Friday, August 8

Considering Unwants

I once met a guy quite a while back and since we were both single at the time the conversation inevitably turned to marriage (not to each other, of course).

We were similar in quite a few ways. We had the same expectations and strategies, the same reasons for notbeingmarriedyet. There was one big difference though: where I was complaining about a lack of opportunities back then, he was complaining about how there were were just too many for him to choose from.

And as I met more single people, it became clear that my new friend above wasn't alone in this complaint. Although still in a minority there seemed to be a lot of people (mostly male, although there were women too) who seemed stuck in the face of overwhelming choice. It's the classic candy shop syndrome where although you want everything (or more accurately bits of everything), you can't. A couple of these people even had that mythical spreadsheet we sometimes hear about, used to keep track of the pros and cons of each potential partner they meet.

It appeared that, ironically, the more people a person met the larger number of general qualities they discover that they want in their partner - even if many of these qualities are diametrically opposed to each other. Thus it becomes almost impossible to have it all (well not in one single person anyway), and unreasonable to expect it.

On the face of it, this can be reduced to plain ol' fussiness - to the external observer there are plenty of pairs who meet the minimum requirements of each other and yet do not hook up. The sad fact is that often someone is not good enough because there are other people who are better. The problem with this is that there'll always be someone "better" and the list of your wants becomes infinitely long. As an aside some people handle this by drawing on other people for the bits missing from their partners - but whether this is something acceptable or not is out of the scope of this post.

Anyway the result is complaining about too many boys or girls and not being able to choose between them because they're all relevant and great in their own way. In some strange way the problem isn't finding different things wrong with them, it's repeatedly finding nothing wrong with them at all. I'd draw a Venn diagram at this point but that may push those of you who got this far over the edge.

So how about considering your unwants over your wants instead? As in, making sure you don't have the things that you most definitely DON'T want? I mean they can be shallow or deep criteria with objective or subjective reasonings: from whether they will annoy the hell out of you, or them not practising religion or them just not being attractive enough.

The point isn't whether one has the right to have these restrictions but whether they know for sure that are true dealbreakers. And although, as with requirements, these anti-requirements can change over time and from person to person (so for example you may only expect someone to be practising if they follow the same religion as you do), they don't grow indefinitely like the previous list did. And eventually if you meet someone who doesn't have any of these unwants perhaps they should be seriously considered?

And finally there is something that the use of spreadsheets, lists of wants and unwants and cost-benefit analysis totally misses, and that's considering the feeling of a situation. There's nothing wrong with not liking huge amounts of potentials - the only person this really affects is yourself. The danger is declining out of habit, 'cos you might just accidentally throw someone you actually like out with the bathwater. And in that sense perhaps the actual numbers don't matter and those of us who complain about a lack of potentials are just as guilty as those who complain about the opposite.

Originally drafted 14th March 2007.