A friend was recently lamenting a double standard in dating where men genearlly have a greater selection of women than women do for men. One example is age range. Men are considered more “eligible” well into their fifties, whereas women have to contend with a biological clock. For whatever the reasons, men on the whole seem to have more options than women… and with more options comes greater selectivity.
I’m not interested in which gender has it easier – at the end of the day everyone’s experience is what’s important – but in what it means to be “selective.” Last week we spoke about checklists that people make before meeting, but what about the calculations we make after we meet people?
I think there are two attitudes which are most common. The first is the “comparison shopping” model where people are evaluated against other people. This is particularly common in “scene” communities where new potential dates pop up every week, such that every person can be compared to everyone else. To some degree, there’s something natural in this approach, but the problem is obvious. For example, even if you find someone who is 85% of everything you’re looking for, you’ll always be able to find someone who is smarter, fitter, richer, or whatever-er, which makes it pretty tough to appreciate people for who they are. Essentially, people reject others under the assumption that someone “better” is just around the corner. This is, of course, specious reasoning since nothing is guarenteed, let alone the affections of unknown suitors.
Unless you’re in a complicated love triangle the real “choice” isn’t between one person or another, but rather between a relationship with this person or no relationship. According to this approach, the comparison is not selecting one person over another, but in comparing how one feels with or without a given person. Even if it’s possible that the person you’re seeing now is the last best chance you’ll have for a relationship, that doesn’t mean the relationship is healthy for you or that it will ultimately lead you to the happy life you deserve.
Of course, no one can ever know for certain how their decisions will pan out down the road. All we can do is make the best decisions we can with whatever information we have in the present. Even if we don’t know if anyone else awaits us, we hopefully know how to properly value ourselves.