When it comes to dating someone new, do you have to decide between comfort and passion? How do you know if you are too picky when it comes to prospective dates? The short answer is, it depends. Let me give you an example from my own life.
When I first started dating post-divorce in my late 30’s, I knew what I wanted in a mate. He should be handsome, rich, tall, driven, and fun. With that decision, I entered the fairly new world of online dating. The guy I ended up clicking with first was handsome, rich, tall, and sort of fun.
But over time, it was clear he was also a commitment-phobe with lots of baggage and family issues. I learned a lot about dating from that experience but also wasted valuable time and emotion in a dead-end relationship.
So emotional stability and an interest in getting married were added to the required traits in prospective dates. There were many starts and stops, as I met a variety of men through multiple venues. By the time I started dating my now-husband, I had matured and realized which aspects of a future mate were most important.
Through trial and experience, I refined a set of personal guidelines that centered on honest self-reflection rather than a generic sort of boyfriend yardstick. I’m sharing the recommendations I make to single women in their 30’s and beyond who are facing the internal debate of “settling.”
- Write out your list of desired (primarily internal) qualities in a man.
The first step is to reflect on the main criteria you have for a partner. If you’ve ever gone out with or fancied a guy, you have an idea of what sorts of things you are looking for. And you know what is truly important to you. This list will be refined and change as you go on dates. Be open to experimentation and embrace the new awareness about what sort of person works best for you.
Before I met my husband, I was speaking with one man who seemed to have everything on my list. Unfortunately, he also came with red flags, which I let slide because I was tired. I wondered if I was too picky? Or would letting go of some of my expectations mean I was settling? Or was there someone out there that had the qualities that I most needed for a happy and fulfilled partnership?
As time passed, a part of me knew that I wasn’t okay with settling. I was learning more about what was truly important to me. My guy needed to get along well with my family. He should also be interested in building a secure future together. And have a generous spirit and a clear aptitude for fun and adventure.
My running checklist continued to expand. And I eventually ended a situation that was going nowhere.
Now, it’s your turn. What qualities do you prefer in a mate? Does he need to be athletic and energetic? Down to earth and well-read? Open to sarcasm and learning new things?
If you are having trouble refining your list, get clear on the sort of life that you would like to lead in the future. Go through how you spend your days, moment by moment.
Do you get up early in the morning and prefer someone that does the same? Would you like to travel to a new country every year, or every few years, and therefore need someone open to travel? Are you a homebody that prefers being cozy at home during the weekends, over parties, and socializing? Look at everything, from how you currently live your life, to the big dreams you have and changes to which you can see yourself being open versus closed to.
In case it wasn’t already clear:
- Strong physical attraction can quickly draw us in, but it must not be the only thing in the relationship.
Again, I’m recommending that your list primarily has internal rather than external qualities.
Keep in mind that our most desired qualities in a man change as we age. The flash and charm that we might desire as teenagers and in our 20’s are replaced by more tangible and future-based qualities like a good source of income, emotional stability, ability to commit, and strong values in tune with ours. When we move into our mid 30’s and beyond, we may add more particulars such as having no kids, no crazy ex in the picture, accepting of our own kids, financial and emotional stability, and the desire to commit to the right partner. Again, your list will vary based on what works best for you.
In my case, I got into a long term relationship in my 20’s, and it ended when I was close to 40. I started dating for real fairly late in the game, so I had to clarify what qualities I was looking for quickly. If this is you, too, make sure that you are looking for those qualities that will work best with your current lifestyle and future desires.
Other factors such as attachment type can also come into play. Know your type and, therefore, what sorts of people you are naturally drawn to. Do the work of finding the guy that you can be happy with. I recommend two books that are great resources if you want to look into this topic further. These are: “Attached” by Amir Levine and “Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription” by Dr. Seth Myers.
My husband is just the right guy for me, even though he was not my usual type when we met. I find him very handsome, and he’s also my best friend. We have problems like any other couple, but we also just fit.
The fit can take time to figure out as you date a person. It took time for the attraction to grow between us. Strong compatibility and the ability to trust my partner were huge factors for me when I was dating. Again, figure out your biggest factors, and pursue them as you date.
I do want to make one thing clear. If you are not in any way attracted to the guy, continuing to date him is settling. So if there is no chance of finding him attractive in the future, let him go.
If there’s a chance, it’s a great idea to give them a few more dates. Eventually, you will know if the attraction is there. Try not to overthink it. I advocate talking to multiple people until you have gotten to the ‘we are monogamous’ stage as a couple.
- A guy that you can learn from and grow with is an excellent thing.
Constantly learning and doing new things are important to me, and I wanted my future husband to possess similar characteristics. Although my husband hadn’t traveled much before our relationship without getting into details, we tested the waters with a few trips when we were dating. Fortunately, he loves traveling now! He is also supportive of my various interests, not only because they are part of who I am but also because he enjoys learning. And I do the same with him.
This area of continued growth is an important factor. If you are the type of woman that loves to be challenged and strives to live to her full potential, be on the lookout for signs that a date is similarly minded. If he doesn’t, this could be an issue as you pursue a relationship.
Many subscribe to the idea of manifesting your ideal partner. I agree with this practice, to a point. As I have mentioned before, being too set on desired qualities can also block you from being open to qualities that can change you for the better. I see this in my own life.
If anyone had told me 10 years ago that I would be married to a man that lives with his mother, I would have called them crazy. But this situation works for us.
In hindsight, I could never have imagined a life that was so peaceful but also exciting and full. It has allowed me to grow into the woman I always wanted to be. A large part of this growth happened because I was willing to date a new sort of guy and to give the attraction and fit extra time to grow. For this reason, I encourage you to be open to new situations and different sorts of men. Only rule out the things that you know for a fact will not work for you.
To reiterate this point:
- Give guys outside your type a chance.
Definitely pursue a relationship with the man that you are attracted to. But it’s also okay to give someone new a few meetings to allow the attraction to build. Figure out the great qualities that different guys have to offer and take your time. Really get to know yourself through this process. Ultimately, YOU are the one in the relationship, so only you can decide who to take a chance with and see where the dates go.
Going back to the original question of being open versus settling: there is no one-size-fits-all answer. How you fit together is the most vital piece to focus on! It is the best indicator of a couple that has the resources to go the distance.
Many factors go into the making of a happy and fulfilling relationship. These factors differ for everyone, based on where we are within our own lives, what qualities we value, and the sorts of lives we want to live.
To summarize, here’s how you can make sure you are going after what you need most in a mate:
- Write out your list of desired qualities.
- Focus on the commonalities and the potential for a great future together over an overwhelming attraction
- Research your attachment style and be sure you are dating the right type for you
- Be open to dates whom you can learn from and grow with
- Keep going and pay attention to the current and future potential for fit with each date.
Do the work, and you can get what you want. You’ve got this!
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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