Folks really can be a trip. There are certain people who, when they find out that I'm the never-been-married-before kind of single person who works with married couples for a living, the first thing they want to ask—which is usually in the form of a judgment—is "How can you advise married people on how to be married when you've never been married before?". Moving forward, I think I'll just start referring them to the married folks I work with because you know what? Knowledge is knowledge, regardless of the status of the source, and marriage is always something I've been passionate about. Serious about it too. That's why I actually take the information/insight/tips that I get and apply them, even now, to my own life, because I'd much rather say I've never been married before than to be in a miserable union or a broken one, just so that I can say I've been someone's wife—and qualify to speak to skeptics.
The follow-up question that oftentimes comes? "OK, but why aren't you at least in a relationship?" You know what's a trip about that? A lot of relationship coaches/counselors/therapists aren't and it has a lot to do with the topic for today. When you spend a lot of time studying the intricacies/nuances/missteps of relationships, you oftentimes find yourself being 1) very intentional about becoming a whole and healthy person in your single state and 2) at peace with not being with someone…just to have someone. In short, you find yourself becoming quite selective. To me, that is a good thing.
Yet what is the difference between being relationally selective and picky AF? Sometimes, the lines are quite thin. So, if you're someone who desires to be in a long-term relationship, I wanted to spend a little time exploring both sides, just to make sure that what you are doing is actually working for rather than against you.
If You’ve Got a Dating Wish List, Where Exactly Does It Come From?
Last summer, I wrote an article for the site entitled, "The Pros & Cons Of Creating A 'What I Want In A Man' Checklist". I know some folks (mostly women) who created a list of what they wanted in a man and ended up marrying someone who had most of what was on it. That's definitely a "pro". A "con", though, is sometimes those lists are filled with so much of what someone wants, that they don't really factor in what they need—or shoot, even why they want what they want. And yes, this is a pretty relevant point when it comes to figuring out the difference between if you're super-selective or unrealistically picky.
Say that you want a man who is over 6'. I'm not gonna knock that in the least because it's certainly a personal preference of mine. So is a man who is Godiva chocolate in his complexion (the darker, the better chile). Here's the thing, though. Did you know that only around 15 percent of men are actually that tall? That means 85 percent aren't. So, are you really going to pass up say, 10 opportunities to date someone who is 5'10", hoping to run into one 6' guy? And if so, what made you decide that under 6' is an actual deal-breaker?
The reason why this first point is so critical is because a lot of us have this idea of what we want in a partner without really exploring the reasons behind it—and oftentimes those reasons are not too much more than surface-level lust, dreams that came out of watching too many rom-coms or even something that is rooted in our own low sense of self-worth.
What I mean by that last one is sometimes we will choose qualities that we think will evoke "ooos" and "ahhs" from people we know, hoping that it will somehow make us feel better about ourselves. That's not a good enough reason. Folks are fickle. Besides, you've gotta live with the guy that they are only around in fleeting moments.
A wise person once said that if you don't have a map, you don't know where you're going, so again, if a wish list is totally your thing, I'm not knocking it. Just make sure that you have a clear "why" behind your list. And that you then take my next point into some serious account as you're putting said list together.
Be Honest: How Realistic Is It?
I once heard a man say something that triggered a lot of women. He said, "I think it's interesting that women will be quick to say that a man should have no issue with a size a lady should be and yet, a lot of bigger women aren't with bigger men." Be triggered if you want, yet I found that to be quite a checkmate. I personally know some women who are just like that—they think it's insulting for a man to not want a large woman yet they turn their nose up at the mere idea of dating a large man. Here's another point to ponder. I know some single moms who think guys are the devil incarnate for preferring not to date them yet the last thing they want to do is date a man who has children himself. What are the right words for this? Hypocritical? A double standard? UNREALISTIC? What?
No one is saying that you can't or shouldn't want what you want. However, there is something to be said for taking a practical approach to your mindset. To be practical is to apply some logic to your way of thinking. Is it logical to say that you want someone who doesn't have a lifestyle that is like yours? Is it really? I'm in my 40s. I have decided I don't want to have children. I tend to prefer younger men. Is it realistic for me to only consider men in their mid-30s who desire children when I don't want to have any? Why not a man in his late 40s who feels the same way? A lot of people miss out on some bona fide opportunities because they don't look at things from a practical/realistic angle. Definitely a point worth giving some serious consideration.
Have You Considered If You’re the Kind of Person You Desire?
Whenever I work with singles, this question is what seems to piss them off a lot. Almost to the point of being funny. I can't tell you how many times someone has told me that they want someone who not only doesn't have any debt but makes a good amount of money (at least $80,000-90,000) too. When I ask them if they have both of these things, 7 times out of 10, they look at me like I'm crazy. So, your standard is to be with someone who is financially stable and responsible when you're not? Another example. I know a woman who, after two marriages and two kids (one from each marriage), required the next man to be someone who had never been married and had no children. They got married. Their marriage has been hell on wheels too because while she was out here thinking about all of the things that a man should be, the husband got the short end of the stick in many ways because his wife did not take time to heal, resolve issues with her exes and make sure that her children were in a good space before saying "I do". So yeah, she got what she wanted yet she wasn't prepared to be what he needed because she was more focused on what she desired than actually being what she desired.
Real talk, that's a part of the reason why I'm choosing to be single in this season. Sometimes folks forget that singleness is oftentimes a choice and because of a lot of what I experienced in my childhood and adolescence, followed by some choices that I made as a young adult as a result of the trauma, I needed to make sure that I wasn't looking for some man to fill voids, fix issues or be more to me than I was willing to be for myself. Listen, it can be a hard pill to swallow yet if you're not taking the time out to ponder if you're not putting in consistent efforts to be the kind of person that you want to have, you are being kinda ridiculous—on a few levels.
How Being Too Picky vs. Selective Can Cost You in Dating in the Long Run
Let's talk about picky for a minute. My late fiancé was a very picky eater. An unhealthy one too because all he would literally eat was hamburgers and cheese pizza about 98 percent of the time. His mom even cosigned on how challenging it was to get him to try anything else while he was growing up. Whenever we would discuss it, he would share with me that he found what he wanted and there was no real reason to try anything else. While we were dating, he and my mother cultivated their own bond. Sometimes, she would talk him into trying out something she had made and while he wasn't always or automatically thrilled, he would admit that certain dishes weren't "half bad". The more he opened up, the more he experienced.
I'm pretty sure you can see where I'm going with this point, right? Remember how I said that a literal tall, dark and handsome man was my preference? My fiancé was 6'. Not dark in the least, though. To date, he's one of the best things to ever happen to my life. My last boyfriend wasn't tall or dark. I emotionally healed on a lot of levels because of the relationship.
There are a lot of people I know who take the stance of my fiancé when it comes to what they want in a person—I want what I want. Yet this resolve can sometimes cause a person to be narrow-minded and that can limit possibilities.
And just how can you tell if you're picky? Your expectations are superhuman high. You have a very all-or-nothing mindset. You are never open to compromise. You are known for sabotaging potential. You claim to not like things without being able to explain why. You are so "married" to your list that you never deviate. And the real catcher—you think that perfect actually exists.
There's nothing wrong with having standards, values ands certain needs. That's what it means to be selective. Yet when you're the literal definition of picky—"extremely fussy or finicky, usually over trifles"—that is when things start to become highly challenging. That is when you can find yourself on the path to always being in short-term situations or…constantly finding yourself alone.
Here’s How Not to Settle in Dating Without Being Too Picky in the Process.
So, what are you saying, Shellie? Throw all caution to the wind and just accept whatever? C'mon now. Absolutely not. I am a huge advocate of people not settling, in pretty much any area of their life. At the same time, when it comes to being selective vs. being picky, the main thing to keep in mind is selective tends to choose from options while being picky is very limited. Does a man have to make six figures or are you open to someone who is ambitious, financially responsible, and has good credit?
Does a man gotta look like Kofi Siriboe's twin or are you open to a man who is well-manicured, has a nice style, and takes good care of his holistic health? Is it not up for question that a man must be uber romantic or can he simply be thoughtful and attentive? Does his Johnson have the be the largest thing ever (check out "BDE: Please Let The 'It Needs To Be Huge' Myth Go") or is it cool if he's smaller and a good lover? Does a man have to be your exact same faith or does he need to have similar spiritual values?'
Cause here's the deal. A lot of times, when people take on the "I won't settle for less approach", what they're really saying is, "My desires are non-negotiable". That's kind of ridiculous because if your list is 50 things and none are open for compromise, your "non-settling" could actually be keeping you from a really great guy. The bottom line, when it comes to a man's character and standards, stand firm (while making sure your desires mirror those things). Everything else, be open to some addendums. Moving this way is the difference between being selective and getting a good man and being picky and quite possible, never finding one at all.
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