We know dating can be tiring/difficult/stressful/demoralising, but especially so when you're dating with the hopes of finding a long-term partner you really love and have a healthy relationship with. It's no wonder we have ~preferences~ for who we date. And setting dealbreakers is an important part of the process. But, sometimes our so-called dealbreakers can actually get in the way and prevent us from finding someone who we're genuinely compatible with. Maybe you filter out partners based on their height, or whether you're instantly sexually attracted to them. This has been termed mono-manic dating, and is actually a pretty unhealthy dating habit.
What is mono-manic dating?
"Mono-manic dating is when you form an opinion about a future potential partner based on only one aspect – their age or height for example – which in effect blinkers you from being able to see them as a whole person," explains Amie-Leigh Claricoats, director of Ignite Dating.
"How many people do you know who were initially insistent that they only found men over 6ft attractive, only to discover later that their actual chosen life partner ended up being 5ft 8? It’s a lot more common than you might think," she adds.
What is the problem with mono-manic dating?
While you might think this method of dating is useful because it helps you focus on finding what you (think) you want, Amie-Leigh says it actually hinders your chances of finding a partner - and the right partner, at that.
"By fixating on one aspect of a person that you find negative, you are missing out on all the other great qualities and traits that they have, leading you to potentially decline the perfect life partner for you; all for the sake of one criteria that you’ve become obsessed with," she explains. "It’s a fact of life that not everyone can live up to your expectations, especially if you’ve set the bar pretty high." She adds that especially when online dating or using apps, you should "review every profile and meet every prospective partner with an open mind".
So, why do we do it?
Heather Garbutt, a couples counsellor, explains. "In dating, it’s quite common for people to look for particular physical characteristics. This comes from a sexual preference, what is desirable in our culture or social group, what is familiar or different to you in your family background or what a particular image means for you," she says.
"The classic, 'tall, dark and handsome' image can mean protection for some, for example. There are any number of interpretations and associations to particular images and it’s the meaning we make of these things that is key to us. If romance only comes in a blonde and blue-eyed package for you, then that is because it’s what that image means for you. It’s a bit of a closed loop because romance cannot exist outside the blonde and blue-eyed package - and anything other than blonde and blue-eyed is not considered romantic."
How to stop mono-manic dating
So if you want to be more open-minded when looking for a partner, what can you do to avoid mono-manic dating? The first step is to accept that the best partner for you may not come in the form that you expect, Heather says, adding that the more we "rely on those old patterns of perception", the more likely we are to continue to choose partners based on appearance rather than their good qualities.
Stop fixating on a 'type'
"It could be useful if you find yourself fixating on one particular type, to ask yourself what that image conveys to you. Look at pictures of other types and just note down what they convey to you. The more you can make conscious, the more conscious decisions you can make based on reality rather than fantasy," Heather says.
Instead, focus on the characteristics you like in a partner
She says it’s really important to form a clear picture of the characteristics you would like in a partner. "Do you want loyalty, affection, fidelity, care, support, excitement, humour, intelligence? Do you want them to share some interests with you to show that there’s always a point of connection. These could be in sport, dancing, food, countryside or city living, love of animals, art," she says.
"It could be what they want from life is very important to you. There may be particular deal breakers like whether or not they have children, want children, have emotional intelligence, can take responsibility for themselves, have any active addictions, are capable with money. Do they share core values with you? Are the same things important to them that are to you?"
Ask yourself how you want to feel in a relationship
Ask yourself this question and "really imagine yourself there", Heather suggests. Think about where you are, what you’re doing, who is around you, what your life if like together.
"Really focus on this and then each person you meet, check out if they make you feel like this. If they make you feel anxious, that you have to shape yourself around them to be acceptable, that they want things and push for things that you’re not ready to give, they are not in it for relationship, but for what they can get out of you."
Take it slow
Remember that age-old dating mantra? Yeah, it turns out there is some validity to it. "When you meet someone new, go slowly," Heather says. "Get to know each other gradually. Build trust over time. When we can meet in person again, check out if their words match their behaviour. Observe with kindly curiosity and listen to your body – is it feeling relaxed and at ease in this persons company or are you on edge, on best behaviour, performing, fearing a critical gaze? Are they interested in you? Is the conversation 50-50 or is it all about them? Over time share interests, values, life visions, challenges, all in little bite-size pieces."
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