Why Pro/Con Lists Don't Cut it When it Comes to Dating

You have trouble knowing which guy is the right guy. You feel all these feelings for him, but you're stuck.

 

Feelings are fleeting.

They aren't enough to make a relationship healthy because feelings are always changing. 

 

Ah! You think. I know- I'll be logical about it! I'll make a pro/con list! 

 

DON'T DO IT! 

 

Pro/Con lists fall short of what you are really needing.

 

I want you to think logically about dating the right guy.

 

I just want you to do it better than a simple Pro/Con list. 

 

Here's why Pro/Con lists miss the mark: 

 

1) They look like they are objective, but they aren't. 

 

You know this is true. You start to feel like the sides are becoming uneven. You start to fill in one side and then when it becomes too uneven you jump to another. You may even ask your friends or family for input. They will strengthen one side or another, depending on their perceptions of the situation. You can always skew the results to go with how you are feeling at the moment. 

 

2) They don't tell the whole story. 

 

A pro/con list tells only ONE side of the decision. For example: Should I date my coworker? Your Pro/Con list will only show one part of that decision. 

 

Should I date Steve?

 

Pros: I will have more fun at work, I will be happy, We are cute together, He has good hair, He will help me with work projects, ...

 

Cons: People in the office will talk, I won't look professional, I might get fired, I'll be distracted at work, ...

 

This zeros in on ONE idea- the idea of dating Steve. It makes you focus on one potential reality. It leaves out the possibilities of NOT dating Steve or dating Josh instead. It isn't open to other opportunities. You want to see the whole picture of your decision, not just one part. 

 

3) They put a lot of pressure on the length of each side. 

 

You see that one side is longer than the other and you automatically think that makes the decision for you. Instead, you should be looking at the quality of the Pros and Cons. Yes, it is a Pro that he has good hair, but does that have the same weight as you potentially getting fired? No. Unless dating a guy with good hair is the number one value in your life.

 

As we process things visually and we see uneven distribution we automatically feel that one side has more weight than the other.

 

Piaget noticed that at a certain point children recognize that the amount of a substance remains the same even when superficial features change. Once you have passed through that stage of development (which, if you are reading this, then you definitely have), then you understand that an 8oz bottle is an 8oz bottle, even if one of them is short and fat and the other long and lean. You understand that the appearance doesn't change the volume. 

 

But, a list is abstract. It is much more difficult to convince yourself of the weight of a Pro or a Con as it sits in words on a page. Even though your brain as an adult is fully developed, it can still be conned into thinking that because there are so many more Pros than Cons that this is the right decision- even if the Pros are minuscule comparatively. 

 

If you must make a list:

Instead of a Pro/Con list, make a list of GAINS and LOSSES for BOTH sides of the decision***.

This is much less about the list itself. It is more about the experience of creating that reality in your mind. It allows you to fully feel the weight of what it would be like to step through a door of opportunity, or alternatively, to close that door. You can create these lists by putting yourself in the future in your mind and picturing everything that you would gain and lose by making that decision. You should be able to make a list of at least 20 on each. 

 

For example: 

If I were to date Steve I would gain:

  • A romantic relationship.
  • A mature boyfriend.
  • Confidence in myself.

 

If I were to date Steve I would lose: 

  • The respect of my coworkers. 
  • Potentially my job. 
  • Time with my children. 
  • My ability to do what I want when I want. 

 

Wait at least a day before switching to the gains and losses of a new decision. Allow yourself to sit in the emotions it brings up for you before jumping to the next list. Keep adding and adding, even when you think you're done.

 

Then, the next day or a week later you can do the same with an alternative option. It might look like this: 

If I were to turn Steve down I would gain: 

  • A more productive work environment. 
  • Some more time to myself to do the things I really want.
  • More time with my children.

If I were to turn Steve down I would lose: 

  • His adoration/closeness. 
  • The special attention (flirting) he's been giving me at work. 
  • The confidence I've had lately. 

***This concept of Gains and Losses is not my own. I learned about it from my supervisor Dr. Jennifer Nelson during my time at Friends University. 

 

Remember that abstract words on a page are difficult to process. After you have made your lists, you can re-write them on unlined paper. Make some items bigger or smaller, using different colors to represent the feelings that come up. You can underline and highlight important ones. Make the items large that really loom large in your mind and on your heart. This will make a more accurate depiction on paper of what you feel and see in life. 

 

Thank you for putting serious thought into who you date and how you date.

It matters!

 

Until next time- take care,

~Molly

 

P.S. If you want to talk to someone about this please fill out the Contact form found here. I would love to help you!