When people are unhappy with something about their partner or potential partner, they are often advised not to settle. After all, there are a lot of fish in the sea. That may be, but it’s also important to remember that not one of those fish is perfect in every way. And so if you keep looking for that blue ribbon catch, you will likely end up fishing for your whole life, or giving up. So, how do you know whether you are being appropriately discerning or too picky?While it can be helpful to know what you want in a partner, it is important to recognize that no one can be perfect. So, as you consider the traits in a partner that are important to you, remember to allow for the limitations of being human. To give you a sense of how to be reasonable in your expectations – and how to recognize when you are being too picky – consider the following three examples from my book, Insecure in Love.Securely attached and mature. When someone is comfortable with themselves and their connections, they are capable of being emotionally close while at the same time making space for their own, and their partner’s, separate, personal interests. They are also able to reflect on themselves and their lives in an open, insightful, and emotionally connected way. This enables them to acknowledge their limitations and non-defensively admit to their mistakes—all without sacrificing a positive sense of themselves.
You are being too picky if you expect your partner to never make mistakes. Even mature people have weaknesses, moments of flawed decision-making, and times when their emotions overtake their reason. But they recognize their failings and struggles, make earnest attempts to communicate clearly and non-defensively, and make sincere efforts to do better.
An effective communicator. Such partners are good at listening and sharing, which helps them to nurture and maintain close relationships. They can also effectively work through disagreements. In part, they have these strengths because they are generally good at identifying and managing their emotions—a definite plus as you try to connect with another person and work through the difficulties that inevitably arise in emotionally intimate relationships.
You are being too picky if you expect your partner to always agree with you – or to always agree with you once you fully explain your perspective. When this doesn’t happen, it may feel like they are not listening, but the problem might be that they simply think or feel differently than you. Also keep in mind that although effective communicators are good listeners, they cannot read people’s minds. You need to do your part for successful communication.
Appreciative of you. It is not enough for you to fall in love. Because relationships are co-created, they will make you happy in the long term only if your partner respects and values you— and expresses this in some way to you. Your partner must show an interest in getting to know you, along with supporting and encouraging you to explore those areas you want to explore.
You are being too picky if you expect your partner to be interested in everything that interests you. While it’s reasonable for you to want your partner to be respectful and supportive of activities you want to pursue – and certainly not be condescending or mocking, their interests may differ from yours. And that’s okay.
Whatever criteria you think are important for a partner, it’s okay to be discerning. Just keep in mind that being too picky is bound to end in failure. So, to find a happy relationship, keep your high standards, but be realistic.