3 Signs you should be more picky when dating

Kate Taylor

There are plenty more fish in the sea. But if you’re only catching old shopping trolleys, you might need to tighten your net just a smidge

In last month’s column, I revealed the top three signs that you might be way too fussy in dating. If none of those warning signs rang a bell, you’re either perfectly attuned to your own dating requirements and read my columns just to look busy at work, or you might not be picky enough

When you moan to friends about your struggle to find love, I guarantee you that someone will eventually suggest that you’re being too fussy. And if you’d been complaining about the recent dearth of model-lookalike NASA scientists signing up for your book club, they might have a point. But your dating struggles might actually stem from the fact that you’re not fussy enough. 

Dating isn’t about meeting as many people as you can—it’s about meeting someone with whom you can enjoy a happy, harmonious relationship. There are now more singles looking for love than ever, especially in the over-50s age-group. If you don’t learn how to be fussy, dating will feel more overwhelming than trying to choose a film on Netflix. 

So, does your door policy need a revamp? Could you do with raising your entry requirements? Here are my top three signs that you’re too inclusive, and how to change—without missing the love of your life. 

 

1. You spend more time wondering if they like you than if you like them 

If you spend your relationships tracking your partner’s interest in you like the FTSE index, or go into first dates thinking, “I hope they like me!” rather than, “I hope we like each other,” you’re not picky enough, probably because you’re suffering from low self-esteem.

If you’ve got low self-esteem, you will make most of your decisions out of fear. You don’t see why anyone would love you, so you’ll tolerate poor behaviour from partners, and stick with the wrong person for much too long because you worry that you’d never meet anyone else. You might even sabotage good relationships deliberately, rather than hang around for your own supposed worthlessness to be found out. 

Ultimately, you will probably be tempted to give up on relationships completely, as it’s exhausting to lose so much of yourself each time.

 

How can you tell if you’ve got low self-esteem? 

Counselling is a great place to discover for sure; counsellors are trained to quickly spot when patients are battling with feelings of low self-esteem. But the giveaways you might have noticed in your everyday life include being a perfectionist, prone to getting angry, and generally not putting yourself forwards for many things because you don’t ever feel you’re good enough. 

In relationships, low self-worth can cause you to make choices out of gratitude. You might still end up with someone perfect, but you could also deliberately date “down” because you don’t believe anyone of a higher standard would want you.

When you work to improve your self-worth—by discovering the root cause, and addressing it—you’ll naturally become more discerning in your relationship choices.  

 

2. You have no deal-breakers  

What are your must-haves in a future partner? Do you have any? Or are you so scared of accidentally screening out your soul-mate that you’re reluctant even to specify a species? If so, you’re not nearly fussy enough. 

Research has shown that women are slightly better at setting deal-breakers than men. But for both sexes, the less desirable you see yourself as a partner, the less importance you’ll place on someone else’s negative qualities. In fact, you’ll be more easily influenced by someone's good qualities—like their looks, or great job—if you don’t view yourself particularly highly.  

Deal-breakers are essential in dating. As well as setting boundaries, deal-breakers also immediately screen out anyone who definitely won’t be a good fit for you, leaving you free to focus on those who could. 

 

How to set good deal-breakers 

Think of issues that would impact your happiness long term. If you like to see your partners regularly, then set a distance deal-breaker of, say, under 10 miles, so you’ll be able to meet up easily. But if you like your own space, distance might not be as important to you as your partner having their own fulfilling life. 

If you’d like to be able to enjoy an active retirement with a partner, then fitness could be a deal-breaker. And if your family is a huge part of your life, you might want to look for someone who is equally close to their own kin. 

To start identifying your deal-breakers, make a list of qualities that have caused issues for you in the past, like dishonesty, anger, pessimism, or addiction. Once you’ve found five or six deal-breakers, feel free to ruthlessly screen out people who display those qualities. For example, if “dishonesty” is a deal-breaker for you, don’t feel you have to continue seeing someone who claimed on their online-dating profile to be 5ft 10, but in fact needed a booster seat on your first date.  

You can change your deal-breakers over time if things change. You can also add dealmakers—like, sense of humour, extrovert nature, etc—when you discover you love a certain quality. 

 

3. Your relationships move at lightning speed

If you hear of a friend getting engaged on their second date and wonder what took them so long, you might not be picky enough. 

Whirlwind relationships sound exciting, but they can be a sign that you’re overly-romantic and scared of being alone. You’re so eager to get into any relationship that you’ll deliberately turn a blind eye to its potential faults. When you’re caught up in the magic it feels harmless, but long-term, it can be painful. You risk becoming emotionally and physically connected, to someone who might not be a good match for you. When a deal-breaker emerges after you’ve already committed, the pain is much greater than if you were still free to make a detached, objective judgement. 

Even if you feel time is running out, you still should avoid moving too fast with people you don’t know fully. If you’re reconnecting with an old flame, things will move slightly faster. But with brand new dates, pacing is best.

 

A good pace for relationships 

If you’ve never paced a relationship before, you might not know what a “normal” speed is. As a sensible starting point, I’d say you should use the first three months of dating as a time to decide if this is someone you might want a serious relationship with. Spend time together outside the bedroom, enjoy hobbies and interests together, and keep things light and fun. Each date can build on the one before, so you open up more every time you meet. 

In the next couple of months, you can move things forward—meet each other’s friends and family; hit the sheets; go away for a weekend; speak every day through phone or texts. At this point you should start discussing the hot-button topics, like your views on marriage or how to manage your money. And when you reach the six-month stage, then you can start to decide if this is someone you could commit to, long term. 

If someone wants to move things faster than you’re comfortable with, don’t be afraid to put the brakes on. A good person will respect that you want to take your time. If someone gets angry or moody that you won’t join them in the fast lane, it’s a red flag because it shows they feel their needs are more important than yours. Just be glad you’ve seen it now, instead of after the wedding.