning about the person sitting in front of them. What’s important to your date? What do they think are the noteworthy things about them? When you’re busy focusing on your needs there’s the chance you will have alienated your date by not being an active listener and truly engaged in conversation. By the time you’ve decided they’re good enough for you to go out with again they’ve already decided you aren’t worth their time.

The best dating advice I can give to those who are serious about finding a life partner is to let go of your imagined ideal partner and instead have meaningful conversations with people, even if initially you think they aren’t your type. The truth is, you never really know. The person who is kind caring and challenges you intellectually may be right around the corner but your unrealistic preconceptions may keep you from talking with them or getting to know them. Instead, check your priorities and take the leap. You’ll be glad you did.