It’s a tale as old as time, by millennial standards.
Boy meets girl, boy swipes right, girl also swipes right, deciding boy looks like Ryan Gosling. Score.
Chat begins. Digital fireworks seize the Tindersphere.
“What’s your favourite kind of cheese?” asks Boy. Girl is appalled that Boy missed the crucial “dairy-free” part of her bio, indicated by a cow and an aggressive red X. Girl deletes boy. Romance is as dead as the cows Girl laments.
Whether you’re after a dark-haired, Scandinavian supermodel or a Polo-playing Welshman with a penchant for iced oat milk lattes, when it comes to finding love, being picky can make things tricky.
What does it take for your “type on paper” to “tick all the boxes”? And what happens if, after twenty years of looking for your Mr/(Mrs?) Darcy, you’re still living up your Bridget Jones pseudo-fantasy?
“Dating is a two way thing,” explains dating expert James Preece. “It’s OK to rule people out but why would Mr or Miss Right be interested in dating you in the first place? You can’t expect to date a supermodel if you aren’t even taking care of yourself properly,” he notes.
Indeed, focusing on aesthetics is a red flag, agrees dating specialist Jo Barnett: “When someone starts their list with a description of how they want their partner to look, I know they are being too picky. If a guy has to be a certain height or dress in a certain way, have a specific job etc.”
This kind of mentality will just lead to a string of unsuccessful first dates. “Picky people will have a checklist of all the things they want in a partner and if they don’t tick every box they give up,” Preece explains.
Unsurprisingly, if you want to build a successful relationship, you have to start looking for more than pretty faces.
“The biggest issue is that what people say they want and what they really need rarely align,” Preece points out. “A happy relationship is one that’s built on shared values and interests as much as physical attraction. Chemistry can grow if you are willing to give it a chance.”
Given the endless supply of dating apps at our disposal, you’d think that pickiness wouldn’t be an issue anymore.
“Part of the problem is that we are overloaded by choice,” says Preece. “It’s so easy to load up a dating app or online dating site to get a date in minutes. So people don’t bother putting the effort in when they do meet them. They know there is someone else waiting if it doesn’t work out so why bother? It’s a vicious circle that happens when you are basing someone on their photo rather than a personality.”
Not to mention the stakes of people’s expectations being exacerbated by celebrities, social media and an endless slew of rom coms, or what Preece calls the “Disney Syndrome”.
“Some women are brought up to believe that one day they will be swept off their feet by a gorgeous prince. They’ll live happily ever after… which is of course completely unrealistic. If they don’t get out and put the work in with relationships then they just aren’t going to last,” he says.
Joanne agrees: “We are surrounded by celebrities and athletes who have perfect bodies and train all day long, so when it comes to choosing a partner, if they don’t have a six pack or long lean legs we think that we must be settling. The truth is that we have lost touch with reality.”
That’s not to say that being picky is the same as having high standards, points out Madeleine Mason, dating psychologist and director of dating expert company PassionSmiths.
“High standards refer to upholding principles of good manners and dating etiquette, reflecting respect, honour and authenticity to oneself and others and expecting the same behaviour in return. Being picky, on the other hand, refers to a position of choosing or rejecting based on a narrow set of value or attributes. Not everyone is picky, just the ones who deep down are afraid to open up,” she continues.
For 24-year-old Mandy* from London, it’s simply a matter of timing.
“I’ve never had a really long-term relationship and my mum always tells me I’m too picky. The way I see it though, if I’m happy being single at the moment but open to the prospect of a relationship if the right person comes along, why should I settle for anything less than perfect? I do sometimes fear that this attitude may not be wise later in life though – I know no-one’s perfect and I’m certainly not, but it’s hard to make yourself settle when you think someone better might be just around the corner,” she explained.
Why not try taking a few non-negotiables off your list and look for love in the least likely of places?
Simon Pegg met his wife on a bus in Greece whilst on a lads holiday – no need to turn into a pumpkin yet, dear Tinderella.