Little girls picture the perfect wedding with the perfect groom.
Little boys pull a girl's pigtails and call her names, but eventually, when the instinctual chase ceases to be an overriding urge, boys too, picture a perfect soulmate.
Even those who have little or no interest in marriage occasionally imagine the person they'll spend their lives with (sans the little slip of legal paper).
We all have preferences and ideals, and nobody wants to settle. Additionally, the older we get, the more detailed our checklist becomes because we all acquire a series of little hangups and eccentricities.
And, of course, our lists change constantly based on our love histories.
The key to sanity? Just stop trying to picture the ideal partner because, in truth, there's no such thing as "the one".
Here are five reasons why imaging the perfect spouse is only holding you back from your life's full potential:
1. There are way too many other people in the world.
Let's start with the most logical: No matter who you picture, that image will never be close to the real deal. It just isn't possible.
The more specific we get in our inner portrayal of the "perfect" person, the more disappointed we'll be with promising prospects.
Walk up to a married couple and ask them if the person they married matches their image of the perfect partner. If they're being honest, they'll laugh and shake their heads from side to side.
The world is a very big place. And if you have yet to notice, Earth's inhabitants are quite diverse.
2. Square peg, meet round hole. Damn it... go IN.
Women might be more willing to take on the challenge, but guys do it, too.
Let's say I meet a perfectly lovely creature, but she only hits three-quarters of my must-haves and about half of the nice-to-haves.
Then I spend the next month trying to force these things into her personality (yes, this can apply to the physical and aspect, too). "Oh, you don't like skirts? Gee... I do."
The point is, the more you picture and imagine and idealize, the more likely you'll try to change someone because nobody will get a perfect score on your little test.
3. It's not a good idea to limit the playing field right off the bat.
Yes, we all need a screening process. And it's fine to be positive about what you can give another person (i.e. a personal relationship checklist of what you will deliver). After all, the better you know yourself, the better the chances of finding that ideal match.
Unfortunately, there's a flip side to the coin:
When you continue to picture a certain type, your brain continues to add.
It fleshes out the picture, and as time goes on, it gains more definition. Before you know it, you've got an extremely specific image in your head, and you keep returning to it to make the inevitable comparisons.
The problem is, real people almost never measure up to fantasy. And the dating pool is small enough, right?
4. You never know what (or who) might ring your bell...
When it comes to love and attraction, we're all basically neophytes. Even those who claim to know themselves and what they want admit to being surprised.
There's always that one person whom you never in one million years would think you'd be attracted to, that one dark horse who totally rocks your world. Variety is the spice of life in more ways than one.
And in trying to pinpoint the exact vision of your life partner, you're effectively eliminating the dark horse possibility.
Don't do that to yourself. Open your eyes and mind and see what strikes you. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Furthermore, if and when this happens, it will have an immediate and positive effect on your imagination because you'll have learned a valuable lesson in diversity.
5. Aging is hard enough.
Look, nobody likes getting old. And as for the trials and tribulations associated with aging... well, they suck.
The longer you go without finding that perfect someone, the harder you're going to make it for yourself. You'll turn around and your 20s will be gone, and you'll start experiencing the bad things that happen when you turn 30.
The pressure of not having the perfect life partner mounts as you age. There's just no getting around it.
That's why it's even more important to stop visualizing the ideal mate. With every passing year, the visualizing process moves from pleasant to downright agonizing. This is when you stop, take a deep breath and start making a few realistic concessions.
No, don't settle.
Just don't live inside your head because it can be a dark, dangerous place for those who do nothing but dream.
Don't live inside your head because it can be a dark, dangerous place for those who do nothing but dream.