Between your online dating accounts, setups from friends and the occasional meet-cute at the corner coffee shop, it may feel like you’re meeting a lot of people.
Still, nothing seems to stick; nobody is living up to your expectations. There’s always one little thing that sticks out in your brain as a potential complication -- one little thing that keeps you from taking things any further.
Like Seinfeld, the quintessential finicky bachelor, it seems like every week, you’re dating someone new. Like Jerry, whatever the deal breaker is, you spot it early on and you’re out the door before the first box of condoms is empty.
Maybe some of the deal breakers you identify are legitimate judgment calls on your part, such as a girl who thinks David Bowie was in Queen. Or a guy who uses the phrase “barefoot and pregnant” like it’s not only a desirable state of being, but a mandatory one.
Or, maybe like Seinfeld, you’re focusing on some nitpicky flaws (mostly superficial or arbitrary qualities) that are easy to overlook or to even correct in the event of an open and honest relationship. Maybe you’re choosing to focus on a partner's few undesirable qualities so as to pre-sabotage the relationship. In other words, maybe you’re focusing on tiny flaws in order to enable your fear of commitment, just like Jerry.
If you are Seinfelding yourself — sabotaging all of your potential relationships by focusing on a partner’s one or two weird quirks — then in the long run, you are only hurting yourself. You are closing yourself off to the possibility of new experiences via new relationships and to the fulfillment and personal growth that can come from letting new influences into your world.
On the other side of the Seinfeld coin, if you aren’t picky enough when searching for a partner, you’re setting yourself up for a relationship (and possibly a lifetime) full of compromise; a relationship filled with setting aside your own preferences and expectations in favor of someone else’s that may differ from yours.
And while it’s very true that relationships do require a certain amount of compromise and a certain amount expectation adjustment, an ENTIRE relationship that is nothing but compromise won’t make either party happy.
Compromising too much can develop into compromising away all of your expectations and standards. This can happen so gradually and subtly over time that often, we don’t notice until we are heavily invested, and at that point, we realize that this partner has come to look nothing like our original standards and preferences.
That’s never an optimal situation in which to find yourself — one in which you realize you’ve dedicated irretrievable time and energy into a relationship with someone who doesn’t truly live up to what you want in a partner.
It can be difficult to determine in the moment if you are being unreasonably picky, like Jerry, or if you are simply trying to hold out for someone who lives up to reasonable expectations — someone who doesn’t lead you to lower your standards.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of setting standards for dating, sticking to those standards and not wavering in my search for the qualities I require and prefer in a partner.
Sure, there have been many times along the way that I’ve had to stop and ask myself, “Am I being TOO picky? Is this really a deal breaker? Should I just chill out, accept the flaw and adjust (lower) my expectations?” It’s often hard to answer those questions.
Is there a way to figure out if you are Seinfelding all of your dates and potentially missing out on the love of your life? Conversely, if you lower your standards a bit, is there a way to ascertain whether you are setting yourself up for a relationship filled with compromises and “letting the little things slide” so often that it turns in to one very big thing? How are we supposed to know in the moment which standards to keep and which to relax?
Well, the answer is that I have no definitive answer.
The answer depends on you, what you value, what you want and the type of person you want at your side through life. Given that, the one thing I do know for sure is that pinpointing exactly what you desire in a partner is the first step in dating efficiently. Even MORE important than identifying what you want in a partner is identifying what you absolutely, hands down, never in a million years would ever accept in a partner.
Desired qualities like “creativity” can be flexible and vary from partner to partner, but undesirable qualities like “irresponsible and unambitious” should never be negotiable. Those things that you absolutely will not tolerate in a partner are standards you should never lower or adjust.
When people use the terms “adjusting” or “altering” or “lowering” standards, what they really mean by that is another “S” word — the opposite of Seinfelding and a word we should all dread: settling. Lowering your standards is just a euphemism for settling for less than you’re worth but more importantly, settling for something — for someone — you already decided you absolutely do not want in your life.
So, if the two extremes in dating standards are Seinfelding yourself or possibly missing out on great relationships by refusing to overlook small flaws or lowering your standards to the point of settling for someone who has qualities you hate, the choice is obvious. It would be ideal to find some sort of middle ground regarding your pickiness, but, sometimes in the moment, it’s very difficult to establish a healthy level of compromise to decide which standards are worthy.
Ultimately, it’s better to err on the side of Seinfeld -- better to be cautiously picky. Life is short and every moment you compromise is a moment you aren’t pursuing your personal fulfillment and living up to your own expectations. Commit to never wasting another moment on something or someone that isn’t right for you.
Commit to never settling, even if it means paralleling Seinfeld’s levels of picky.
Photo via Seinfeld