Why You Should Never Imagine Your Ideal Partner (Or Make A Spreadsheet About Them)

Last week I spotted a single friend with a mystery man. A very handsome mystery man.

“So, who was that bloke you were with the other night?” I asked her later, wiggling my eyebrows up and down suggestively.

“He’s just a friend!” she said. “I’ve known him for 20 years!”

“And has he secretly loved you all that time?”

She laughed. “No way. I’m not his type. He goes for older women with dark hair and big boobs.” (She’s skinny and blonde.)

“He’s not my type, either. He has bad breath and sometimes, when he talks, bits of spit fly out. I could never kiss that mouth.”

If you’re currently looking for someone to spend the rest of your life with, chances are you have a partner wish-list. Potential-spouse criteria. An Excel spreadsheet with columns labelled “Yeah baby!” and “Yuck no thank you”.

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Don’t try to deny it. I bet it’s long, and even though the first few items seem quite reasonable, things get a bit weird towards the end, don’t they:

Fit and toned

Good in bed

Loves to travel


Likes dogs

Well groomed (i.e. no pubes)

Doesn’t take too long to get ready

Wants two children (one boy, one girl)

Chews food quietly

Gives money to charity (but not too much)

Doesn’t crack knuckles

Aged between 27 and 29

Owns a yacht (or at least a jet ski)

Remember Jono Pitman, one of the grooms from season 2 of Married at First Sight? He shot to stardom for remarking that his “wife” Clare was “basically the opposite” of what he was expecting. “She’s not what I ordered,” he whispered. He obviously had a (completely superficial) lady checklist.

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I know it’s normal to be attracted to certain types of people. But also: STOP BEING SO FUSSY OR YOU WILL BE ALONE FOREVER.

I love to-do lists.

Christmas lists can be useful. Guest lists are fine. But partner-criteria lists are BAD.

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When I was single and desperate searching for that special someone, I put zero thought into what kind of person I wanted. Maybe because I was extremely unpopular and beggars can’t be choosers, but then again maybe I just didn’t really care.

I mean, I probably did care on some subconscious level. But I didn’t have a whole lot of specific boyfriend characteristics in my head. My dating strategy was simple:

  1. Talk to man.
  2. Dislike man? Leave. Like man? Stay.

Yes, I must have been basing my “like/dislike” on something, but I’m pretty sure I used the Dennis Denuto method: “It’s the vibe, and, ah, no, that’s it. It’s the vibe. I rest my case.”

If forced, I suppose I could come up with plenty of things I find attractive. I like men who don’t talk exclusively about themselves or offer unsolicited advice. I like men who don’t have goatees.

I like men who get dirty at work but then come home and have showers so they don’t make the bedclothes filthy. I like men who think real boobs are better than fake boobs.

But I would never dismiss a potential partner just because they didn’t “tick all the boxes”.


My first boyfriend was a smoker. (I think cigarettes are super gross.) He ate meat pies in bed. (I’m a tidy vegetarian.) He lived 300km away. (I hate driving.)

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On paper, he did not seem like a good match. And I definitely wasn’t his ideal woman. One of the first things I ever said to him was, “I don’t like nature!” He worked on a farm and loved being outdoors and went camping a lot. Nature was his favourite thing in the whole world.

But we ignored our unticked boxes and went out anyway, and five years later we were married. What if we’d said no to each other right at the start, just because of unmet criteria?

I watch lots of dating shows. When asked, “And what are you looking for in a potential partner?” contestants usually say things like, “Oh I’m not picky. I’m just looking for someone who’s taller than me and likes cats and can make vegan lasagne. And they have to have awesome nunchuck skills, of course.”

But the other day a contestant on the program I was watching said, simply: “A heartbeat.”

Excellent answer, well done. Keeping your options open -- I like it.

If I was single right now and someone said, “Describe your perfect man,” I’d say, “He’d be … someone with low standards.”

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Maybe my fussy single friend should be more lenient when it comes to dental hygiene, otherwise she’ll really only be able to date dentists or people with dentures. That’s limiting.

I say -- give someone with bad breath a chance! (But make sure he owns a yacht. Or at least a jet ski.)