Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today

Shopping for Love? You Should Make a List!

Itemizing the qualities you seek in a mate can streamline your dating search online

Why you need a dating checklist

Before you start online dating, make a list of the personal qualities you're hoping to find in a new partner. — Mike Clark/istockphoto

It's a mistake to go food shopping when you're hungry, right? You wind up buying whatever looks appetizing at the moment, overlooking the more nutritious items that would truly sustain you. You do better when you have a list.

The same thing happens when you try to date online without a list of the personal qualities you're hoping to find in a new partner. Smitten by an appealing photo in someone's profile, you can easily fail to notice whether he or she possesses the traits and values you consider most important.

If I sound ruefully familiar with this dynamic, it's because I went on 47 unproductive coffee dates in the course of a year before meeting someone with whom I clicked. To avoid a similar fate, try following the simple road map I've designed for dating with a list.

Step 1: List three to six qualities you're looking for in a partner.

These were my top four:

  1. emotional warmth
  2. a passion for healthy living
  3. a circle of loving friends
  4. a cerebral sense of humor

Actually there was a fifth, though it's a bit embarrassing to mention: Must love dogs! I got my first inkling that one woman might be The One the day she and I went hiking and she couldn't stop laughing at the squirrel-chasing mania of my golden retriever, Duke.

Step 2: Use your list to narrow your search online. Prospective partners tend to state the qualities they possess, rather than the ones they're pursuing, in the profiles they post online. Give a profile a close read and you may find indications that the person has that sense of humor and lots of friends.

Step 3: Compare lists in person. The first time you meet an online contact in the flesh, try to draw out his or her feelings about his/her own priority list. You can even ask point-blank, "What top three qualities would you expect your perfect partner to have?"

Just be aware this discussion can take unexpected turns. Attracted by the smiling online photos of a woman I'll call Marie, I scanned her profile and noticed we shared a passion for daily news. If only I'd checked which sources she got hers from! We exchanged a few emails and agreed to meet for dinner at a restaurant. Hardly had we sat down, however, than we became embroiled in a heated political debate: Her views were oil, mine were water. By the time dinner arrived, we were both so disenchanted we got up at the same time, tossed some money on the table, and left the restaurant with smoke pouring from our ears.

Step 4: Suss out values. Now that you're aware of which qualities you're both after, try to assess the other person's core beliefs. These reveal the manner in which a person lives daily life and relates to the world — two behavioral traits too critical to ignore. They may include community volunteering, religious beliefs, family connections, political leanings and attitudes about social justice.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Video Extra

DATING TIPS: AARP dating expert Ken Solin chats with Today show cohosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb about why boomer men should date women their same age. Sharing a cultural history is terrific, Solin explains: "It’s nice not to have to explain that Paul McCartney wasn’t just a solo act."

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits


Members save 10% off all Amazon Kindle e-readers and the Kindle Fire tablet.


Members save 5% on all Windstar Cruises plus 10% off at onboard stores.

dinner plate of seared mahi and asparagus

Members can save 10% everyday at Landry's Restaurants, Inc.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today



Featured Groups

Single and Mingle

Cruise on over and meet a diverse and active group of sophisticated singles. Join

Wisdom Circle

Join our circle to ask for — or give — advice on topics such as love, friendship, grief, parenting and grandparenting. Discuss