Dating “Up”

Love is never finding a hand that perfectly fits yours. It is finding the one who is willing to hold your hands no matter how unfit it may be.

– Nishan Panwar

I was talking with a single male friend the other day and he was sharing how difficult it is for him to find a “good woman”. This lead to an animated conversation about how he recognizes a good woman and what characteristics are important to him. He identified many of the typical things many of us think about: attractive, intelligent, warm, funny, you know, the usual. I thought this was reasonable and was beginning to feel offended on behalf of my gender, as I know a number of such women – we aren’t talking about trying to find the elusive mermaid here. That is when he dropped the hammer and said, “Well, you know, everyone is looking to date up.” Huh? I was instantly confused about what he meant, but, no worries, he was happy to educate me.

Here is the explanation I received –

My friend shared he estimated he was a “7” (on a scale of 1-10) for physical attractiveness. He shared he did not want to date another “7”, but, rather, was looking for an “8”. This is “dating up”. Can you imagine the question that immediately sprung to my mind? If she is an “8” and wants to “date up”, too, isn’t she looking for a “9”? He threw his arms up in the air, like “you finally understand” and let me know this is why he is still single. (Trust me, this is probably NOT the only reason.) I was prepared to call “BS” on this whole conversation, but then I started thinking – maybe there is some validity to this theory. What if “dating up” doesn’t have to be about looks.

Consider this – what if people are looking to “date up”, but are focused on characteristics that are most important to them. For instance if one partner values intelligence and the other values appearance then they may each “date up” in those categories, but feel equally compensated. The easiest example I can think of is the stereotypical trophy wife. (Remember I am using a stereotype here, I know there are many exceptions). The man in the relationship may value youth and appearance and, therefore, seek out women who would rate higher than he would in these categories. She may value money and security and, therefore, seek out men who rate higher than she would in these categories. Both partners are “dating up” and are then equally satisfied with the relationship.

Is there a time when “dating up” is almost therapeutic? Think of it this way – what if someone who is painfully shy is looking for help coming out of their shell. They might seek someone out who is more of an extrovert. Or someone who is fiscally irresponsible (bad with money) may seek out someone who can manage their money in efforts to clean up their act. Is this still “dating up” or something else all together. What do you think?

Do you think this carries over to other romantic relationships? Are partners bartering intelligence for a sense of humor? Are they trading stability for adventurousness? Did you “date up” with your significant other? What did you “date up” on in your relationship?

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