While writing my column this week, I began to think about a conversation I had with a friend a couple of years ago. At the time, a mutual friend of ours was pursuing her. He was a really great guy, and she seemed to be interested, but something was holding her back. I couldn’t understand it. He was really sweet and he cared about her. He was very attentive and had always been the kind of guy that would drop everything for a friend if he or she were going through a difficult time. Still, something wasn’t clicking.

I tried to come up with reasons in my head. “Maybe she doesn’t want to ruin the friendship…or maybe there’s no chemistry…or maybe she’s not interested…or maybe…” I drew a blank. A couple of weeks later, we finally cleared some time in our busy, school-driven schedules to go out and talk by ourselves, and I was finally able to ask her if she even liked him.

“Yeah. I kind of like him…it’s just…”

I could almost hear a drum roll. “Yes?”

“Well, he’s short.”

I know there are tall girls out there who want to look aesthetically pleasing with their boyfriends in pictures, but do two inches really make a difference?

Fast forward to a year later. I had just come home from college when a friend called about our usual catch-up night, which usually consisted of dinner at Pei Wei followed by a drive around Houston. I’d been looking forward to this particular catch-up session for days. The last time we had talked, he had spent most of the conversation talking about a girl he was interested in. It was nice listening to a guy gush about a girl with whom he was so obviously smitten. In addition to being crazy about him, she had all the qualities you would want one of your guy friends to look for in a potential girlfriend: she was fun, caring, smart, had a good sense of humor, and generally had lots of things in common with him. I was sure this girl would be a good match for him.

As we drove around I-610, or “The Loop,” as native Houstonians call it, I finally spoke up.

“Soooo? How’s the new girl?!” I asked excitedly.

He looked confused. “What girl?”

“The one you told me about last week?”

“Oh…yeah…it didn’t work out.”

“What? Why? She sounded perfect.”

“Well…she’s great and all, but she’s never had a boyfriend.”

I thought there must be more to the story. Maybe she had been immature, or had been too needy, or…I don’t know. Help me out here. When I probed him with more questions, however, I realized this girl’s lack of relationship experience was the only drawback in his eyes.

Good grief. I love both of these friends, but they must be sorely confused if they think height and previous number of relationships should factor into a decision about dating. Those won’t create a good foundation for a relationship.

It got me thinking, though. We’re constantly making checklists and checking to see if the person we’re dating matches “the list.” Why? You want to be absolutely certain you’re dating Mr. or Miss Perfect. Guess what? A lot of the things on those “checklists” are not things on which you can base a relationship.

I’m not saying you should throw your checklist out altogether. You may actually be on the right track. What I’m asking is that you reassess your list.

If you’re not in a relationship, take a moment to envision your ideal partner. When you imagine this person, what are the top three characteristics you value in him or her? Are they physical traits or more abstract attributes? When you think about a person’s characteristics, you set yourself up for a meaningful relationship. When you find him or her, you’ll become more focused on the relationship itself. Think of it this way: smart, kind, and funny isn’t limited to someone who’s at least 6’2” or to someone who’s been in a relationship before.

If you pare down your checklist so that it contains only qualities, you may surprise yourself, and you’ll have more fun with a relationship. You’re not defining how someone is supposed to look or act. You’re defining what you’re looking for at the person’s core. Girls, don’t pass up a great guy just because he’s not tall, dark, and handsome. You might have the most meaningful relationship with someone who’s an inch shorter with blonde hair and the brightest smile you’ve ever seen. Guys, don’t pass up a great girl because she’s never had a boyfriend or gets a tad nervous around you. There are a lot of great girls out there who may hold the keys to the most significant, fun relationship you’ve ever had. Let a wonderful person amaze you.

Love from me to you,

Lauren