Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Too Picky … Or Not Picky Enough?

on February 6, 2015

Another excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book, Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40:

The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!                                                                                                                                                 —Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just as I try to bargain the wrong man into my life, I can also bargain someone out of it by nitpicking every little thing. Over the years, my excuses haven’t matured or become more logical. This one’s too short, that one’s too tall. He doesn’t have a good enough sense of humor; he doesn’t have the right sense of humor. He’s too boring. Too young. Too old. Too … whatever.

Musketeers

One of my current favorite shows — The Musketeers on BBC America. See? I’m not too picky. 🙂

As I said, I’m too picky. But that’s not the whole story.

A while back I had a writing assignment to interview a woman who had just celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday. When I discovered she had never married, I decided to ask her about it if I had the chance. I had recently started working on Spinstered and thought it might be interesting to get the perspective of a woman who was looking back on a single life.

As we sat in her living room, surrounded by years of accumulated knick-knacks and delicate pieces of china, Ruth was relaxed and easy-going and more than willing to answer my questions, even though, at first, she seemed unsure how to express her thoughts on singleness. Because, she told me, she had never talked about it before.

Never.

After a moment’s hesitation, she said, “Well, I guess I was too picky.” But then she added, “I never really felt good enough.”

How can a single woman be too picky and have low self-esteem at the same time? It’s actually quite easy. You already suspect there’s something wrong with you. The idea clings to you like a frightened cat. So you believe you’re not good enough and, at the same time, look down your nose at anyone who might be interested. You get to a point where you can’t accept that anyone truly worthwhile would ever want to date you … which means if such a person shows up there must be something seriously wrong with him.

And there you go: You’re not good enough for him and he’s not good enough for you. Groucho Marx said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” And, apparently, I won’t date someone who would want me as a girlfriend.

We obsess over our inadequacies, like needing to lose weight or get our finances in order or grow in our relationship with God. At the same time, we stay with someone far longer than we should out of fear of being labeled too picky. We are pulled in every direction in an attempt to understand our situation and figure out what needs to be done to fix it. It’s no wonder that, when I meet a man, I put him on a scale where he either weighs too good for me or not good enough.

In other words, I doom myself. But that doesn’t mean I give up. I was, am, and will always be a hopeless, hopeful romantic who can’t relax and let God handle it. You might not be quite as date-free as I’ve been, but don’t we all know what it’s like to hope? And then we do all those silly things to get his attention: talk too loud, flip our hair, touch his arm, giggle at every ridiculous thing he says. Or we wear too much makeup, show too much skin, all while trying not to seem desperate. Sheesh.

It’s so easy to latch on to optimism, only to find ourselves going completely overboard, isn’t it? And, in doing so, we drown our dreams in our misguided attempts to be what we think he’s looking for. My friend, Lisa Anderson, director of Boundless.org and author of The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose (releasing August 1, 2015), wrote this in an article titled “Finding a Great Husband Doesn’t Just ‘Happen’” for Today’s Christian Woman:

Women are notorious for giving up too much for very little in return. In relationships, it’s usually time, attention, emotional connection, affection, and sex. We give it all with no expectation of commitment or even exclusivity. For me, I gave guys access to my time and emotions far too early on in a relationship. I was always available, always willing to talk, and always an open book. Where was the mystery? More telling, where was the motivation to pursue me when I was already throwing myself at their feet?

We just want them to notice and, when they do, it’s so easy to get caught up in making it work, come what may. Even that single guy you met at the office party, the one you know is completely wrong for you, can meet your minimum qualifications—male, the right age, and a decent job—to make you willing to go out for a second time. Then a third and a fourth and who knows how many dates you can bargain yourself into because he’s there and he’s interested and, please God, you want to move forward into something for a change. Even if it’s the wrong something.

Though past experiences say I’m far more likely to end things too early, I have watched many a girl hang onto a relationship long past its expiration date, hoping it will, magically, become what she wants. I can understand that. No one wants to let go of a good thing, fearful she’ll make the mistake of missing out on a great catch because she was too hard to please. It’s the same concept as not wanting to pursue a man too aggressively because you don’t want to come across as desperate.

But why shouldn’t we be a bit choosy when it comes to the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with? We all have our ideal—and heaven only knows what that has become after years of romantic comedies and sweet daydreams. Is it so wrong to want that first kiss to lift you off the floor, a few butterflies when he walks in the room, a certain something in his eye he saves just for you? Or is it enough to know he’s a good man who serves the Lord and will love and care for you and, if you have any, your children?

But who am I kidding? We want it all. We’ve been saving up our love and passion for years, decades even, and we’re ready for all of those dreams to come true.

Okay, so, we’re hard to please. But are we too unbending in our requirements? The older I get the more I re-think my preferences on looks, even chemistry. Still, we also need to get to a place where we believe we’re worthy of something beautiful. If the God of the universe delights in us, His children, why can’t a man? A simple, normal, godly man who truly loves you just the way you are.

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8 responses to “Too Picky … Or Not Picky Enough?

  1. Carole Brown says:

    Well said, Sharyn. Since no one is perfect, it makes it that much harder. Being picky isn’t wrong, and I’ve seen some I wish were a lot more picky!

  2. only24dates says:

    very well said. I’ve reached a place in my life where I understand who I am and what I value in life. This has greatly altered my idea of an ideal mate and what I require.

    • sharynkopf says:

      Isn’t that the truth? The older we get, the more our expectations change to something a little more honest and real. How could I know what I want if I don’t even know who I am?

      Thanks for joining us at Girls Night In!

  3. “Still, we also need to get to a place where we believe we’re worthy of something beautiful. ” So true, Sharyn! Good points to ponder in this post.

  4. Alease B. says:

    I really like the way you’ve expressed Sharyn! The struggle to discern is real!

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