Today at my therapist’s office, I spent my hard-earned money listing the qualities of my ideal mate.
The list is long and comprehensive, and in some ways purposefully constructed to make the bar as high as possible. It has physical traits: he should be tall, big, with facial hair. It has skills: he should be good with money, able to solve problems, highly educated. It has attitudes: he should be impulsive, playful, adventurous, driven and ambitious. It has values: he should be service-oriented, family-centered, with his grounding coming from himself and his relationships with others. He should love my (Pakistani) parents, and my (almost all non-Pakistani) friends. He should be laid back but not a doormat, assertive but not a bully, ambitious but not a kiss-ass.
I think the list is short and coherent. My therapist thinks it’s lengthy and contradictory.
In her usual balanced voice, she proclaimed, “It would be difficult to find all these qualities in someone. You would have to compromise.” I wasn’t even remotely convinced. No compromise.
So I did what any woman would do. I got out, shaking my head, convinced she didn’t get me, and called a friend. A very wise friend.
He wasn’t always like that. In fact, he transformed from Don Anwaro to a Buddha with a six-pack, engaged to a woman he deeply loves. One day, out of the blue, his beating heart collapsed, and he fell to the ground gasping for air. Literally. He spent the next months in the hospital attached to a ventilator. The chances of him surviving were very thin. And then he came back. It’s a miracle.
He has seen the relationship between life and death and tread that fragile bridge. His perspective on life is larger and grander than the myopic world in which we live.
After patiently listening to my list, he said, “I had a list. My fiancée is very different from that, and I simply couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled.”
Jesse’s fiancée is a star. She stood by his bedside as he battled death. She stayed committed and loved him even when the probability of him getting up the next morning was smaller than two percent. She kept a brave, smiling face when all seemed to be going wrong. She rallied and organized his friends so they could channel their love to him in difficult times. She took time off from work and stayed with him and his family as things fluctuated. And then happily agreed to marry him as he recovered.
Jesse was gentle and non-judgmental of me. “Keep a list if that makes you happy, but know that the focus of your life should be on you. Not on him.”
That made me think. I did put a lot of power in this proverbial mate’s bucket. Perhaps I was asking the wrong question. Perhaps instead of focusing on how he should act, look, and think, I should ask how he should make me feel?
The process was quite similar. Here too, I had a list—a list of how I want to feel in the perfect relationship. From the question, ”With my partner I want to feel….” I trimmed a long list to three qualities.
The discovered reality was beautifully simple: with my partner, I want to feel grounded, protected and stimulated.
In such a state my body relaxes, my breath becomes steady and deep, my heart opens, and my head buzzes with creative ideas. With him, I feel alive and open. I desire to sit with him, build something with him—a home, a family, a project, my passion, his passion. The future looks exciting, something to look forward to.
This list isn’t as horrifyingly long as the previous one. It not only puts the power back in my hands, it also makes me feel more hopeful that I would meet someone who makes me feel this way. When I meet an eligible man I do not automatically run him through my list anymore, belittling his existence to some degree.
Instead, I spend time with him to see how he makes me feel. I give more fully of my presence to him. This makes me a better human being and cultivates a better relationship with people. The longing for the partner makes me want to connect more deeply to my reality and my body, so I am more attuned to how I feel. This list makes me happier.
I sit with many a friend in whining sessions as they pour their lists out. My friends are special and beautiful and amazingly sexy. No list of mate qualities is long enough for them. After all, these lists represent all that they desire. Yet I see drooping shoulders, sense broken hearts, and hear cracked, unsure voices as they voice these lists.
But instead of judging them, I pass along what I know. I say what Jesse said to me:
“The universe is wiser and more benevolent than any of us. Put the energy into you, for what you want is what you deserve in your life. He will come. And the list of qualities he has, may just surprise you.”
Noor Masood is a spirited neo-hippie, a lover of all creation and a devoted student of spirituality. After graduating from Harvard University in International Development, she worked with the United Nations, World Bank, and Harvard University. When she is not researching gender, writing about politics or people, or teaching leadership and empowerment, she can be found learning Indian Classical singing, painting, teasing her family and friends, and meditating. You can connect with her on her new blog NoorMasood.
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Asst Ed: Lori Lothian
Ed: Kate Bartolotta