If you are a single woman in search of a partner, you may feel like the entire world has made your “plight” their business. (I prefer “status.” “Plight” makes being single sound like a famine of some sort.)

If you are a Black single woman, well, we won’t go all the way there today, but I’m sure you know the unique ways in which your situation has been treated by writers, members of the media and laypersons — both ill and good-intentioned. It’s enough to turn a sane woman mad and to make one feel like wanting to be in love is either some sort of unrealistic goal or some immature desire.

The debate over standards will not soon end. You have those who tell you to hold on to your image of a “dream” partner no matter what and those who will tell you that you need to go on ahead and give the brother on the corner with the gold tooth a call. (“Stop acting bougie, he takes care of ALL his kids!) To call these messages “mixed” would be an understatement.

There’s no universal set of instructions for finding love, no “ten steps to the altar” that can put a ring on your finger. But you certainly can make your own path a lot easier.

(Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those “BLACK WOMAN, GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY AND BE WHAT A STRONG BLACK MAN DESERVES! CHANGE YOUR WHOLE ENTIRE SELF!” piece. This is Essence Online. We are here to affirm and support our sisters. **Cyber hug**)

There is a great distinction between reasonable standards and unrealistic expectations. While I don’t believe the notion that most single women are walking around with ten-page “Things You Need in Order to Date Me” lists, I know how easy it is to cut off some great possibilities by being a bit too rigid with one’s demands. While never forgetting that you are worth someone fantastic, be mindful of the fact that this man is not being created for you in a laboratory.

That’s not to say that you don’t deserve someone accomplished or who has similar interests and goals as your own. If you make your “must-have” list a bit shorter, you increase the number of men who may tickle your fancy. Let go of “someone chocolatey, over 6′ 3″ with big feet and muscles” and try “someone I find attractive” on for size. You may be surprised how many great guys you could have passed over while scanning the bar for men who look like Idris. And if your friends know just how picky you are, you may be the last person they consider introducing to an eligible bachelor: “Girl, she ain’t checking for nobody who doesn’t look like Laz Alonzo with an advanced degree and his own home, so don’t even try and hook her up!”

Say you are looking for a tall, handsome, God-fearing, well-built, successful, funny, charismatic man who is active in his community, gets along great with his mother and enjoys Soca music. Oh, and he’s well-dressed with no kids. That’s a very specific set of expectations. It’s not impossible to think that you would meet this man and it’s also unlikely that you would turn down the man who had most of the qualities you are looking for. But by walking around with this extensive laundry list in your mind can be preventing you from seeing the many guys out there who could be wonderful partners for you, if only you noticed them.

Conversely, there are some things that you may need to stand firm on and that’s more than fine. If you are in church every Sunday without fail and you can’t bear the idea of a man who doesn’t share at least some of your passion for your religion, then don’t abandon that expectation. Pretending you can handle something in a relationship may only cause problems later; you don’t want to be pushing him to change his ways two years down the road, nor would you like for him to complain about your involvement with your faith. If you’ve dated shorter men and found that you just don’t feel comfortable towering over your dude, own that and don’t feel pressured to do otherwise.

While you are chopping off some of the non-essentials from your list, you can still meet guys who have these qualities. For example, if you really want to meet a man who’s in to the same stuff as you, then look at the men who are at the places you already frequent… Hip-Hop heads go to Rap shows, civic minded men are involved in community service organizations, college grads go to alumni networking events, fit men go to the gym… Do the things you enjoy and you’ll increase the chances of meeting someone who enjoys the same things. Easy!

The man you want may not come in the exact package that you may have dreamed of, but if you are reasonable with what you are looking for, then you won’t have as much room to worry over that. Don’t worry over what the man you haven’t met yet has, save the assessment for the men you do meet. And if the brother has the things you really need going on, then hopefully you won’t notice his ugly shoes.

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