There are plenty of good reasons for setting the bar high when it comes to dating, especially as we transition out of our early 20s. The stakes can definitely feel higher. We’re busier; we have less time to spend meeting new people. It’s hard enough finding the time to spend with friends and family as it is.
We each have a non-negotiable mental list of the things we look for in a partner or relationship. And this isn’t the problem—it makes sure we’re compatible with the person we end up with. That said, the qualities on your list should ideally have more to do with your values and goals for the future and less with superficial preferences (like say, how tall someone is or what they do for a living).
The problem is that this can make us turn down potential partners when things might actually have worked out really well. If you catch yourself predicting the future when browsing an online profile, chatting via text, or agreeing to a first or even second date, it could be sign that you’re overly picky.
Believe it or not, thinking someone is out of your league can also be a kind of pickiness. Often, this comes from a place of insecurity. Assumptions like: “They’re too good for me” or “I’m not smart/interesting/attracting [insert self-critical thought here] enough” can often be another sign of pickiness—and can make us more likely to dismiss potential partners too quickly.
Do you have trouble deciding what to eat when you go out to restaurants? Is it hard to settle on weekend plans? What about bigger life decisions, like what to do for work or where you want to live? If so, your pickiness when it comes to dating might have less to do with having high standards in terms of potential partners and more to do with an overall difficulty making decisions or knowing what you want.
Let’s face it. Dreaming about the future and the way dates might turn out is part of the fun and helps us stay motivated and optimistic. However, it’s a delicate balance. It might seem counterintuitive, but this kind of thinking can create pressure that actually makes us even pickier. Having unrealistic expectations can also take away from how good the date actually was.
To take some of the pressure off, it can be helpful to think about all the other things we can get out of dating– a fun night out, a new friend or connection, brushing up on our dating skills, and yes, even trying a new coffee shop, restaurant, or bar.
It can sometimes be helpful to turn to the people who know us best—our close friends or even family members. Not only can they tell us if they think we tend to be too picky overall, they can encourage us to give someone a second (or even third) chance. Ideally, we want to turn to people who know us well, have our best interest at heart, and tend to share their opinions in a respectful way. It’s also a good idea to be clear about what it is we want feedback on (and if we want it to be an open door policy or just a one time thing). Nobody likes dealing with unsolicited advice or over-sharing.
It’s easy to get caught up in our thoughts when we’re out on actual dates, whether it’s dreaming about the next date or deciding that there won’t be one. When we’re stuck in our heads, we’re not actually giving ourselves the opportunity to really learn about and connect with the other person. When this happens, we can end up making assumptions about the other person (and decisions about the future of the relationship) based on limited and even incorrect information.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of good reasons for being picky, like not wanting to take time away from other areas of your life. Besides, repeatedly putting yourself out there can get really tiring. That said, there’s definitely something to be gained from not letting pickiness have all the say in your dating life. Being a little more flexible and open minded can hopefully make the dating process a little more enjoyable—and help us be ready when the right person appears.