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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Starlet's and Bore's

Do our standards with partners change as our dating pool increases and decreases?

Have you ever said "I would never date that person", only to end up dating them later?

Why did you change your mind?

Some of the reasons I hear are things like "After getting to know them I liked them" or "My first impression wasn't fair, so I changed my mind". And sometimes I think those reasons are true. I also think there may be another factor at work here. The theory that with abundance comes selectivity. With dearth of options comes acceptance.

Starting from the bottom let's imagine a single female who hasn't been dating. She just isn't being asked out by anyone. It is easy to then imagine if anyone asks her out, she would accept. Why not? It isn't like there are other options available on her date card. She might as well go do something, right?

Now let's imagine the same woman being asked out infrequently. Maybe once a month she is asked on a date. Assuming a quiet social life she would probably accept the requests and go on the dates. But with a busy social calendar she might be a bit more selective.

And finally, imagine the same woman being asked out regularly, say once a week more or less. Regardless of her social calendar it is easy to think she will probably start being a bit more selective. Are the dates attractive? Is there long-term potential? Are they sexually attractive, financially and emotionally stable?

I believe that as our dating pool increases, so do our standards. By the same token as our dating pool decreases, so will our standards. The two are directly proportionate.

Now is this a bad thing? Generally I don't believe so. Accepting the available date, without respect for quality or fit, allows people to maintain an active social life and keep their dating or social skills up to date. Where I do believe it becomes a problem though is when lowering expectations to maintain a social life is done without consideration of the reasons for dating in the first place. In other words, if you lower your standards to maintain a social life but still expect to find that *perfect partner*, you may be leading yourself into dangerous territory. After all, you are dating people that may not meet your usual standards. Could this explain some of the frustration people have with the quality of those they are dating?

Chasing this a bit further, it would be easy to see how one could be dating someone they wouldn't normally date, only to become frustrated when they turn out to have different standards or beliefs.

Where this theory seems to fall apart a bit is when applied to the poly community. At least, in my experience, plentiful dating options seem for some to actually decrease their standards. People who previously led monogamous lives and had specific standards like lifestyle, income, or education, suddenly begin accepting any offer of a date. I haven't quite figured that one out yet.

Don't get me wrong here, I actually think it is a good idea to challenge your self-imposed guidelines once in a while. You never know when you might click with someone on a level you never thought possible. My suggestion is simply this; if you have modified your standards in any way, be consciously aware of doing so. It may help you avoid some heartache, and headaches.



  1. Uh no... I think the so called lowering of standards comes from the sole fact that when you don't have to choose just one you don't need to be that picky - and can form simultaneous relationships with various people and find out that no one is the one and only but all have fine qualities ;)

    1. Milla,
      Thanks for the comment.

      I think we are partially in agreement, saying much the same thing about standards for different reasons. And I will gladly admit changing standards happens for various reasons.
      The real point I was trying to make is that changing standards based solely on supply and demand of dating partners can lead to people exploring relationships with those who aren't necessarily a good fit.


  2. That's a really interesting comment you make, about poly correlating to a change in standards (although I feel uncomfortable with the use of the word ‘decrease’).

    I think part of this is the monogamous idea that whichever partner you finally choose to be with needs to have as many of those ‘dealmaker’ traits (fertility, financial security, an appreciation of arthouse films, a love of adventure holidays…) as possible, because they’ll be the only person who is allowed to be that for you. Whereas if you are poly, you may decide to date someone who doesn’t have as many of those qualities because they have other qualities that you appreciate, that you might not otherwise have enjoyed if you were expecting them to be your one-and-only. For (a very superficial) example, if you have a partner who loves to cook and eat exotic foods that you adore, it’s a lot easier to date someone else who only eats plain meat-and-veg meals or fish and chips because the issue wouldn’t become a problem.

    It’s the same idea as you’ve already proposed, except looked at from a slightly different viewpoint. If you have, say, 3 partners, not every partner needs to match every standard you have. Not every requirement is equal, and not every partner needs to match your entire checklist.

    1. Great comment Serina, and all good points!

      I hear the theory a lot in the poly community that "Poly allows you to date others who will meet needs unfulfilled by your other relationships". I believe that's essentially what you are saying. But, I end up with the same thought I did in the article which is; if you engage in a relationship with someone who you know from the start can't meet all your needs, isn't quite a fit, are you setting yourself up for future failure if/when you become frustrated they aren't meeting your needs? The answer, from my experience in the poly community, is often Yes.


  3. My view is similar to that of the other posters. I have found that in poly situations, I can release some of my expectations, because I know this relationship is "secondary". So I found I was able to be more accepting and experiment with people I might not have dated otherwise. I'm also uncomfortable with labeling this a decrease of standard. I'd rather think of it as open to more possibilities. The one thing I learned for me, is if I know this person wouldn't be my primary, I need to take steps to make sure that the relationship doesn't drift over into primary territory. That's where I think trouble starts. I need to keep expectations of "primary" partners as high as I would if I were monogamous, because I want the same level of commitment and connection. The standards for non-primaries are much more flexible, because I'm looking for different things from them.

  4. Walkietalkieooo,
    Thanks for the comment :)

    I'm curious about your statement "I need to take steps to make sure that the relationship doesn't drive over into primary territory."
    What steps would you take? I'm not sure I understand the concept here. To me, that sounds like artificially limiting the relationship rather than letting it grow naturally. Then again, I don't prescribe to the concepts of relationship hierarchies and only use terms like Primary/Secondary for ease of conversation when necessary. If you could explain a bit I would appreciate it :)


  5. This.

    I (not working, childfree, moved back home at 38 after losing job in order to go back to school, lesbian) and my friend (straight woman, has a good career but uses a wheelchair, late 30s) find that only poly folk want to date us - and more, only poly folk with existing primary relationships want to date us.

    We both have a complex that we are "not good enough" to be anyone's primary partner.

    I am considering trying poly on since I am single anyway and perhaps if I am secondary to three people, maybe I won't miss having a primary?

  6. gmdreia,

    Thanks for the comment!

    It seems somewhat common that people going through life changes (career, orientation, ending long-term relationships) often become aware of polyamory and consider 'trying' it.
    I would caution that using polyamory, or any lifestyle for that matter, as a way of filling a void in life could lead to false hope. Instead I would suggest sitting down and taking a long look inside yourself to identify your needs, wants, and desires. Once that is done, then you can look for a lifestyle that fits you, rather than one in which you fit. Remember, there is nothing wrong with designing a relationship structure to fit you without using existing societal molds as a base.

    Without all the details, so I'm making a guess here, is it possible those "poly folk with existing primary relationships" that are the only ones wanting to date you are actually Unicorn Hunters? (Those looking for the bi-female to join their relationship). It wouldn't surprise me as that contingent is more often actively looking for partners than the general poly population. If that is the case don't be dismayed. Those are just the folks you have encountered so far and as you become more involved in your poly 'community' you will find more singles, or others who don't practice hierarchical relationships in which you wouldn't be a default Secondary.

    Safe travels on your journey,