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Are My Standards for Dating in College Too High?

by Leah Gaylord

Quarantined at home from college with an overabundance of family time, I am asked by every family friend and relative “How’s college?” and “So do you have a boyfriend?”. To which I have to respond “no” and am invariably met with “oh why?”. At this point, I’ll whip out one of my two patient answers. I can give them the run of the mill “I am just waiting for the right one”, or a brief history of the train wreck that has been my romantic life, which goes something like “Apparently I like assholes. I go after players, I attract unavailable men and I fall for guys who never reciprocate my feelings”.  However, I usually reserve the latter version for my therapist or the occasional 1:57 am walk back to the dorm with my girlfriends after too much to drink.

Don’t get me wrong, it's not that I’m not looking, because trust me, I AM. It’s that finding someone is a little more complex than- “Hey you are single. I am single. And guess what? We are both breathing humans”-SOLD! 

I may be brainwashed by romcoms, but I want that feeling you get when you can't stop thinking about someone. I want butterflies. However, given the prevailing hookup culture, it feels like I'm shopping for an evening gown in a supermarket. Literally just minutes ago I read an article titled "Stop looking for romance in college"

In today’s hookup culture, casual sex is the norm and physical intimacy comes before emotional intimacy. This is exacerbated by social media and dating apps where casual sex can almost always be one right swipe away. The fact of the matter is that every night at the bar or frat, many students will go home with someone and have a one-night stand and walk away the next morning with no strings attached. That’s all fine, no shade to them. It’s just not what I’m looking for.

Therefore, I have to ask myself if my standards are unrealistic, particularly in the current college relationship climate. I am looking for someone who is kind, funny and passionate. But also someone who will put emotional intimacy before physical intimacy. If I am honest with myself, I know that these standards may not match the current culture. Especially considering I’m not just looking for one of those qualities, but all of them as a package deal. For those of us whose perfect man seems rare, we have to ask ourselves, are we chasing unicorns? And in being so selective, do we close ourselves off to potentially great relationships?


It is said by many, including my mom, that college is the best time to explore different relationships. For those of us staring at the clock, we have this sense of FOMO with the college relationship scene, with the belief that the dating pool only gets smaller once you leave. I am not looking to find a spouse or a partner TODAY, but I am looking for a relationship. This sense of urgency and pressure to find the right person adds to the stress already inherent in looking for the right relationship. 

So back to my original conundrum. Are my self-imposed standards unrealistic and keeping me on the sidelines?  Do I need to re-evaluate? Or do I need to trust that the “right one” will come along and to be patient, because good things do come to those who wait? Is my desire for a romantic relationship keeping me from finding one?... At this point, I just don’t know. 

So I ask myself again why do I have these standards? Are they the product of lessons learned from mistakes made in my past—not wanting to repeat them? Or are my standards the result of an idealized future that has been created by a need to realize the Instagram worthy relationship? 

At this point, my extensive lists of prerequisites seem counterproductive to my cause. Maybe I need to be a little more open to exploring things that aren’t readily apparent. A little experimentation, in a controlled environment, might just loosen up the metaphorical relationship gears to make me feel like I’m not standing still. BUT, I don’t want to lose myself completely. I must remind myself that my standards are an important reflection of who I am and what I need. It shouldn’t be “unrealistic” to want my heart to swell. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that my standards are not too high because the one thing you should never put on CLEARANCE is your self-worth. But I can’t keep treating my standards like the price of entry. Ultimately, what I want more than the evening gown itself, is the feeling I get when I put it on. And who's to say a good pair of sweats and a t-shirt can’t make me feel as good or better. 

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