A friend of mine perfectly summarized today’s dating scene by describing a girl whom he met online: “A few years ago I would have dated her for a while to see where it went. But now, when I’m online and there are hundreds of other girls who are cute and seem interesting, I’d rather know what else is out there.”
This onto-the-next-one attitude — that can characterize many peoples’ dating strategies — makes it nearly impossible to find someone. It’s dating the same way that compulsive gamblers play the slots: putting in the quarters and pulling the levers without taking any time to acknowledge what’s actually falling out of the machine. We jump from one to the next so fast that we’re never really present in the date we’re on. The second that something rubs us the wrong way, we check out and decide “there’s something better out there.”
The paradox here is that our perception of having so many options actually leaves us with none — because it’s made us so picky that no one stands a chance. As a dater, it’s good to be discerning. But it’s bad to be picky.
By literal definition, discerning means “to perceive with eyes or intellect,” i.e., to have some insight about the person in front of you. You should really think about their personality traits, values and how much you enjoy being in their company. What you shouldn’t do is be fussy and particular about tiny facets of who they are: a lame comment they made, a hairstyle you don’t love or how objectively attractive you believe them to be. What really counts is the full picture, and it takes awhile to get that.
You don’t have to like everything about someone in order to have a successful relationship. Some things you may learn to accept over time; others you may just choose to ignore. Either way, the tiny reasons we often cite for discarding a date usually aren’t actual relationship dealbreakers down the line.
Would you blow off a guy at a bar because he had a popped collar? Probably. But if your boyfriend walked out with his collar flying you’d simply say, “Don’t do that honey; you look like a d-bag.”
And then live happily ever after.
Amber Madison is a Manhattan-based therapist who specializes in dating and relationships and is currently taking on new clients. She is also the author of Are All Guys Assholes? for which she traveled the country, spoke to more than 1,000 men and discovered that the answer to this question is no. You can follow her on Twitter @ambermadi.