If you think it cold-blooded to plan your romantic and coupling life, consider the alternative. That alternative includes disappointment, confusion, heartbreak, heartache, sadness, spots and tears. These things will appear in your life regardless, but will be much worse without some kind of blueprint.

Our blueprint for successful dating and coupling is not the same as an architectural blueprint. By necessity, buildings and bridges must have engineering limits calculated and safety incorporated from the beginning. Those smart people with the snazzy sloping desks then add a margin for the unforeseen.

Relationships with prospective co-couplers (especially the unknown others who will end up being the people with whom we couple) cannot be so circumscribed, so we need a lot of room to stretch. The unknowns that evolve when we bring new people into our lives can be wonderful or disastrous. Allowing them to play out is part of the plan.

So we cannot make our loving outline too granular. We need room for manoeuvring. However, there are some parameters we can set with a high degree of confidence, a few of which I have listed here:

  • stick to dating within plus or minus ten years of your age
    • more than that limits your shared experiences from childhood
  • big economic disparities will cause problems
    • avoid money as a third entity in the relationship…and it will be
  • common attitudes to children (and having them yourselves)
    • to pre-empt surprises when it’s too late
  • shared thoughts on religion
    • stated expressly, not in vague generalizations
  • domesticity: washing, ironing, mowing lawns, dishes in the sink
    • easy to gloss over, difficult to reconcile gross differences later
  • common money disciplines (or not)
    • budgets, savings, income, thrift, celebration, risk, pauperism
  • home-body or traveler?
    • mixing the two types might be a problem – absences can be brutal
  • food
    • yep, it’s a big part of our lives so we best face it
  • politics
    • always easier when both people are up-front and clear
  • personality type
    • extrovert or introvert, party-goer or dinner-party type, drinker or stoner?
  • sex
    • expectations, desires, frequency, hang-ups, fantasies
  • spare time activities
    • books or movies, bikes or bars, exercise or beach-snoozing, couch or weight training?

Although this might appear to hem us into a tight corner with a limited number of eligible prospects, the nuances of each individual will surprise and delight us. Even within these boundaries.