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Suzanne Power: A love check-list sounds perfect but lacks passion

Everyone likes to think they're going to be perfect, for a perfect partner, who treats them perfectly. Lots of 'p' sounds in that sentence. What happened to Peter Piper? He tripped over his words and turned into a tongue twister.

That's what perfection does to any relationship. In the end neither person speaks their mind or flops with the top button of their trousers open. No one relaxes. No one is sure. No one trusts.

This is an achievement-driven world. Relationships are the new career ladder. A recent survey showed one of the top choices of profession for girls in their late teens and early twenties was to be a WAG. Since when did going out with someone constitute employment? There's another word for that . . .

Among thirtysomething friends, I have two who take choosiness to new extremes, practically getting men to submit CVs before they go out with them. The list of credentials these women seek is long, one has lots of 's' sounds on hers: sporting, solvent, stylish, sincere, sure of himself. And she's the less picky one. I should get her Peter Piper's phone number.

The thing about lists is they keep one vital s-word out of the equation: spontaneity. You don't have to worry about being hurt if the man you've drawn up doesn't actually exist. You can say "I'm not interested", on the basis of having thought about what you really want -- but what you're feeling is fear.

To love is to risk. You're better off trying to speculate on a wonky stock market than avoid being hurt. The perfect person is a priority only for those who've put priorities before passion.

Love is in the imperfections. There is no pay-off in searching for Mr Right, or the Ms Equivalent. That is where the real heartbreak lies. You're chasing shadows or studio-quality images. Why do you think so many Hollywood marriages end up on the Santa Monica rocks? The one place on earth where a perfect being can marry another one has the highest divorce rate in America.

I once went out with a dream man who couldn't handle me turning up for dates in casual gear. He liked to wine and dine women. And their job was to flap round him like a butterfly. They tend to live for a day. He bored me. I love flaws, I love dark psyche corners, they're where a relationship's challenges lie.

Otherwise we could shop for our spouses in Ikea along with our sofas. Otherwise we would all be ordering the same thing.

My two friends who are holding out with their credential lists carried round in their handbags are a step removed from the humps and bumps of reality. They never have the hollow-eyed, ragged look of a recent heartbreak.

Perfection, from physical to fiscal, runs out on you quicker than an unfaithful lover. The most perfect men make lousy husbands. Look at George Clooney's track record as a case in point. While you're holding out for him to get over his waitress penchant, you might remain thin, you might remain gorgeous, but you won't feel very clever when you wise up to the fact he's not and never will be available.

Put that on your list.