It’s hard to know where to draw the line.
Whether you’re a dating novice, fresh out of a long relationship or have been burned too many times and want to protect yourself, standards are hard to balance.
Too low and you risk letting anyone into your life, too high and you risk pushing good people out.
Having standards is a useful tool when you’re getting to know someone new and are learning their behavioural patterns.
Standards are, by their very nature, limiting. While this might serve someone in the early stages of dating by weeding out incompatible people, it can narrow the pool too far.
Natasha Silverman, a counsellor at relationship charity Relate, tells us: ‘There’s a difference between having high standards, and having unrealistic expectations.
‘A common misconception when dating is that if we choose the “perfect” partner, then we’re in for an easy ride and there will never be any problems.
‘In reality, every relationship requires those in it to work together to make it a healthy and fulfilling place.
‘We’re always changing and evolving as individuals and it’s key for the needs of the relationship to be reviewed, communicated and renegotiated together.
‘That said, it’s important to make sure that you’re starting from a place of common ground: respect, honesty, and kindness are considered to be the foundations of most healthy relationships.
‘You are not expecting too much to want your relationship to generally feel fulfilling and healthy.’
What might ‘too high’ standards look like?
If you’re seeking perfection, your standards are too high.
Natasha says: ‘The “perfect partner” simply doesn’t exist.
‘If you’re expecting to find someone who meets your ideal requirements physically, professionally, or financially, who never disagrees with you, never becomes irritable on a bad day, and whose sex drive is perfectly matched to yours – you’re probably going to be bitterly disappointed.’
Every relationship involves compromise.
Another telltale is that you cut people off too soon, without giving them a chance. Sometimes people grow on you.
‘If no one seems worth a date or two, it could be that you’re screening out potential matches prematurely,’ Natasha explains.
‘Relying too heavily on a list of preconceived characteristics might mean you’re missing out on clicking with people you wouldn’t have expected to.’
If you reject people based on them not matching up to an image you have in your head immediately, you probably have standards that veer on being unreachable.
You might meet someone who’s the perfect match physically, but not emotionally.
There’s a degree of open-mindedness needed here.
What might cause someone to develop high standards?
It often goes back to your own self-worth and thoughts around how relationships work.
‘When dating, people can unknowingly try to repair their lower levels of self-esteem by having a laundry list of requirements, unconsciously believing that if a “high status” date chooses or commits to them, then they will be, or will feel “good enough”,’ Natasha says.
‘Unrealistic expectations can often stem from a real fear of “getting it wrong”, particularly for those who want to avoid “wasting time” or feel the pressure of needing to settle down.
‘Sometimes, impossible expectations can be a way of putting obstacles in the way of dating, because of anxieties or other issues that need to be worked through.’
Unrealistic expectations can come from the misbelief that a potential relationship is more about the other person than what the two of you can create together.
Relationships require give and take, and are co-created by two people.
How we can move towards having healthier standards?
There are ways to move around your high standards towards something better balanced.
Natasha says: ‘Core values aside, it can be helpful to try dating outside of the factors you assume would make you compatible with someone.
‘Connection and desire are so much more than a checklist of preconceived characteristics.
‘It can help to try experimenting with dating someone different – perhaps you’ll click with someone you wouldn’t have expected.
‘If dating is repeatedly not working out, consider whether maybe you’re unknowingly choosing the same type of person for some reason. We humans love a pattern, and it isn’t unusual to repeat past mistakes repeatedly before we consciously start to break them.’
Try looking inwards to consider whether you need to work on your own ability to communicate well, disagree constructively, and spot if you have any obstacles in the way of connection and emotional or physical intimacy.
‘If dating hasn’t been working out for you for a while, think about reaching out to a relationship counsellor to explore what might be keeping you stuck,’ she adds.
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