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Standard treatment

By Alison Henry

Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

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Photo by LGray Photography

In "Miles From the Aisle," former CB editor Alison Henry takes you on an irreverent trip down the often rocky road of relationships. She can be reached at alisonghenry@gmail.com.

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I’ve recently encountered a problem in my pre-marital bliss. One of the benefits of being single for an extended period of time means that I have finally acquired the self-worth necessary to actually adhere to my standards. (Yes, I suppose there are worse problems to have.) And it turns out they are quite… specific.

To cut myself a little bit of slack, I prefer to call them “carefully cultivated criteria.” This doesn’t mean I’m inflexible; I’m just saying I’m finally respecting and honoring my choosiness. Because after a decade of dating and doing no such thing – with little success – I definitely owe it to myself to do just that.

For example, this ideal man should sport effortless scruff, possess an adequate degree of grocery shopping goofiness, be artistic but ambitious, be secretly slightly introverted when necessary, doesn't need me to tell him that those pants look bad on him, doesn't yell, is really patient, doesn't partake in excessive forms of inebriation, takes initiative and has integrity, is hopelessly romantic but not cheesy or clingy, may also enjoy being slightly pretentious about bands and/or movies and/or craft beers no one else has heard of yet (or at least have a genuine curiosity about such things), is kind of a geek, enjoys playing with girls' hair until said girl falls asleep, will let me win at Mario Kart – but in a way that leaves me convinced I actually won, doesn’t do the “thumb thing” or the “finger point” when he dances, etc., etc.

*Men, feel free to apply.*

I am, of course, bringing these up in jest, as I realize some – if not most – aren’t exactly the building blocks of a legitimate, long-term relationship. And while some of these have been carried over from previous unsuccessful lists (and are often used as a source of humor among my friends), there are also some new, extra important ones – major qualities of substance – that I have decided I absolutely refuse to enter a relationship without.

One of these is the simple act of being appreciated, and being with someone willing to find the way to best make you feel that way. For years I’ve been saying it’s important to be with someone you admire, which is true, but who is admiring you? Everyone needs to feel valued; it’s an indispensable part of your emotional health. And when you’re not getting that basic need from your significant other, it should throw up some immediate red flags. It took the experience of being friends with someone who makes me feel appreciated every time I talk to him to realize just how much I wasn’t being appreciated in the past. And now that I know what it feels like, I can’t fathom how I could possibly settle for anything less.

So while I may have quite a long, inarguably picky list, there is some truth or a deeper meaning behind every seemingly superficial standard. And I’m still a firm believer that the best way to find the person who is right for you is by being honest about who you are, and what you want and need. There is no greater power than taking control of your own happiness. Even if it does have some unusual requirements.

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