Elena Murzello cannot imagine going to the grocery store without a list. As she strolls through the aisles, she relies on her list to make sure she gets her must-haves and to help keep her from grabbing items she does not need. It was with this theory in mind that, at age twenty-one, she created a list of characteristics for a potential lifelong mate that still guides her love choices to this day.
In The Love List, Elena shares her real- life experiences as well as information gathered from more than a hundred single, divorced, and married men and women about the qualities they look for in a life partner. Abstracting details from her interviews she created a process that anyone can use to create his or her own lists. Along with introspective questions to ponder, Elena includes sample lists of characteristics, the top three traits both men and women seek in a partner, an exploration of different types of relationships, and ways to diversify a portfolio of suitors.
The Love List provides practical tips and personal stories to encourage single people to look deep within, take risks, and learn to rely on their own unique lists while searching for the perfect mate.
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Read an Excerpt
The Love List
A Guide to Getting Who You Want
By Elena Murzello
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 Elena Murzello
All rights reserved.
are like apples
on trees. The best ones
are at the top of the tree.
The boys don't want to reach
for the good ones because they are afraid
of falling and getting hurt.
Instead, they just get the rotten apples
from the ground that aren't as good,
but easy. So the apples at the top think
something is wrong with them, when in
reality, they're amazing. They just
have to wait for the right boy to
come along, the one who's
brave enough to
to the top
of the tree.
Why the List?
Let's talk about the basics. Sometimes writing stuff down helps. That's easy, right? It helps you focus. And really, it helps you reevaluate. Think of the difference between going to the grocery store with a list and without a list.
With a list, you might not stray away from your "must-haves." Sure, there might be a great sale on tomato soup or toothpaste, but generally, you are going to get things on your list first. When you have a list in front of you, you don't forget. When you have a list, the choices are clear and concise.
Without a list, you base your purchases on how hungry you are and end up grabbing random items you don't need, like pretzel-covered peanut-butter snacks. You might, in fact, wind up with duplicates. The reevaluation begins when you stare at your half-full grocery cart as you wait in line and realize that you don't really need half the stuff that you put in your cart. More often than not, you forget the one thing you went shopping for in the first place because it wasn't so apparent when you were browsing the shelves.
The List: Help or Hindrance?
Should a grocery list really be compared to a list of characteristics for a potential mate, someone you would like to spend the rest of your life with? I say yes.
One of my interviews was with a woman in her fifties who mentioned that the list should be used as a framework or guideline only, and that you should not get tied down to the list.
Here's another shopping analogy. In her book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, Lori Gottlieb talks about being either a satisfier or a maximizer. A satisfier goes to a clothing store looking for a sweater. She finds one she likes—the price, the fit, and the color. The satisfier buys the sweater and takes it home. The satisfier is ... well, satisfied with the purchase. At the same time, the maximizer goes into the same store, sees the same sweater, and finds things wrong with it. The color isn't the exact shade she wants, the buttons are too distracting, and it's made of wool and she was really looking for a poly-cotton blend. The maximizer thinks the sweater is okay but also thinks that there must be something better. There might be a sale at the GAP, or Nordstrom might have the new fall collection already, or better yet, eBay might have something similar for less money. So the maximizer leaves the store and goes for the hunt, looking at several stores trying to find that perfect sweater. Alas, after some time, the maximizer comes back to the original store only to realize that the sweater is gone—the satisfier bought it.
Bottom line, don't be too picky or get caught up in too much detail. But what's the fine line?
According to J. M. Kearns's Shopping for Mr. Right, "Shop all the time, and when you see a good one, make your move ... but a chance sighting of someone who could really be your life partner is so rare and so precious that it needs to be acted on" (Kearns 2011, 89). Good stuff.
Potato Soup versus Lobster Theory
Which one is more expensive—potato soup or lobster? Well, that's easy. The market-price lobster is more expensive. Which one is more rare? That's an easy question too. Which one is richer in flavor? The lobster keeps on winning! Of course, this analogy doesn't really apply to those who don't eat seafood. But what if the lobster was a steak—a porterhouse sixteen-ounce steak? And I'm sure there are vegetarian options that are either high class or lowball.
How does this analogy pertain to dating and the list, you ask? Here's how: Why go through life with potato soup when you can have a lobster diet? Why do people settle for something mediocre if they could have a delicacy? Are people inherently lazy? Is a lobster too difficult to recognize? Or is the search for lobster so time consuming and frustrating that people tire of it and settle for something not quite so unique and rare?
Case in point. I knew someone who did just that. He was tired of being alone. Lucky for him an attractive girl came his way, and he was enamored. He forgot everything that he stood for—so for once he could feed his ego with someone whom he never thought would ever associate with him. His emotions and self-doubt took over, and all he could see were her 100-watt smile and her perfect skin. He fell for a superficial ideal and lost his soul. Truth be told, time will tell if his love for her will last through the ages, but for now it fills his own insecurity. It's a shame he has such insecurities (he's lovely!).
Or is it that people are insecure and don't think they are good enough and therefore attempt to mold themselves into an ideal that attracts the opposite gender? Don't get me wrong—I'm all for physical exercise and dressing in style, but I realize that what really matters is an attitude adjustment: thinking positively and being comfortable in your skin. But it's hard to adjust your attitude when there are so many external factors. Can people suddenly switch their principles and live a happy life? For sure, as long as they make a full commitment to their new principles and shed all resentments from past values.
What about the matching hypothesis, which states that people of equal attractiveness are attracted to each other? It has more than an ounce of truth. We are served best in a relationship with people of equal attractiveness, because we are playing on a level field. If there is a discrepancy—if, for example, a good-looking man dates a moderately attractive gal—other factors such as money or status are involved. Think about some celebrity couples based on this matching hypothesis. Is it real love?
How Does the List Work?
Having a list is a starting point. Rhonda Byrne's best seller The Secret relates success and failure to that famous law of attraction. Drawing upon what you want the most, even if you have the list ready for action, you yourself must be in the right frame of mind. What does that mean? Barbara DeAngelis in Are You the One for Me? says it best: "If you aren't emotionally ready to be in an intimate relationship, you'll have a difficult time determining whether you're with the right person. The relationship won't feel right because of your own problems, not because you aren't compatible with your mate" (p. 364). So get your own life together first. Then start shopping. It will make it easier.
* * *
Questions to Ponder
1) What makes me happy?
2) Do I feel ready to be in a relationship? (Read: Have I dealt with the skeletons in my closet?) 3) Do I think that being in a relationship will make me complete?
4) What can I bring to a relationship?
5) When I am in a relationship, do I find myself constantly trying to change or improve the other person?
Guys are like stars; there are a million of them, but only one makes your dreams come true.
Development of the List
I didn't think that there was anything to the details of my list. I didn't have any baggage, and my experience was limited, so I was really left to my own devices when developing this list. Naturally, I referred to my own imagination, and Grey's Anatomy.
But there are other ways to create a list that works for you. Those of you who have a few relationships under your belt can use your experience to your advantage. Take the bad characteristics and add them to your "nay" column and add the good characteristics from the great people that you have met to the "yay" column.
Sometimes we don't know what we need until we're in a situation that isn't ideal. A whole learning process begins (hopefully). Note: the learning process is the hard part. Ever wonder why certain people seem to always date the same type of people? It's because they haven't learned from the previous situation.
Our lists of desired qualities change over time. They grow with us, shift with our situations, and adapt to current circumstances of our lives. As we grow and mature, so do our lists.
In her book Are You the One for Me? Barbara DeAngelis talks about six qualities everyone should look for in a partner. These qualities are general and apply to either gender. This list includes commitment to personal growth, emotional openness, integrity, maturity and responsibility, high self-esteem, and a positive attitude toward life.
Let's look at these characteristics further.
1) Commitment to personal growth: This means that the person is committed to learning how he or she can be better—at everything. It calls upon working together as a team and really trying to seek help when necessary. This becomes important when life throws you a curveball; you don't want a bailer.
2) Emotional openness: Bottom line, share your feelings. You're not a robot, so knowing that you have feelings and understand how to appropriately express them is important. Random emotional outbursts can be exhausting. Just saying.
3) Integrity: Don't lie; tell the truth, and be honest with yourself and with your partner. It sounds simple, but it's probably the hardest part of being in a relationship. Revealing who you really are to people whom you care about can be scary. And the truth hurts sometimes. Some people would rather lie to make a relationship continue smoothly than face the truth. I hate arguments myself – but sometimes they are necessary and crucial.
4) Maturity and responsibility: What does mature even mean? Mature people make enough money to support themselves and know how to take care of themselves and be responsible for their lives. A caveat of being responsible is being respectful. Maturity also means dealing with your problems like an adult. All the tattle-telling and games are exhausting and a waste of time—your and your potential partner's time.
5) High self-esteem: "A person with low self-esteem loves in order to feel good about himself herself. A person with high self-esteem loves because he or she feels good about himself or herself" (p. 330). Enough said. Having self-esteem and willing to act on something often go hand in hand. Having the confidence to take risks is invigorating. A friend once told me, "Leap, and the invisible net will catch you."
6) Positive attitude toward life: Who really wants to be with a negative person? So much wasted energy. You create your own reality, and point of view is everything. I know there are difficult times and all you want to do is dwell on your sorrows. But turning that frown upside down is one step toward a happier reality.
DeAngelis identifies some important qualities. I think that most people show varying degrees of these characteristics, and the degree of these qualities that you need depends upon where you are in your life.
The Science behind the List
Believe it or not, there is science to support this idea of a list: evolutionary psychology. And thanks to the book, of the same title (Buss, 1999) I realized that it all goes back to reproduction, which is how life goes on. I mean, think about it: without babies, life as we know it would be at a standstill and we would eventually become the dinosaurs of our time—extinct.
Thankfully, we don't have that problem. And although families are not as large as they used to be, people are still reproducing.
First, let's look at women and the way they mate. I promise this won't be boring.
Women and Mating
I could compare women to some rare species of bird to illustrate that women's mating preferences have evolved, but since one of the major goals of evolution is ensuring that the species continues, you can imagine where this is going.
Women are selective. In short, they need to be selective because they need to make sure that their future children will survive and thrive and carry on. They need to make sure that their partner fits the bill; otherwise, women might be flying solo. Here comes the praise for all single parents out there: working, picking up the kids from school, and being two parents in one—you literally are modern-day superheroes!
Another reason why women are picky about their potential mate is that women face nine months of pregnancy fun. It involves gaining weight, moodiness, and perhaps even morning sickness and bed rest. This is not exactly appealing, although your hair gets shinier and you have that healthy glow. Men will have invested but a few minutes of their time to produce a child. Clearly, this is not the same level of commitment.
Now, here is where the list becomes a hindrance. Having a static list of characteristics might not take into account a prospective mate's future potential. Discounting a mate (or being too picky) based on the present only might leave you out in the cold. It's that whole shopping for a sweater thing with an evolutionary twist. Science—gets you every time!
All in all, women consult the list on a psychological level. Women are generally looking for mates who are willing to invest, who are able to physically protect themselves as well as their woman and child, who show good parenting skills, and who are compatible. Check out the chart.
If you check out the second list I made, you'll notice that much of it coincides with the chart of Mating Characteristics above.
It looks like evolution has taught me well!
Now let's look at the results of my interview process.
In my own poll, which included more than one hundred individuals, I asked women (single/married/divorced/partner) for the top three characteristics they were looking for in a potential mate, or, if they were married already, what they most appreciated in their mates.
Here are the top three characteristics:
1) Sense of humor and funny (tie)
2) Smart and honest (tie)
Sounds like the top three hit the key points of selecting a mate who is able and willing to invest and who will show good parenting skills.
When reviewing the results of the interviews, there were some characteristics that stood out. One wanted someone who was "able to build a house with their bare hands," which gives reference to selecting a mate who exhibits physical strength. Someone wanted a "missionary to lead them spiritually," which speaks to a mate who has similar values.
In one of my interviews, a woman stated that she didn't have a list for her potential mate; instead, she had a list for herself that described the person she wanted to become in the future. Her top three traits were:
2) Treating herself nicely
3) Having life and career goals
She worked hard to develop these characteristics. She would cook good meals for herself and buy herself flowers to treat herself nicely. She focused on her own career goals and how she could achieve them. As coincidence would have it, soon she met her husband at work.
Men and Mating
If women are looking for a mate for the long haul, where does that leave men? Commitment. Men who hold the promise of commitment may be able to attract a wider range of women. Being able to promise access to resources and a willingness to invest in children might also entice a potential mate. Commitment increases the odds of off spring and future generations.
But what are men looking for in a potential mate? There are similarities.
Men look for a mate with a good reproductive status that comes with youthfulness as it shows in age, beauty, and behavior.
We all hear that biological clock ticking. It's true; it does tick. As women grow older, the ability to have children decreases. It may not tick as urgently as it did decades ago, as more women are having children into their late thirties or even early forties, but it sure does tick.
Physical appearance is important, and any cover girl on any magazine will tell you this means clear skin, nice hair, and white teeth. All those are a given, but the waist-to-hip ratio is fascinating. Studies reveal that the hourglass shape, a small waist with larger hips, is universally preferred.
Excerpted from The Love List by Elena Murzello. Copyright © 2013 Elena Murzello. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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Table of Contents
The Ideal.................... 1
Why the List?.................... 2
The List: Help or Hindrance?.................... 3
Potato Soup versus Lobster Theory.................... 4
How Does the List Work?.................... 6
The List.................... 9
Development of the List.................... 9
The Science behind the List.................... 12
Women and Mating.................... 13
Men and Mating.................... 18
List Gone Wrong.................... 23
Waiting: The Crazy Cat Lady Lingers.................... 29
Master's Degree in Love.................... 41
Operations—The Process.................... 42
Strategy, or What's Your Game Plan?.................... 44
Diversifying Your Portfolio.................... 46
Reallocation of Resources.................... 52
Return on Investment (ROI).................... 59
Interview Notes.................... 61