Be the kind of person you’d want to date

Don’t expect more from others than you’re able to bring to the table

A major dating philosophy of mine (and I’ll admit I have many) is, “You have to hold yourself to the same standard as the person you’re looking for.”

I’ll give an example to illustrate what I mean by this. I was working with a client a few years ago — nice guy in his early 40s — and at one of our meetings, he expressed to me what he was looking for in a woman. He mentioned certain physical features, a desired age range and location, certain interests/hobbies, etc. I, in turn, asked what his own interests/hobbies are, and I got a blank stare. He couldn’t tell me any hobbies off the top of his head. He went on to say: “With the right person, I’ll pick up so many new things! I just need the motivation of someone else.”

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I had to be the bearer of bad news and break it to him that’s not how it works. I explained he needed to have his own interesting things going on in his life, not just to make him more appealing to dates, but to make his own life that much richer. It’s like he felt his life was going to start when he met someone, but it’s the complete opposite. No one can create a life for you; that’s your responsibility.

Fitness is a big one, too. So many people want someone who “takes care of themselves,” the not well-veiled euphemism for “someone in good shape” or “someone active and fit.” But do you “take care of yourself” and in the same way you’re looking for? If you’re a work in progress, should it be someone else’s responsibility to get you back on track? And similarly, as a work in progress, shouldn’t you be open to someone else who’s on their fitness journey? I know the heart wants what it wants, but we also need to be realistic in what those wants are.

Or let’s say you want to be with someone who lives a certain financial lifestyle. Do you live that lifestyle, or rather, are you looking for someone to take care of you?

Obviously you don’t have to be the same person as your partner, nor should you be, but it’s unreasonable to think you don’t have to bring something similar to the table.

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Even then, however, keep in mind that does not mean you are entitled to a certain type of person, even if you believe you have it all. As in, just because you make a lot of money, it doesn’t entitle you to someone else with this level of success. You made that money for yourself, not to earn a partner.

In the end, if it’s something you are looking for, I would like you to think to yourself, “Is this something I also offer?” Or, “Would the person I’m looking for want to date me?” That question usually hits home for people. And if the answer is no, then what can you do on your end to improve that to make sure the person you’re looking for isn’t a reach but rather an equal?

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.