“Keep an open mind.” “Don’t be so picky.” “Don’t be so judgmental.” “Adjust your standards.” Maybe these are pieces of advice friends, family, dating coaches, and anyone who loves to give their two cents have given you over the years. And, in some cases, the advice can be good. For example, if you’re stuck on finding a man of a certain physical type, determined to date someone who works in a certain industry, or you’re fixated on where someone went to college, it wouldn’t hurt to be more open. One could argue, correctly, that those traits don’t have much to do with compatibility – they aren’t indicators of the qualities that will make a bond stick. So if you’re fixated on those then, sure, maybe you need to keep an open mind, not be picky, not be so judgmental, and all of that. But there is a difference between being picky and simply having good standards. A lot of men who hope you’ll lower your standards for them will try to confuse you and say you’re being high maintenance when you’re simply asking to be treated with respect or in a way that won’t leave you picking up all of the slack in a relationship. Here are standards that are never too high when dating.
That he keeps his word
People can come up with a lot of fancy ways to say anything but this: “I didn’t keep my word.” If they were to lay it out there like that, it wouldn’t sound so good. So instead, they list excuses and rationalizations to distract you from the fact that they did not do what they said they were going to. But you’re perfectly within your right to ask that someone do that. Keeping their word could be as simple as calling when they said they’d call. This is, in fact, a big one people can fall off on. Since it’s “just a phone call,” they can believe it’s no big deal. However, generally, those who can’t keep their word on the small stuff can’t keep it on the big stuff either.
That he leaves room for you to speak
If you are a good listener, or even just know how to handle conversation in a mature manner, then when someone else speaks, you don’t speak over them and take over the conversation. If you’re unlucky enough to go out with someone who doesn’t follow the standard rules of polite conversation, you may find yourself doing a whole lot of listening. The entire night might be about listening to this guy. You can ask him a question, he can answer, and then never ask you anything about yourself. There is no back and forth. Don’t blame yourself for not being assertive enough. It’s not your job to force your way into the conversation or to interrupt your date. Your date should want to get to know you, which can only happen when he lets you speak.
That he doesn’t lie
When you’re first getting to know someone, perhaps there will be things he isn’t ready to tell you. That’s okay. You need to earn deeply personal information about others, just as they must earn it from you. So, if you ask a date about something and he says, “That story is for another time,” or “Is it okay if we don’t talk about that?” so be it. That is at least honest. If, however, a date makes up a story or an answer because the truth is perhaps embarrassing or incriminating, that’s not okay. It’s fine to simply ask that whatever comes out of your date’s mouth is the truth, and if he isn’t ready to talk about something, he can say that, too.
That he truly be single
This should be a given but you’d be surprised how often it is not. You can go out with a guy to discover he’s still living with his ex, but they’re “technically no longer together.” You can discover he broke up with his ex, but it’s more like a break, and they’re going to touch base in a few months to see how they feel. Maybe he’s still with his partner for all sorts of “reasons,” like she’s going through something rough and he doesn’t want to abandon her now, but he swears he fell out of love with her a long time ago. Yeah…no. You don’t need to be “understanding” of any of these situations. You can simply set a standard by which you only date people who are truly single.
That he maintains his temper
If a man can’t keep his temper in check in just the first few dates, he almost certainly has anger issues. If you see him lose it on a server who spills something, if you see him aggressively tailgate someone who cuts him off in traffic, and certainly if he loses his temper with you, get out of there. You don’t need to listen to the excuses or reasons he screamed or became aggressive with anybody – whether that was with you, or with someone else in front of you. One standard that’s definitely not too high is simply that dates be able to control their anger. “No rage issues” is a very fair standard.
That he isn’t pushy
If a man is pushy in the early dating phase, he’ll always be that way. So if he has something negative to say about every restaurant you suggest, and always pressures you to do what he wants to do instead, he’s likely a bit selfish. You can tell a lot about someone based on how they handle the actual making of plans. You certainly don’t want a wishy-washy date who won’t make firm plans, but you also do want someone who is open to collaboration. If a man is insistent on doing only what he wants, he probably won’t be a very considerate partner.
That he is not flaky
This is an extension of keeping his word, but it’s so much more than that. You can get caught in a cycle with a guy who consistently cancels your dates at the last minute for “very good reasons.” And maybe the reasons are good. Maybe he has a very demanding job where emergencies come up often. You aren’t necessarily passing judgment over his commitment to his job. But you are allowed to set this standard for yourself: I want a partner who can make me a priority and who has space in his life right now to prioritize a romantic relationship. An on-call doctor who has to bail often to tend to his patients isn’t a bad guy, but it’s okay to admit to yourself that he may not be the right guy for you if you don’t want to spend a lot of time (some major holidays included) alone.
That his focus is on you
Are you dating a grown man or a teenager? You may find yourself wondering this if your date spends the entire evening with you texting his friends, scrolling through social media, or watching the game on the bar’s TV instead of engaging with you. In today’s culture, we too easily forgive it when someone is distracted by screens. But ultimately, you can’t get to know someone if they can’t focus. And if they’re like this in the early stages of dating, they’ll certainly be like this when they’ve “got” you and don’t feel they need to put in any further effort.
That he has his life together
This, like the busy doctor scenario, isn’t about you passing judgment. If a man is between jobs, down on his luck, and living with his parents, you can understand that. People get hit by hard times. But again, you’re allowed to decide what situations you’d like to put yourself in. If you don’t want to be by the side of someone going through the emotional roller coaster of unemployment and all the mood swings and instability that brings, that’s okay. You’d hopefully be there for a long-term partner who went through that, but it’s okay if you don’t want to start a new relationship with someone who is in that place.
That he’s been single long enough
Maybe a guy is truly single, but he just severed ties from someone else like…last week. Even if you want to believe he’s ready to date, you know he isn’t. You can set the standard for yourself that you only date men who have been single for a certain amount of time (for example, at least three months). If this guy is coming off a, say, eight-year marriage with children, you may want to increase that time period. You deserve someone who can give you his full attention, and who has the emotional capacity to give towards a new relationship right now. Men who are fresh off of breakups rarely meet that criteria.