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How I Learned to Let Go of My List and Find Love
by Nikki Sylvers
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minutes

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April 3, 2019

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7 Minute Read

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How I Learned to Let Go of My List and Find Love

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I have always been a list person. As a child, I would scribble lists of grocery items that my mama asked me to remember for our shopping trips. As a teenager, lists helped me navigate homework due dates and assignments, and in college, I used lists to keep me on track with my ever busy schedule of classes and work. I relished them, worked to perfect them, and edited them to reflect my ever changing goals and tasks. I crossed off things when they were complete and tracked my life progress through a flurry of notepad strikethroughs.

I guess it made sense, then, that when I started dating, I applied the same list making skills to create a master list of traits for my potential mate.

My first list was in 6th grade. I wrote down “My Future Husband.”

My first list was in 6th grade. I wrote down “My Future Husband” and underneath jotted down all the things I wanted him to be.

“Tall, funny, nice, a football player.”

As I grew up, I constantly updated my list to reflect the new things I was interested in or felt were valuable in a mate. In middle school, I was into punk music so, of course, my future husband had to like that too, and in high school, he definitely needed to be an honors student. As I wrote and rewrote my list I even started to list out my life.

“Married at 23, baby by 24, 5 kids, 2 houses.”

My life on paper reflected perfection, and I relished in plotting out the age at which I would get there.

My life on paper reflected perfection, and I relished in plotting out the age at which I would get there.

In college, I continued list making and subconsciously started dating according to the lists I made. I went through a phase (again) where all I dated were football players, followed then by business majors, and then basketball players. Every guy I dated was at least 6’2” because my list mandated that I needed someone over that height to feel secure. Date after date, I pursued guys who were, on paper, exactly what I wanted, they checked every box, but in real life, each relationship fizzled out and never lasted.

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When I turned 26, I decided to let go of lists. Tired with what I was getting, I figured, “Let me just go for what is out there and hope for the best.” It was fun, it was freeing, it was eye-opening. I met a lot of great guys and began to find out that there were a lot of qualities outside of my list that I wasn’t considering. I had nothing listed in terms of personality, how I wanted someone to treat me, or any other redeeming and lasting quality. As I began to date freely, I became more aware of these traits and learned what I liked and didn’t like. Even better, by putting down my list I was able to interact with a person in the moment, fully take in what they were saying, and watch their actions. This helped me to really discern the good from the bad.

As I continued this trend, I met many great men but no one that I was truly interested in. Then, that summer, I met an outlier. He actually was a mutual friend who became a coworker when I was hired into a new company. He was younger than me (a complete NO on the list), was exactly 5’10″ (another NO), and held a more junior role than me at work. While he was nice and a great friend, when it came to dating material — I knew he wasn’t the one.

Then, I met an outlier.

As time passed, and I grew more and more disillusioned with the dating prospects I did have, my coworker was apparently becoming more and more infatuated with me; he asked me out one night, and it was then that I had to make a decision. Do I hold out for the man who checks every box? Or, do I decide to try out the man who checks very FEW boxes on my list but in the months of hanging out has been a complete dream? Going against everything that was ingrained in my list making ways, I decided to take a chance.

Nikki Sylvers and her husband.

It was the best decision I could have made.

As I started to get to know my coworker in a romantic way, I realized that there was so much on my list that I didn’t know I wanted but truly needed. A man who was respectful of me and my time. A man who knew what he wanted from the jump (me) and let me know immediately. A man who loved and supported me in every way. A man who had a vision for his life and worked hard to make sure that it was a vision that included me.

Being with my coworker (now husband) was the greatest thing I could have ever done. By letting go of the idea of my wants, I discovered what I truly needed.

By letting go of the idea of my wants, I discovered what I truly needed.

I wonder, had I stopped writing lists much earlier, could I have avoided so much drama? I realized that my lists were holding me back instead of empowering me. Even the items on my “deal breaker” lists weren’t as important as I thought. How often do we talk about age once we are in a relationship? Or height? Financial situations and job titles change every day, so you can’t place your eggs in that basket. But what doesn’t change? A man’s true character. His integrity. His morals and values. Those are things that are needed.

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