Are Your Dating Standards Too High?

There's a sweet spot for dealbreakers

<p>Verywell Mind / Stocksy</p>

Verywell Mind / Stocksy

Reviewed by Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

If you’re wondering why you’re having difficulty finding a compatible match and whether your expectations of a partner are realistic, you may want to evaluate your dating standards.

“It’s important to have dating standards that are right for you. If your standards are too low, this can lead to settling, either for so-so dates or—much worse—flawed, even loveless relationships. But if your standards are idealistically high, then you could make it almost impossible to find someone who can meet them,” says Connell Barrett, dating coach and host of the podcast Dating Transformation.

We talked to several experts who shared guidance on how to strike a balance between maintaining standards and being open to potential partners.

Figuring Out What Matters Most

While Amie Leadingham, certified relationship coach, says it is important to have standards while dating, she encourages her clients to make a list of non-negotiable deal-breakers, which include behaviors and values they need to align with a partner to have a happy relationship. 

“Usually, we come up with 10 to 15 non-negotiables. For example, is this person spiritually aligned with them or do they want to have a family?” says Leadingham.

One strategy that helps determine this list is reflecting on why your past relationships didn’t work and what caused the breakup. “If your partner didn’t treat you like a priority or they were emotionally unavailable, write that down,” says Leadingham.

Then reframe the issue into a positive behavior you desire in a relationship. For instance, the new list would indicate that you want someone who treats you like a priority or is emotionally available. Including a specific example, such as “makes time for me every week” can help bring the trait to life.

“[Then] screen people against that value,” says Leadingham. “We change this into a positive behavior to screen from a positive place and what we desire to attract into our lives using the Law of Attraction.”


Reasonable dealbreakers might include someone who’s physically fit, has a steady job, can make you laugh, and has similar core values...Don’t settle for someone who violates your relationship dealbreakers.

Connell Barrett, Dating Coach

The Pitfalls of "Packaging Trap"

Criteria people set for potential partners can shape their entire dating journey, she adds. However, the list does not consist of someone’s height or what kind of car they drive.

“Some singles may be so rigid about their standards that they screen people out for superficial reasons and miss out on real opportunities for love,” says Leadingham. “So, if a person’s list includes those kinds of qualities, then it might be time to reevaluate. People don’t get divorced because someone isn’t tall enough.”

When a person’s standards are based on superficial qualities and focus on the outside packaging of a person, such as their looks, body, job, wealth, and material possessions yet overlooks the reality of a person inside, she calls this, “packaging trap.”

Barrett agrees. He has clients create a list of three to five reasonable relationship dealbreakers—traits that their future partner absolutely must have.

“Reasonable dealbreakers might include someone who’s physically fit, has a steady job, can make you laugh, and has similar core values,” he says. “Don’t settle for someone who violates your relationship dealbreakers.”

He notes that stratospheric standards, such as “They must be worth millions” or “They must be perfect 10s” are not reasonable standards, and indicate you’re being too selective or idealistic.

“I’m a dating coach for introverted men, and once in a while a guy who has never even had a girlfriend will tell me that he wants to approach and date successful, model-caliber women. That guy’s standards are stratospheric, bordering on delusional,” says Barrett. “You want to aim high for your partner, but you also want to temper your aspirations with realism.”

A sign that your standards are too high is going on very few dates--two or three dates per year, he adds.

Related: How to Choose Your Dating Dealbreakers Wisely

Considering All Possible Factors

According to 2020 survey by Pew Research Center, many people are open to dating a person who is different than them but there are certain deal-breakers. When asked whether they would ever consider being in a committed relationship with someone who correlates to the following, the percentage of people who selected “Definitely/probably would not” follows: 

  • Lives far away 51%

  • Has a significant amount of debt 49%

  • Voted for Donald Trump 47%

  • Is 10 years older than them 38%

  • Is raising children from another relationship 36%

  • Is 10 years younger than them 27%

  • Is a Republican 27%

  • Voted for Hillary Clinton 26%

  • Is of a different religion 23%

  • Is of a different race or ethnicity 15%

  • Makes significantly less money than them 14%

  • Is a democrat 11%

  • Makes significantly more money than them 3%

Related: When to Give Someone a Second Date and When to Say, “Next”! From a Therapist

Balancing Standards and Compatibility

Below are some tips for building healthy relationships while maintaining standards.

Be flexible with some preferences

While you might want to stick to your dealbreakers or must-haves in a relationship, Barrett says be willing to give up less desired traits of a potential partner.

For example, he references his client Aaron who met a woman named Alexandra.

“He was trying to decide if he should ask her to be his long-term romantic partner. She met his standards, and he seemed to meet hers. He was hesitant to commit because she is not a big traveler or into outdoor adventuring, such as hiking, like he is. Alexandra is more of a homebody,” says Barrett.

After consideration, Aaron decided to be flexible on this standard because Alexandra aligned so well with him in other ways, including all of his dealbreakers. “And they’re now a very happy couple,” Barrett says.

Admit when a standard is wrong

While defining non-negotiables in a potential partner is good, it’s ok to realize that you no longer need them to live up to a standard.

For example, Leadingham worked with a client who wanted to date someone with a college degree. “In her mind, she believed that if he had a degree, he would be ambitious. As she started dating men with degrees, she quickly realized the two didn’t correlate. The men she met had a degree but weren’t driven in life,” says Leadingham.

Her client adjusted her non-negotiable to wanting someone ambitious and driven rather than focusing on the degree, and she ended up falling in love with an ambitious entrepreneur who did not have a college degree. “She admittedly shared that before working with me, she had missed out on some great guys by screening them out because they didn’t have a degree,” Leadingham says.

Take it slow

Many singles get excited and jump into a relationship too quickly without knowing the person well enough before committing, says Leadingham.

“When massive red flags appear, they find themselves backtracking, trying to fix or save the relationship,” she says.


She suggests designating 90 days as a probationary period to ensure the partner meets all your non-negotiables in a relationship. “People tend to put their best foot forward in the beginning when they like you. Your goal is to see who they are when they aren’t trying to impress you,” Leadingham says. 

If their actions continue to match their words, and they meet all your non-negotiables within that 90-day probationary period, then it’s likely you have met someone worth trusting and moving forward with.

Listen to your instinct

When you meet someone new, your gut will give you one of three feelings, says Barrett:

  • Hell yes!

  • Maybe

  • Hell no!

“Your gut knows all,” he says. “Gravitate toward dating people who make you feel ‘Hell yes!’ Strongly consider the ‘Maybe’ options—perhaps they’ll grow on you. And run away from the ‘Hell No!’ people,” he says.

Don’t settle

If you notice a pattern of disappointment in finding a compatible match and you are reevaluating your standards, that’s a great first step, but steer clear of settling. “It is about prioritizing the standards that matter the most to a harmonious relationship,” not giving up on what is really important to you, says Leadingham.

Read Next: As a Relationship Coach, These Are the 5 Things About Love I Tell Every Couple

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