Why You Should Never Lower Your Standards When Dating

Being picky is often viewed as a personal flaw. The kid who won't eat vegetables should expand their palate, people might say, or the student applying to only top-tier universities should add in a few "safe" schools. Being too picky can limit your options, and the same might be said about dating.

Data from Pew Research Center shows that more adults in the U.S. are staying single and marriage rates are on the decline. Dr. Greg Matos, a couples and family psychologist, has a theory to explain why: Women are raising their relationship standards. Dr. Matos suggests to Psychology Today that more women between the ages of 25 and 45 are looking for partners (specifically men) who bring certain skills and qualities to a relationship. And when a love interest falls short, they reject them and move on, creating a larger pool of single, lonely people.

While some may be quick to blame overly picky daters, the truth is that having high standards and being selective about who you pair up with is a good thing — even if it sometimes means staying single for longer. Here's why you should never lower your standards when dating.

Standards teach people how to treat you

Have you ever heard the saying, "You have to love yourself before anyone else can?" While you're lovable no matter what kind of relationship you have with yourself, there's still some truth to this common phrase, particularly when it comes to standards.

When you set high standards in dating, you demonstrate to others that you expect to be treated well. Meanwhile, lowering your standards communicates weak boundaries. The people you date may realize they can get away with behaviors that you originally wouldn't tolerate, such as lying or canceling dates last minute, because they've seen you accept less.

However, one reason why you might be tempted to lower your standards is that, deep down, you don't believe you deserve to be treated better. "The reason that [the dating] bar is low is because people's self-esteem is low and they will allow themselves to accept something less than a date because they don't think they're worth it," Greg Behrendt, a best-selling relationship author, told Oprah. In this case, working on self-worth — either with a therapist or independently — is the answer, not lowering your standards.

Your core needs won't change

Standards are a reflection of our needs. Like love languages and support styles, there are certain qualities and conditions that people need to feel safe and loved, and while some can vary depending on the person, others are universal. "In relationships, everyone has the same basic emotional needs to ensure not only the survival of the relationship but their survival as an individual," relationship psychologist Dr. Kate Balestrieri explained to MindBodyGreen. "Without good-enough relationships, humans run the risk of isolation, and that poses a real threat to an individual's ability to make it through the day . . . It is challenging to focus on thriving if someone feels emotionally unseen, unheard, or unimportant in primary relationships."

If you lower your standards, there's a good chance you're dismissing your core needs in the process. For example, by dating someone who routinely tells white lies, you're neglecting trust, a common emotional need. While you might brush off your partner's dishonesty at first, you'll likely grow resentful over time and your relationship will eventually crumble. By keeping your standards high from the start, you honor your personal needs and refuse to settle for those who can't meet them.

Compatibility can't be forced

You've been dating around for a while but keep striking out. In response, your friends encourage you to lower your standards to stretch your options. Sound familiar? This popular advice may be well-intentioned, but it's essentially code for, "Try to make yourself compatible with people you aren't really compatible with."

Defined simply, compatibility is "when you share the same mindset, when you connect with the other person on a deeply intimate level," Dr. Jacqui Gabb, professor of sociology and intimacy at The Open University, told Paired. "It means that how you approach life, and the values and qualities that you cherish are shared."

Compatibility is built into the standards you choose for yourself and your love life. High standards help you eliminate romantic matches who don't share your values and goals. And that's a good thing because not everyone will be right for you — and you won't be right for everyone either. Even if your search for "the one" has been a struggle, that doesn't mean it's time to lower the bar and force compatibility with someone who doesn't complement you and your life.

You may get stuck in casual and dead-end relationships

When you're chatting on a dating app or going on a first date with someone new, standards help you decide who's worth your time and who should be ditched ASAP. If your standards are high, you might quickly pick over your options, possibly finding that there aren't many people to choose from. If your standards are low, however, you offer a metaphorical admission ticket to more people, who you can spend more time going on dates with and getting to know better.

This may seem like the perfect justification for lowering your standards — who doesn't want options? Unfortunately, many of the people who will pass the low-standards test are probably people you'll never actually have a serious relationship with, especially if you weren't clear about what you wanted from the jump. Relationship expert Bela Gandhi told The Everygirl that it's crucial to discuss relationship goals with prospects early on, "Otherwise, people settle, and they settle for people who don't give [them] want they want long-term. [Then], we burn lots of time and lots of love-energy on the wrong people." 

If your standards are low and your intentions are vague, you may see signs that you're stuck in a situationship or a string of casual relationships. If that's what you're looking for, great! But if not, make sure to keep your standards high.

Can standards ever be too high?

High standards may make it easier to find high-quality matches, but what if no one seems to embody your criteria? You may be expecting too much, says relationship counselor Natasha Silverman. "There's a difference between having high standards, and having unrealistic expectations," Silverman shared with Metro. "A common misconception when dating is that if we choose the 'perfect' partner, then we're in for an easy ride and there will never be any problems."

Standards must allow space for mistakes and imperfections, so long as they aren't among your biggest dealbreakers in relationships. Similarly, your standards should respect your partner's individuality. You can't expect someone to always agree with you or do what you ask — that can quickly lead to a toxic, controlling relationship.

Finally, don't mistake standards for a long checklist of must-haves. Wanting a partner to fit into a certain tax bracket, dress a specific way, like every song on your playlist, and have the height of a basketball player may be unrealistic. Plus, these superficial qualities contribute pretty much nothing to a healthy relationship. Keep your standards focused on your needs, values, and boundaries — and never lower them for anyone.