But this exhaustive list of green flags, must-haves and dealbreakers can foster unrealistic expectations, rendering every prospective partner unworthy when measured against the imagined dream partner. Of course it’s vital to have standards, high standards—but that’s a world away from being totally inflexible, rejecting every match at the first sign of an apparent flaw.

It can be hard to keep an open mind when you feel deep down you know exactly what you’re looking for. But trust me: I’ve worked with countless clients who have ended up dating, marrying, and building blissfully happy lives with matches who on paper were nothing like they were looking for.

So if you’re struggling to find that ever-elusive dream partner, stick with me—and let’s explore 5 questions to ask yourself before writing your dating wish list, to ensure you’re not being so limiting, so prescriptive, that you’re actually stopping yourself from finding true love.

1. What do I want—and what do I need?

It can be hard to remember, but there’s a clear distinction between your wants and needs. Your wants are an extension of what makes you happy in the here and now—but they’re often temporary, or at least don’t have lifelong implications. These are things like the kind of job your dream partner has, what music they’re into, the nuances of their political views. But your needs are those truly non-negotiable elements of your future partner’s personality. They’re so fundamental they’re easy to overlook as you fantasise about your dream partner. These are traits like kindness, loyalty, dependability. They’re not glamorous—but they’re the stuff truly successful relationships are made of.

2. What are my dealbreakers?

Once you’ve established your needs, highlight your dealbreakers. What do you value more than anything else in a partner? What could you simply not do without in a relationship? I recommend selecting a maximum of three dealbreakers—any more and you really lessen the odds of finding someone who ticks all those boxes. Your dealbreakers should stay fairly constant, but they can evolve over time as your own values and preferences change. Just make sure they stay realistic, and when possible try to give some leeway.

3. Have I learned from the past?

Think about your previous relationships. Did your exes have anything in common you didn’t like, and that contributed to the breakup? It may have been something innocuous at the time, like untidiness, which you simply took as an endearing foible. But maybe on reflection this was a sign of something deeper, like a fundamental lack of care about your environment, and by extension about the relationship itself. This time round, you could add Tidiness to your wish list—and when you first visit his house and it’s immaculate like a show home, you can add a big tick where you wouldn’t have before!

4. Are my priorities in the right place?

As we saw in the question of wants vs needs, the strongest relationships are defined by both partners sharing values and building their lives around them. With this in mind, consider whether you’re focusing too much on the relatively superficial aspects of your ideal partner, whether physical, financial or professional. Of course it matters that you find your partner attractive, they’re financially stable, and they know what they’re doing with their life—but ultimately it’s more important that the fundamentals of their character align with yours. Look for personality traits like humour, honesty, empathy, integrity and intelligence, and seek out common goals like buying a house, building your respective businesses, getting married, having children, or travelling together.

5. Am I being flexible enough?

No dating wish list should be set in stone. The more thought you put into it, the more you’ll realise it’s contingent on your own life circumstances. This demonstrates that your dream partner is not some ethereal and perpetually unchanging entity, but a real somebody out there in the world, whose personality, values and circumstances will integrate magnificently with yours, both now and in the future.

Maclynn is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, New Jersey, California and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles within our vast network of attractive, intelligent professionals, and our matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. Get in touch today, and prepare for genuinely meaningful dating—just like you deserve.