As women, we hear it a lot, usually in a discussion that’s rife with single-shaming: “If you weren’t so picky, you’d find a partner/boyfriend/husband so much faster. What are you waiting for?”
Aside from the obvious sexism of a notion that assumes a woman needs a man for fulfillment in life, this question also assumes that pickiness is a bad thing. Pickiness in dating is wrong, because it’s best to keep an open mind, find someone who’s willing to be with you, and just settle down already. Gosh, it isn’t so hard, Karen! (I don’t know why I picked the name Karen—roll with me, here.)
What if Karen wants to be picky? What if Karen has real, concrete reasons why her exes or potential partners just don’t measure up? Being picky isn’t a negative—it’s a positive.
I’m picky. I have always operated on the principle of “gut feeling.” If I think, within the first meeting, that I’m just not attracted to or compatible with a certain person, I trust that feeling. And so I turn down potential prospects based on that, and it has never served me wrong in the past.
In fact, one of my major failed relationships happened because I didn’t trust that gut feeling. Turns out I was trying to make something work that was just never gonna happen.
On the other hand, a close friend of mine told me once to “give guys a chance,” referring to the many men I don’t give the time of day to, simply because I have a feeling they’re not right for me. She told me that all of her boyfriends of the past became so because she gave them a chance, even when she wasn’t totally into them at first. And while it’s admirable to give people second chances, it’s also worth noting that most of her relationships have failed because she had tried so desperately to fit these men into her own expectations of them, instead of finding a partner who was truly compatible.
That’s how I define pickiness: knowing what you want in a partner and being self-aware enough to recognize when you haven’t found it yet. I know I’d be in a relationship now if I weren’t so picky—if I gave guys a chance, if I set aside my misgivings, if I made sacrifices about the big things—but I wouldn’t be happy. I know that implicitly.
I’m happy being single, secure in the knowledge that I’m taking care of my emotional needs and building a life I can be proud of, so that if and when I bring someone into it, they improve my already-amazing life, instead of being the main focus of my self-worth and happiness. I’m picky because I should be picky. I’m picky because no one should settle for something less than they deserve.
That said, if you have a list of characteristics that you require in a potential partner, you’re on track for constant disappointment. Being picky doesn’t mean that you’ll find your so-called “perfect” partner. Being picky means being aware of your expectations in a relationship, being aware of your own worth, and making sure that you’re not settling for someone because you think there’s no one better.
Many of us have a mental list of things we know we want in a potential partner, but it’s when these get out of control, too specific, that you know you’re bound to be disappointed. Some men have the tendency to create a perfect woman in their heads, and become convinced that no one “less” than this is to be tolerated. Women do the same thing, crafting a “perfect man” so lovely that no one else can measure up. This isn’t pickiness—this is fantasy.
I want someone who makes me laugh, is kind and generous, is willing to put up with my crazy quirks and major annoyances, someone with passion, energy, independence and focus. I want someone who is suited for me, not because I’m wrangled them into conforming, but because it just works.
But I’m not fanciful enough to believe there’s a perfect man out there, on his white horse, just waiting for me to meet him. I just know that when I meet someone who fits into my life well enough, that I’ll work hard to keep him there. In the meantime, I’m happy being in a relationship with myself.