Woman writing
When I was 16, my "type" was a guy who drove a motorcycle, had two earrings and grunted when I asked him questions. I don't remember ever having a very deep conversation with this guy, but I remember how good he looked in a white T-shirt and tight acid-wash jeans (hey, it was the '80s). At 20, I dated a guy in my college dorm who was whiter than Wonder Bread and found my "Jewishness" exotic. He was a good kisser, and I liked that he found it endearing each time I argued that bagels were a food group, but really, I had nothing in common with him and I knew it.

When you're young and new to dating, a guy's cool factor or the way he looks in jeans may rank higher than how emotionally or spiritually connected you feel to him or that he brings out great qualities in you. At this point in your life, your criteria for a mate aren't usually based on how he would be as a father, a provider and a partner. In many ways, our teen years and early 20s are about exploration—learning who we are and ultimately making some mistakes from which we can grow. And yet, I meet so many women who are still hanging on to the "type" of guy they were attracted to eons ago. Most of these women have met new and diverse groups of friends who are different from the ones they chose as teenagers, or have embarked on a different career path than the jobs they graduated with. In many cases, their choices and their lifestyles have evolved.

So many of us get into a pattern in our dating lives, and our lives in general, in which we do things because we have always done them that way. We don't question our routine because it's comfortable (and frankly, who has the time or energy to find alternatives when things are okay?). We do what we know. We are creatures of habit, after all.

When we are living in this passive way, it is as if we are pressing the snooze button on our lives. We are almost awake—but not quite. (Isn't it funny, too, that sleep researchers say that pressing snooze a number of times in the morning actually makes for a more tiring day?) In this regard, we are not living consciously. And when we do not live consciously, we make choices that may not serve our best interests.

Love Lists
The list of criteria you are looking for in future mate should evolve as you evolve. It should not resemble the long list you draw up before you head to the grocery store or the checklist you give to your real estate agent when you are looking to move. For one thing, you are decreasing your chances of finding a relationship if your list it too long and specific; and another, you are taking all the romance and spontaneity out of the process of truly connecting with someone you have not met yet! I once heard a guy say that he could not describe his perfect woman before he met her, just as he can't describe a beautiful painting before he has seen it. Depending on your perspective, this guy is either wonderfully romantic or terribly cheesy...but he has a point!

What's on your must have/can't stand checklist?
 It's important to be mindful of the qualities you would like to find in a partner. Creating a simple must have/can't stand checklist can help you to get clear on things you feel you can or can't live without in a future mate. Make sure to distinguish your needs from your wants and your preferences from your absolute deal breakers. You may prefer someone who is more than 6 feet tall but realize you have more important characteristics that you "must have" in a partner. (My friend Dan is 5'8" and used to be frustrated that women online said they wouldn't date a man shorter than 5'9". He said, "Would these same women be disappointed if someone who looked like Jude Law or Tom Cruise walked in for the blind date?")

I like to confine the must have/can't stand list to five things on each side so you can stay open-minded and not limit yourself by trying to follow a long laundry list. So, take out a piece of paper and make your new checklist!

Name five things you must have in a mate and five things you can't stand. It can be as silly as wanting your partner to dance to as serious as wanting to be with someone of the same faith. Whatever is important to you, write it down. In some cases, one side will reflect the opposite of the other. If you are not attracted to bald men, put baldness as a "can't stand!" You are entitled to some deal breakers—even superficial ones—when looking for your future mate. One of my clients volunteered to share her must have/can't stand chart:

Must Have / Can't Stand
• Generosity / Self-centered
• Send of humor / Unmotivated
• Self-awareness / Arrogance
• Family values / Sense of entitlement
• Attractive (I want to kiss him) / Argumentative

Dating Dare
Include, "He must be really into me" as one of your five must haves. Those six words will automatically affect your dating success.

When you consider men you've dated in the past, did they fulfill your must have/can't stand list? When you are forced to really home in on what's most important to you, you will find more clarity on the kind of person you would like to date and automatically create different results.

Stop pressing snooze on your life. Wake up to what will bring you true fulfillment in and out of a relationship. Live authentically and consciously—in life and in love!

Andrea Syrtash is an author, advice columnist and the host of On Dating, produced by NBC Digital Studios. Her advice has been featured on NBC's Today, USA Today and NPR, among others. She has contributed to over a dozen relationship-advice books. Her new book, He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing), will be published in April 2010. For more, please visit Andrea Syrtash.com.


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