rabbit in a hatMost of my clients come to me with a long list of must-haves for the man they’re searching for. Included are some of the standard qualities that make for a healthy relationship – kindness, trust, and financial responsibility. But when I ask about attraction, each woman has her type. “He must be at least 6 feet tall.” “I won’t date a man with facial hair.” “I want a man who’s in top physical shape.” “No bald men!” The list goes on and on.

Attraction is important. I’m not going to tell you to find a man who doesn’t turn you on. But I do want to warn you about the danger of searching for your “type”. If you’re still single, your type is not working for you. That ideal guy you’ve been searching for either doesn’t exist or he’s not really your type. The problem with searching for a particular list of external features is that you are probably going to miss the man who is truly your type.

Love in a Surprise Package

Case in point: the most compatible couples are usually surprised with the person they end up marrying. They had imagined their spouse in a totally different way. My friend Patty (all names have been changed), an outgoing, health-conscious, introspective woman, never thought she’d marry someone like Sam, a goofy, junk food eating daredevil. But they are the happiest, most loving couple I know. Patty’s “type” was more like her – outgoing, introspective, and much taller than Sam. Most women are looking for their clone. And your clone is usually not your best match.

Many happily married couples were surprised to find that their vision for their ideal mate fell to the wayside when they met their spouse. That guy didn’t look like the men they had dated before, didn’t have their idea of a dream job, didn’t live in their ideal location, but he turned out to be their dream husband. He had everything she needed in a mate. He just showed up in a different package then she ever imagined.

That’s why it’s important to be open to love showing up in a surprise package. Ditch your list. Narrow it down to the most important things – the inner qualities that would make you FEEL good together. It’s not about a specific height or weight. It’s about how you’d like to feel together. For example, if you want to feel safe with your future partner, whom would he have to be to make you feel safe? Would he have to be accountable, financially responsible, and have a generous heart? If you know how you want to feel, you’re going to recognize those feelings when you meet him.

An Unusual Love Story

Carly talks about the uncommon way that she and Don (names changed) met through an online dating site. Their story illustrates why it’s so important to be open to love showing up in a surprise package.

“Don contacted me in December 2008, explaining that he was contacting me not because he thought we were a good match, but because he admired my profile and wanted to wish me well in my continued search. He was very supportive and genuine, and I wrote back that I really appreciated his giving me encouragement.  I thought that would be the end of our communication, but I heard from him again, and within a month’s time, we were talking on the phone.  We enjoyed talking to each other and joked about meeting each other, but Don was hesitant to come to California to meet me because of the reasons he thought made us unsuitable for one another: A) We live 3,000 miles apart. B) Our familial/religious backgrounds are very different (I am a convert to Judaism and he was born a Jew). C) I want to have more children, and he is ready for grandchildren.

From January 2009 to June 2009, we had occasional phone conversations and became friends, both supporting each other through disappointing events and sharing information about our lives and histories that were quite personal.  In June, I called Don to wish him congratulations on an engagement, as he had been dating a woman close to home with whom he seemed to be an excellent match. However, the relationship did not work out, and we spoke for a long time. Don expressed his joy related to his son’s recent engagement and the fact that I had called him. He wondered out loud why he did not just get on a plane to CA to meet me. I said I thought we should meet, and over the next few weeks, we spoke daily, shared more pictures with one another, and finalized plans to meet in CA on July 23, 2009.

During our phone conversations, Don said he knew that I would be very good for him, and I came to an awareness that Don was the nicest guy I had encountered while dating after my divorce. I felt like he truly cared about me. 

Our differences were beginning to melt away as we discovered that we share the same core values and want basically the same things out of life.  Also, we felt very comfortable with one another.  Don said he would actually want to have more children with me, and I could imagine making adjustments in my religious observance and moving to New York because Don is worth it.

We met and discovered that we had excellent chemistry, and genuine trust and respect for one another.  On a subsequent trip to California, Don met my son who has autism and was not deterred by this challenge.  I also met Don’s children. On Dec. 23, 2009, Don proposed to me!  Our wedding was June 13, 2010.  We feel extremely fortunate, blessed, honored, and happy to be with one another. I am living proof that a 40 year-old convert to Judaism with a disabled son can find the man of her dreams.”

Carly hopes her story will inspire others to keep dating, especially when the search for a compatible mate seems discouraging and even hopeless.  As you saw in her story, they would never have met if they hadn’t continued getting to know each other over a long period of time. Their initial differences were not important to the success of a relationship. They knew to focus most on core values and goals, and to value the in-person connection over any preconceived notions of who they should date and where they should live.

Please continue to have hope and be open to who your ideal mate might be. Ditch your old list. Forget about your type. Narrow your new list down to how you want to feel when you’re with the right partner. And then be open to your love showing up in a surprise package.

Have you ever found love in a surprise package? Know anyone who did? Please share your comments below.

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