I continue to be surprised by how picky many of my clients and friends are when it comes to envisioning their “ideal match.” Women almost universally say height is a major requirement—ideally 6’0” and up. Men on the other hand seem to always want physically fit and younger. I have female clients who parade into my office and since they are independent, stylish, and successful assume they are the equivalent of “Heidi Klum” or male clients who assume because they work out with a personal trainer and have a large bank account they are the Silicon Valley equivalent of “Brad Pitt.” Since they develop sometimes lofty senses of who they are, these inflated egos carry over into selecting mates for marriage, which in return equates to unrealistic demands and criteria. It is kind of a vicious circle and finding love in the end can be difficult, as compared to my clients who open their heart and mind to meeting a wider range of people who perhaps they once overlooked because they were being pickier than they should be.
Something that I have explained to clients and friends ad nauseam, is that certainly looks, pedigree, and success are important for many of us high caliber professional types but those merits are not everything when it comes to finding “the one.” When I was younger, I used to think that the chiseled and tan looking guy with the Ivy League degree, flashy car, and Goldman Sachs account were the most important criteria as I began to navigate my way around the San Francisco Bay Area searching for “my match.” Sure, the cars were fast, the A list VIP tables at restaurants were always welcome, and the good looks did not hurt.
Yet, these guys I dated that eventually became boyfriends seemed to lack a deep core and certainly did not have the emotional intelligence I needed for marriage. I found myself repeatedly anchoring onto these criteria. They seemed to be more focused on relishing in their fraternity days and the next big IPO than having intellectual discussions and being able to relate to one another on a deeper level. It’s not that I was looking for my American Nietzsche, yet someone with some intuition, depth, and character. Someone who could communicate, be open, honest, true, loving, have self respect, and respect for those around him. Someone I found sexy but where sexy was not everything.
After those relationships of mine eventually failed, through self work and some introspection, I began to look beyond those seemingly superficial barriers and cast a “wide net” in the selection process. I asked myself some hard questions and thought really seriously about these superficial things that I once held onto so closely. Perhaps I had been too picky (as well as really superficial) and eliminated some great guys in the process. I asked myself, is the new car really that important in selecting a mate for marriage? Was his family’s second wine country home truly that necessary? Was his $500K salary everything to me? My answer was “no.” These surface merits were certainly nice and could lead to a lovely lifestyle but would I truly be happy in a marriage with a man like this? Maybe he would be a crappy husband, a poor father, hurt me, or hurt our marriage, because we simply did not have that deeper bond from the get-go.
Instead of analyzing my past relationships, I want to help you all see the good in many men or women you might over look. These men and women are all around you and often looking for their ideal mates. Sometimes they are shy, so they are not that total extrovert you usually seem to gravitate towards. Sometimes they are in between jobs but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking and going to eventually find a good job.
Ask yourself if you really deserve to be as picky and demanding as you are acting. Were you the Bay Area’s Heidi Klum or Brad Pitt and able to “get away” with these tendencies in the past? Why are you still single? What a great question to ask yourself. Why are you still single? No really, why are you still single? What factors have been limiting you to meeting a great person? Your lofty requirements might be halting you from meeting your Prince Charming or Princess-in-waiting.
If you Prince Charming was under 6’0” and actually 5’9,” I bet you would reconsider him. If you saw that he possessed the really important things for marriage as indicated earlier (honesty, open communication, trust, fidelity, love, dedication to you/the marriage), you just might have yourself a new beau, instead of another guy you write off because he’s too short or not perfect enough. I am not asking you to settle, I am asking you to reevaluate your requirements, yourself, and why you haven’t found “the one” yet.
In opening up my mind, my heart, and soul, I met my match for marriage. Within nine months of meeting, we got engaged and are now planning our wedding. If I had kept looking for my tan, chiseled, $500K guy, I would have absolutely without a doubt overlooked my future husband. My future husband is a genius and a bit unconventional. He’s an entrepreneur, CEO, academic, athlete, and visionary. He is also the deepest, most loving creature I have ever encountered. I know in my heart he will be an amazing husband and father and well, if he gets a nice summer tan and a $500K Christmas bonus, lucky me….
Linx relationship coach and therapist, Nina C. Ericson, Ph.D., has contributed her thoughts on being picky:
Q: When is “not settling” being too picky?
A: As a psychologist in private practice for over ten years, and now as a coach, I’ve seen many Bay Area singles who have been accused by family and friends of being “too picky.” I’ve had the opportunity to help them figure out if they are “too picky.” If we conclude that that is the case, we work together to help them be realistic about what attributes they are seeking in a mate.
Let me start by talking about being picky. You need to be picky! We are talking about choosing the person with whom you are going to spend the rest of your life! What qualities does your mate need to have in order for you to have a happy, healthy long-term relationship together? Of course, you need to have chemistry. Beyond that, you must think about the life goals, character traits, and values you need to have in a husband or wife. There are many qualities you may WANT your soul mate to have, but it is more important to know what your “must have” qualities are. You absolutely should be picky when deciding if someone you are dating has these non-negotiable qualities.
Three Tips to Make Sure You Are Not Being Too Picky
1. Don’t make snap judgments on a first date.
Many singles, not wanting to waste time if a date may not be “the one,” make quick judgments about someone without enough information.
Example: I had a very smart female client who had some great phone conversations with a blind date and was really look forward to meeting him. When we met after their date, she said she was really disappointed and would not go out with him again. She decided that he was “emotionally unavailable” because he was somewhat matter-of-fact when he answered my client’s question about where his parents lived by saying that they had both passed away. He didn’t break down and reveal any deep feelings, and my client thought he was cold, not emotional. My view? He responded appropriately on such an early date, and she knew nothing about how emotionally in-tuned or not he was. She may have passed on a great guy. Over time, this client learned to get to know her dates better before deciding whether they had the attributes she wanted. She married a guy who is a great match for her!
2. Make sure your “must have” list is realistic.
Does your soul mate have to ski? Does he have to be 5’11” or taller? Does she really need to have a graduate degree? If you have too many exact descriptions of what you want, you may never find someone with all the items on your list.
Example: I had a male client who wanted to settle down. He came to me complaining that it was impossible for him to meet his future wife. I asked him what was on his “list,” and he described the woman very specifically, down to height, weight, hair color, and type of college she attended. He had been right- it was very unlikely that he would ever meet this exact woman (let alone that she would be available and attracted to him). This client had to work on being open-minded.
3.Make sure your physical ideal for your perfect match is not so etched in your mind that you eliminate dates who don’t exactly fit your physical expectations in a mate.
Wait—don’t stop reading—I AM NOT SAYING TO DATE PEOPLE YOU DON”T FIND ATTRACTIVE. Attraction is vital. I am saying not to be too specific about physical attributes.
Almost all singles have an image of who would make a great mate for them. This image is usually visual first, filled in with the deeper qualities that are desired. Because the visual image of your future partner is usually forefront in your mind, you can easily be put off by a date who does not exactly match your physical ideal. My advice is to keep an open mind. If you are having fun with a date, and don’t see any deal-breakers, give the person three or four dates to see if you grow attracted to him or her!
Example: I worked with a woman who was 5’9” and would only go out with someone who was 6’ and over. She wanted to be able to wear heels and be shorter than her date. Well, this cut out a sizable number of potential first dates. In looking at her pattern, she realized that she was passing on some great guys. She found someone who met all of her “must-haves,” they got married, and are now the parents of two little girls! Even though her husband is 5’9” she will happily tell you that she didn’t settle.
So, in your search for your soul mate, be picky, but not too picky!
By Amy Andersen and guest author, Nina Ericson, PhD.