Please Stop Dating Down

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Over the past few years, select excerpts from my life have followed the below scenario:

  1. Marina meets boy.
  2. Boy objectively lacks something Marina is looking for in a partner, be it physical attraction, financial awareness, or a personality that qualifies him to be introduced to her friends (in certain cases, a personality, period).
  3. Boy really likes Marina.
  4. Marina is a little insecure and likes it when people like her. After a little effort on his end, she succumbs to his so-called “charms.”
  5. Boy screws Marina over. Shocked, Marina laments about it on every corner, sprinkling her woes with “But I didn’t like him to begin with!”

Marina is not alone. (Also, she is going to stop referring to herself in the third person because she is not a douchebag.) In fact, it appears that I am an occasional victim of a phenomenon called Dating Down, typical amongst women struggling with insecurity, dating fatigue and/or age-related anxiety. Under the pressure of one of these factors, we lower our standards and seek out partners who are not worth our pinkie fingers, just because they make us feel better about ourselves, or in control, or simply not alone.

Let me specify that I am not referring to inequality in basic attributes such as looks, education, or success. As proven to us by the fictional pairing of Charlotte York and Harry Goldenblatt, superficially mismatched couples can actually be an excellent fit. No, I am referring to the duos that consist of one decent individual who has their shit semi-together, and a second one who is, quite simply, a Loser. Telltale signs of the latter include: perennial Failure to Launch syndrome, consciously ignored self-destructive tendencies, some sort of 2017 form of “emotional unavailability” or is just a straight-up assholedom.

This, my friends, is “Dating Down.”

Yes, I realize that we are all humans, that nothing is black and white, that life circumstance often act as roadblocks, and that everybody deserves the benefit of the doubt. And yet, isn’t there a cutoff point at which we need to start evaluating people for who they are, and not for the responsible, caring Angels they have the potential to become? Serial cheating, perennial unemployment, inability to take care of yourself and, therefore, others – these are not streaks of bad luck, these are bad lifestyle choices. Considering that relationships are hard enough as is, why would you willingly enter a one that is preemptively tainted with problems?

What I find interesting is that, in other domains, we are always looking for the Best Thing. We hunt down the best jobs, the best apartments, – the best white t-shirts, for God’s sake. And yet, when it comes to the most important choice – our potential life partner – we are often willing to undervalue ourselves, i.e. to settle.

In most cases, dating down usually goes hand-in-hand with some deeply-rooted insecurity or fear. “If he is weak, I will always be stringer. If he is not worth me, he cannot really hurt me,” we say to ourselves. Guess what? Experience has taught me that this is hardly ever the case. In fact, this sort of unbalanced dynamic often leads to abuse of power and emotional manipulation, inflicting further damage to our egos. Translation: the more losers screw you over, the more cynical you become.

A wise person (my overpriced biannual shrink) once told me that I have a far healthier attitude towards work than I do towards dating. “Professionally, you respect yourself. You know your worth and wait for the right opportunities, rather than desperately committing to the first one that comes along.” she told me, adding that I would highly benefit from applying said logic to my relationships.

This got me thinking. Professionally, we have resumes that clearly show our level of accomplishment. We know which jobs we qualify for, which prevents us from lowballing ourselves into bad opportunities. Perhaps, we should try applying the same tactic to our love lives?

Humor me.  Sit down and write down a short summary of what you are seeking in a partner. “Looking for smart, funny, self-sufficient guy with good family values and just the right amount of mojo to keep me interested.” Ok, done.

Next, make a personal resume, listing everything you bring to the table. Include the big and the small, the virtues and the flaws. Smoker, morning terror, good cook, loyal partner – all that stuff goes on the list. This is your Love LinkedIn, baby!

Now, look at the list. Is what you offer cohesive with what you are looking for? Are you happy with yourself? Is this the best you that you can be, or is there something important that you want to improve upon? If so, fix what you feel is necessary – not because you aren’t great, but because it could be the one thing that is preventing you from seeking an equal match. Go to a shrink and fix your lingering issues, lose those extra 10 lbs that make you feel bad about yourself, get out of financial limbo. I am speaking from experience, not from a pedestal. Fix you shit and feel like your best self.

Now, leave the rest up to fate.

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