You recently noticed that you don't swipe right too often. Instead, you find yourself looking through your potential matches on your dating apps and audibly saying, "No, thanks," as you swipe left. You type out messages after the first or second date, saying something like, "I had a nice time, but I don't see this going anywhere. Sorry!" You know it's OK to not feel a connection, and it takes time to find "the one," but you have to admit that in those moments, one question runs through your mind: Why am I single and so picky in my relationships?
For starters, you shouldn't be hard on yourself. Finding love can be tricky, exhausting, and complicated, and it's difficult to navigate the modern dating world. Social media, romantic comedies, and dreamy sitcom relationships have set unrealistic standards of love and affection and they've set them pretty high. Texting and other technologies like social media and video chatting have turned communicating into a science, and the whole process is much more anxiety-provoking than maybe ever before. (I know you've waited for that bubble with the three blinking dots to appear more than once.)
According to Psychology Today, online dating, in particular, has really changed the dating landscape — and not necessarily for the better. According to the article, Eric Resnick, the founder of ProfileHelper.com, revealed that “[Swipe apps] have trained the newest generation of single adults to look at online dating as more of a video game."
But, spoiler alert! Finding love is not impossible. Digging a little deeper and getting answers to your most pressing questions — like why on Earth you have the relationship habits you do — is just #necessary before finding and falling for "the one."
I spoke with Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, licensed psychologist and relationship expert, and forthcoming author of Toxic Insecurity: Why Relationships Matter Most in Our Search for Love, Happiness, and Authentic Power, to get a better understanding of what's going on in a single, picky person's heart and mind. Because we first need to understand if being "picky" is a thing you should feel some shame about, or if it's a thing that people who are single and picky tend to feel judged about.
Rhodes first notes there's a difference between being "discerning" and what some people consider being "picky." She defines a "discerning" person as someone who embraces a relationship with an open heart and makes decisions based on their best and highest interests. This type of person is assertive and confident, which leads them to meet a lot of people naturally — whether that be in a dating or friendship scenario. Discerning people can also come across as secure in who they are and what they want.
"I love discerning people," Rhodes says. "They always make decisions from a place of love but with a strong dash of boundaries."
On the contrary, Rhodes defines a "picky" person as someone who is typically worried "they will make the wrong decision." She explains that, when picky people make decisions, their ego is actually the one at work. It's trying to judge characteristics like height, financial status, and education. If you're this kind of person, you may appear to be discerning, but you're actually "operating from a place of fear." And so, you tend to deal with "narcissists, toxic insecurity, and other self-involved individuals" knocking at your door.
According to Rhodes, that means your mind, body, and soul may not be as in alignment as someone who is considered to be discerning. You may be pushing away your good and bad emotions, ignoring your fear, and making room for logic — especially when you're making decisions like whether or not you want to go on a second date, or swipe left or right.
It can be wise to be picky.
I also spoke with Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition, about this fear of making the wrong decisions. She says sometimes worries and nerves are a matter of trusting yourself, being ready for what a committed relationship needs and calls for, or not wanting to relive negative experiences.
"Some of the most common fears are getting hurt or putting up with mistreatment for longer than you want to admit to yourself," Wish says. "One of the most confounding experiences you hope never again to repeat is feeling fooled."
According to Wish, especially if someone hasn't had much success in their previous relationships or effectively spotted those warning signs before, they may want or need to take extra time when searching for their perfect match. In that case, she says, "It can be wise to be picky." You're able to get better at assessing people, "gain some valuable maturity time for your brain," and even focus on your personal goals and career path.
Susan Winter, NYC relationship expert and love coach, agrees, saying there are benefits to being picky. You likely won't let someone else's romantic preference or goals take over your own, and might even discover yourself "trying on" new relationships and partners to find what you want. "Bottom line — you'll be happier when you get what you actually want," she says.
You do have to be careful that you don't become overly picky for the wrong reasons, though. For example, only being open to dating or pursuing someone who is exactly what you vision in a partner, "eliminates all other viable possibilities," According to Winter, it may keep you from striking up a conversation with someone who has a lot of potential to be "the one," just because they don't have blue eyes or an engineering degree. It's essential to know your goals and standards, but be welcoming, too.
Winter adds millennials are facing a time period in dating that's truly, well, difficult: "It's never been harder to get to partnership." Labels, drama, and complicated emotions can get in the way of finding that true and continuously sought-after love.
The wonderful part of breaking new ground is that there is a greater opportunity to expand into the true authenticity of your own romantic design.
However, since the dating scene is so different in 2019, millennials have the opportunity to design romance and decide what a relationship looks like to them. "The wonderful part of breaking new ground is that there is a greater opportunity to expand into the true authenticity of your own romantic design," Winter says. "No longer being tethered to a cardboard cutout, one-size-fits-all model of the ideal mate enables modern daters to find real meaning in their love alliances."
Winter suggests the modern dating world gives you — whether you're typically picky or not — room to explore and find what you're looking for. It gives you time and space to become who you are as an individual and find another human being who supports that wholeheartedly. "Allowing yourself to be the complete expression of whomever you are and whatever you're becoming, allows for a clearer ideal of your 'best romantic match,'" Winter says. So get to know yourself first and foremost, and then the cute person sitting near you at the bar.
According to Wish, one way you can get to know yourself is to seek out professional therapy so you can effectively address those hard-hitting and insightful questions about yourself like, "Why did I choose the partners that I did, and when I did?" and "What frightens me the most about love?" She says millennials tend to be aware of themselves when they don't feel grounded or confident. If you realize you're feeling this way, reflecting on the "why" and your past choices may be helpful.
Emotions are a superpower that are connected to our creativity and sexuality. Ignoring emotions is basically ignoring life.
Rhodes also suggests facing the emotions you have tied to dating — and not ignoring them. "Emotions are a superpower that are connected to our creativity and sexuality," she says. "Ignoring emotions is basically ignoring life."
Instead of pushing thoughts like, "Why am I like this?" or your negative energy to the back of your brain, address them. Welcome balance into your life rather than toxic insecurity, and see how it radiates into your relationship habits.
"When you walk the streets with the [knowledge] of who you are, your energy is unstoppable," Rhodes says. Adapt the mindset that those awkward first dates, countless swipes to the left, and missed connections have given you growth.
"Self-care, personal development, and the mindset that dating provides experiences to grow is what singles need to ultimately thrive." And you likely will thrive, even if your love life doesn't feel fairy tale-esque right now. Odds are, the person who is 100% and undeniably "the one" for you is coming. The universe just wants to make sure you're prepared, understand yourself, and have fully bloomed.