Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

My Must Have/Can’t Stand List

It’s broken record time. I’m not a fan of lists. Of any type. Or boxes, or false dichotomies or judgmental people

But I’m perfectly capable of stepping outside my comfort zone in the hopes of learning something new. So, last week, when I was at that workshop, and it came time for us to work on our Must Have/Can’t Stand lists, I was willing to go with it.

I’d been pretty familiar with the concept of Must Have/Can’t Stand lists, having read about them a few times: in Andrea’s book (and in excerpts) and also in KB in NYC’s blog post about the same topic. Coincidentally, KB was at the workshop with me, so she had the opportunity to rethink her lists.

Honestly, I’d never seriously tried to write my Must Have/Can’t Stand lists before. It seemed SO like something I’d never do. I’m more of a muddle-through kind of gal.

The key to the process, is that each list should have 5 things on it. No more. So they should be boiled down to the really important stuff. Theoretically.

I started with


1) Empathy

2) Good skills

And then stopped.  I couldn’t think of what else I NEEDED in a guy. Sure, intelligence and sense of humor are important. But I’d never be attracted to a guy without those things.  Whereas I’ve been attracted to lots of guys without any sense of empathy or decent communication skills and it’s always been a disaster. So it seemed important to list those things. To remind myself, if nothing else.

After talking with KB for a while, I was able to add:

3) Kindness

4) Confidence

5) Humility

Yeah, you don’t see honesty on the list. Or any physical attributes. Or a lot of other things: Success, ambition, healthy lifestyle, family-oriented, spiritual – those were the kinds of things the other women put on their lists. I felt like such a freak when we were sharing.

As for my Can’t Stands… I started with

1) Don’t be a

And then I realized that that was probably not helpful. Nor was saying, “Nothing like ___ ” and then putting a person’s name.

Here was the list I eventually came up with:

1)  Arrogant

2)  Materialistic

3)  Flaky

4)  Shallow

5)  Compulsively dishonest

Sadly, my last serious relationship was with a man who would NOT have made this cut. Not even close.  He’s about half-way there on each list.  Same goes for most of the guys I’ve had less serious relationships with, in recent years.


Not even close.

And so, maybe this list thing will be helpful to me. Because I honestly believe I deserve someone who can live up to these (rather meager) standards. All the way.

Maybe writing it all down is a step towards making it happen. Or, at the very least, preventing me from wasting any more time with men don’t make the cut.

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12 to “My Must Have/Can’t Stand List”

  1. Sandy says:

    i think so many people undervalue empathy as a character trait. i’d never have thought to put it onto a “must-have” list, but the older i get the more i realize how many people lack it and how often those are the same people i have trouble with.

    • Simone Grant says:

      It never would have occurred to me until a couple few ago. When, quite frankly, I was banging my head against trying to figure out what was WRONG with a specific relationship. And then it hit me – the guy had ZERO empathy. For me or for any other human being.
      Me being me, I didn’t run. I thought I could make it work, if I tried hard enough. I should have. Never again.

  2. C_Girl says:

    I am 100% in agreement with your must-haves..empathy and communication skills are top requirements. I also like a man who is self-aware, and has done a little work on himself to make sure he knows himself. It’s called therapy, people, and if you’re single at 35 and haven’t had any…well, there you go. My other must-have is “wants kids”.

    Sadly, my can’t stand list is much less useful, and contains such gems as “chronically unemployed” and “violent felon” and “irritating laugh”.

  3. SecretSquirrel says:

    What is the difference between Must Have and Can’t Stand? I was surprised you didn’t have honesty in your Must Haves but you had compulsively dishonest in your Can’t Stands. Is it degree? I ask because I am brutal on men who tell even the tiniest of white lies. I MUST HAVE honesty. But Can’t Stand comes across as something that would get on your nerves over time. My ex-husband is what I call “minimum effort” on my blog. It was all the tiny little minimum effort things that added up over time to make me nuts and so I couldn’t stand it after a while. For Example, when he would not bring back a food dish from work because I knew he just couldn’t be bothered to throw it into his lunchbox and bring it into the house so I could wash it and use it for the next leftovers, it bothered me. Small thing, right? But finding out he lied about one container that he said he’d left at his dad’s but really stashed in the garage (I found it) and then threw out when it got incredibly scuzzy and couldn’t be reused…that lying thing gets me every time. Such a tiny thing, but a HUGE thing with me. It was this snowball effect of can’t stand his “lazy” ways but it eventually led to something he must have, but didn’t.

    Does that even make sense?

    • Simone Grant says:

      In answer to your first question, yes it is a matter of degree. I know I piss people off when I say this but I do believe that everybody lies. But not everybody is compulsively dishonest. I can live with the normal amount of lying that goes on with between people, but not someone who’s first instinct ALWAYS is to lie. To say whatever he needs to say at any moment to get what he wants, regardless of truth/my feelings/right and wrong.

      So your food dish story would probably not bother me, because I expect people to do things like that (maybe I shouldn’t but I do). Whereas someone who lies so much that I have no idea what they believe in….

  4. SM says:

    Great list for a Must Have/Can’t Stand in a guy. There are tons of male characteristics that do make the cut and some men just really don’t have… IT. I saw a great read in Amazon priced for only a few bucks – Might as well worth a try if we gotta keep up with our own relationships… and how we should treat men or vice versa in the process.;)

  5. Your “must haves” sounds a bit like my definition of “nice” :-)

  6. Josh Pompey says:

    Perhaps the reason you are only meeting these lists half way is because of your natural attraction triggers. While all girls want a nice guy, deep down women are programmed to want a man they have to chase, fix, etc. If only it were as easy as just finding someone nice there would be a lot more happy women out there !

    • Simone Grant says:

      I’m sorry, but I can’t respond with anything more coherent than WTF? That has got to be the most ridiculous thing any one has written in my comments in at least a month, and believe me, there’s been plenty of competition.

      a) All women do not want nice guys.
      b) Most of the grown women I know would prefer to date men who have their shit together and don’t require any fixing.
      c) Many women find the idea of chasing men to be utterly repulsive

      Again WTF??? Perhaps you should actually spend some time with human females before declaring yourself an expert.

    • Kelly says:

      In my experience, which is getting rather comprehensive these days, the “nice guy” cliche argument is one I’ve heard many many times, and always spouted by the same type of guy. It’s the guy who has no skills for self-reflection, and therefore doesn’t understand his own failings in interactions with women or in relationships, usually because he is selfish or clueless, but sometimes for other reasons. And the logic goes something like:
      1. I am a really nice guy, because, hey! I’m me! And I like me.
      2. Girl X doesn’t like me.
      3. Therefore, she doesn’t like nice guys.
      4. Ergo, all women all the time like total assholes, and hate nice ones.
      5. Pat self on back for niceness, pity self for lack of stupid jerk girls who don’t appreciate them.

      It’s kind of the same logic that two year olds come up with when they think babies come from inside your stomach, but I kind of see how they get there. However, it isn’t in any way true (the nice guy thing, or the stomach thing, for that matter.)