Why Your Perfect-Mate Checklist Won’t Find You Love

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We’ve all got one: a checklist of traits, drawn up mentally or maybe folded away in a journal, of what we want out of our ideal mate. Passion. Honesty. A sense of humor that melds perfectly with mine. But new research from Northwestern University shows that searching for a partner by laundry-listing their ideal qualities is useless.

Turns out what we like on paper falls by the wayside when we meet someone who makes us feel swoon-y. Sure, people liked potential partners that matched their ideals more than those who mismatched their ideals when they just looked at written descriptions. But those same qualities didn’t matter once they actually met in person, according to the study. (And c’mon, haven’t you ever found yourself crushing on someone you would never dig on paper?)

The funny thing, the authors explain, is that once you meet someone in person who seems great on paper, if you’re not sparking all over the place, you’ll actually rejigger how you view those traits you thought you wanted. So, if you say you want someone really determined and persistent, and then you meet a determined, persistent dude in person and aren’t feeling it, you’ll be all, “Damn, that guy was stubborn. NEXT.”

Why? Well, people aren’t just the sum of their personality parts, and trying to get a sense of a whole three-dimensional human based on their height, weight and written responses to canned questions is a silly (and probably hilarious to good ol’ Cupid) way to try to find the right match.

The takeaway: Nothing you see in a written description can hold a candle to how you feel when you actually meet up for a date. (Let the record show: This research wasn’t funded by HowAboutWe, promise.) Now go post some awesome hang-outs and start meeting cool people in the flesh.