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Quick Thoughts on “Good on Paper”

Good on paper. It’s a phrase I’ve used dozens of times. And I’ve always assumed that you all know what I mean. It’s just one of those things.

But let’s parse it for a quick second. Good on paper means if you were to make a list of this person’s attributes s/he would look impressive. AND maybe also (probably also) s/he has a good job and is financially stable. Successful, even.

It can be easy to looks down on people who (strictly) seek out partners who are good on paper. To poke fun at them as shallow or having screwed up priorities. Seeking out an ‘appropriate’ match over true love.

But traditionally speaking, good on paper was really all that mattered. There are still a lot of places in the world where people have arranged marriages. And those arranged marriages are all about good on paper. Many of our parents and/or grandparents had marriages that were good on paper.  People from similar backgrounds with common values, etc.

The world has changed a lot. Now lots of us date online and if we want to we can screen for people who seem like us. On paper. Who seem to want the same things. Whatever. Maybe that’s not the path to true love and . What the fuck do I know? Not much.


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9 to “Quick Thoughts on “Good on Paper””


  1. Paper is fine- but it is the same problem as computers — Garbage in garbage out. Some people have more self-awareness than others – but many of us see ourselves differently than others. A borderline sociopath may think he/she has empathy- but in fact has none. A person who has a sick sense of humor thinks they have a good sense of humor, or someone who likes bathroom jokes because they never progressed beyond Jr High – might also think they have a sense of humor.
    So if someone is good on paper- it means that someone writes well.
    There are various degrees of batshit crazy- there are those types that we like, love, and those types that will drive us nuts.
    Boils down to an impression, a face-to-face. Or, on the occasion, you can get a good sense of people if you have communicated with them for a long time– for example, I have a feeling you have red shoes.

  2. Black Iris says:

    Maybe the difficulty is that the most important things – honesty, kindness, etc., can’t be found on the paper. Someone can say they have them, but it takes a while to be sure it’s true, unlike statements about their job or weight.

  3. Rufus Dogg says:

    I look great on paper! Oh, wait… that is bathroom humor, for a dog anyway :-) (that one was for you, Terry)
    Rufus Dogg recently posted..How stupid is Mike Bloomberg?My Profile

  4. Lisa says:

    For some time now, I’ve been trying to write about how my partner and I got together because on paper, he was all wrong. If I had been my best friends, I would have told me to run far and run fast. But, five years later, neither of us is running, and the whole “on paper” thing turned out to be an indicator that didn’t mean much.

    Anyway, I’ll keep trying to write something about it because this is a worthy topic.

    All the best!
    Lisa
    Lisa recently posted..Slow as Molasses in JanuaryMy Profile

  5. I believe that a when you are looking for a relationship and you find someone that is “good on paper” then that is your first step. Everyone has to have some idea or maybe even a rough outline of what they want in a long lasting relationship so this would be a great place to narrow down a few options. Of course after you get to know who they are then your relationship shouldn’t depend on how they appear to others because at that point all that matters is how you really feel about them. On the other hand, you might be missing out on a chance with a great person because of your judgement of how they looked on paper. I go back and forth on what I believe, but I do believe that everything happens for a reason no matter what you look like on paper.

  6. Jordan Olson says:

    I definitely agree with you that “good on paper” is a way where people are finding the ideals of society instead of love. I see this because everyone has different tastes, and generally people will try to conform themselves to the “taste of America,” where they would only present [on paper] the attributes which the majority of people would value. That being said, identity and independence have been taking away from the idea of love. I also feel that what you have done isn’t an accurate description of who you are, because some things just don’t work on paper. It probably wouldn’t look positive (or negative) to write that you are a mother of six, although saying you running a daycare business probably looks really good.

  7. Charlotte says:

    You know, it’s funny…. I feel like for years, my search for “good on paper” was defined by a strict bulleted list of the things I thought I needed in a partner, but in the end, they were a lot more superficial and not the long-term and down-the-road values that truly do matter (does that make any sense?). To clarify: I thought it was important to meet a vegetarian who loved dogs and Phish and camping and hiking. And then I realized that’s a list of the things I LIKED to do, but maybe it wasn’t necessary to find someone exactly like me.

    Good on paper changed for me.

    My search shifted. Does this person have a good relationship with his family/friends? Is he motivated? Does he want the same things out of life?

    I think sometimes our “good on paper” is a list of what we want others to see but not so much a summary of the things we really want to admit we are looking for.
    Charlotte recently posted..the pursuit of happiness ends withinMy Profile

  8. Izzy says:

    I think this is important because sometimes love is just too much feelings, too much emotion. It’s so hot and fiery that maybe someone who is a better match, “good on paper” will be someone who will compliment you better as you both grow old. It’s hard to find someone who you can fall head over heels in love with (and the feeling is mutual) and then also raise children together and be compatible companions for years to come.
    Izzy recently posted..color invasion, an industry partyMy Profile

  9. There is just no replacement for chemistry and you can’t tell anything about real chemistry based off the “good on paper” concept. Chemistry is the reason that long lasting and happy relationships last. People frequently mistakenly believe that long lasting relationships are the same as happy and successful ones. Just because a relationship lasts doesn’t mean its happy. Great on paper doesn’t necessarily mean great.