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 also likely have a better idea what or who it is we’re looking for, and we don’t want to feel like we’re wasting time. As our friends begin to settle down, it can also feel like there’s pressure to find the right person.
However, if you’ve been in the dating game for a while and are feeling frustrated with the apparent lack of options, at a certain point it might be worth asking if it’s possible that the problem is actually that you’re being overly picky.
So, how can you tell if you’re being too picky?
Your wish list has nothing to do with your values.
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). If your list is filled with must-haves that have nothing to do with your personal or cultural values, it might be worth revisiting, especially since attraction is something that can grow over time as we get to know someone.
You tend to predict the future.
“It would never work on the long run.” “It would be a great fling but he’s obviously not willing to settle down.” Sure, sometimes our intuition is spot on but it’s easy to convince ourselves that we know how things will turn out—but this isn’t necessarily the case. Truth is, we’re not all that great at predicting the future (but we’re really good at convincing ourselves that we are). 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.
You worry others won’t like you.
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. We don’t have to worry about feeling hurt or rejected when we’re the one who’s saying no. 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.
You have trouble making decisions in general.
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.
How can you stop pickiness from getting in the way?
Stop piling on the pressure.
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. It’s easy to feel discouraged and turn someone down when the conversation or date didn’t go exactly the way we expected or hoped it would. 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. You never know, if things don’t work out between the two of you, you’re still expanding your social network and they might be willing to introduce you to someone else.
Reach out to people you trust.
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.
Push forward, one swipe at a time.
We each have our own pattern that we fall into when it comes to dating. Maybe we’re quick to swipe right, but don’t end up initiating or following through with messages. Or maybe have trouble making the transition from online to in person. Alternatively, we might predictably decide to call it quits after one or two dates. One of the easiest ways to work on being less picky is to notice your checkout time (basically, the moment you say “nope”) and begin to push forward one small step (or swipe) at a time. Initiate an online conversation, suggest chatting over the phone, or agree to that third date. It isn’t necessarily about the specific person you’re interacting with, but about changing your overall pattern of pickiness. This way, when the right person does come along, we won’t dismiss them unnecessarily. Plus, you never know whether you just might click with someone after you’ve spent a bit more time with them and you’ve both gotten over the awkwardness of initial conversations or dates.
Give dates a real chance.
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. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to suspend making decisions until the date is over so we can really focus on being present and giving the other person a fair chance.
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.
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