Dating Up: Stop Settling and Find the Person of your Dreams

sad woman in black and whiteThere is a lot written about “dating down” on the internet, probably because it’s pretty easy to tell when you’re dating beneath you. However, there isn’t as much on “dating up.” In fact, the whole concept is surrounded by an aura of impossibility.

When I talk to my coaching clients, many feel they can’t even talk to someone out of their “league,” let alone have a chance of getting into a relationship. They act like it’s an established fact that you simply can’t “date up.”

Why People Don’t Date Up

Why do people have this “can’t do” attitude about dating up?

I believe it’s culturally conditioned. Most people don’t challenge dating norms, which is why the majority of couples are similar in class, education, age, and race. So, if the culture at large says someone is out of their league, most people will stay in their “league” rather than even try dating up.

The second reason is that, quite frankly, most people don’t think they stand a chance if they date someone who is more conventionally attractive. This has been reinforced by advertising and popular culture, which typically show the norms I mentioned earlier. Conventionally attractive people are always paired up with their “equals” in popular media.

Finally, there is the fear factor. Numerous studies have shown that being attractive confers many life advantages, including being perceived as smarter, more competent, and even happier. If you regard those who are out of your “league” in such terms, even talking to such a person can be intimidating.

The Meaning of Dating Up

Part of the problem about trying to date up is what the hell does that even mean? Even the studies that look at dating up usually focus on measures of physical attractiveness. Certainly, that’s a part of it. But, dating up usually means more than that.

man looking up in the forestIt can mean dating someone older, with more education, greater stability, and in a higher class. But, don’t count out the person who has age, maturity, and money seeing dating up as being with someone younger, more carefree, and unconcerned with material possessions.

What I’m trying to get at is that dating up doesn’t look the same for everyone. But, we mostly know what dating up looks like vs. dating down. We all understand our dream man or woman vs. the one who represents settling or worse.

For example, you might know instinctively that dating your fit, charming businessman neighbor who drives a sports car would be dating up, while going back to your unemployed ex with a beer gut who bums rides would be dating down.

Can You Really Date Up?

I mentioned several reasons why people don’t date up, but the bigger question most people ask is “can I date up successfully?” The answer is definitely yes! But, the devil is in the details.

An interesting study from a major online dating platform showed that when men messaged someone more attractive, the average response rate was twenty one percent. So, roughly 1 in 5 messages sent to “more attractive” people paid off.

Another study, by Bloomberg, showed that, at least when it comes to dating and occupations, dating up was pretty common, at least for women. So, while women wanted to date people of similar income and education, the male CEO was fine dating the secretary.

I share these studies to illustrate that dating up is possible. But, it isn’t always a slam dunk. Dating an “equal” and dating down are certainly easier and more common.

How to Date Up

The number one principle of dating up is “handle rejection well.” If you’re going outside of your comfort zone and trying to date people you normally wouldn’t date, you’ll have to get used to hearing “no.” I can assure you that most rejections will be polite. But, they will happen and you can’t let that deter you.

Second, you’ll have to be around the people you want to date. If you’re wanting to date a wealthy businessman, you probably won’t find him in a biker bar. If your goal is to date a younger woman, you’re not going to find her at a quilting competition (most likely). This might require some boldness and leaving your comfort zone.

Third, take the initiative. Don’t wait for people to talk to you. If you wait around, you’ll be dating those who happen to choose you. Will they be the best? Maybe, but you can’t be sure. If you proactively talk to people you truly like, you’re in control.

happy black couple smilingFourth, believe in yourself. If you feel like you can’t compete with people who are out of your league, that attitude won’t get you anywhere. Even if you do date up, you’re going to feel self-conscious and inferior. Focus on your good qualities and why you deserve the best.

Finally, stop putting other people on a pedestal. Even the so-called most attractive people have struggles and problems. They smell, have zits, lose their temper, and don’t always look amazing. In fact, they might be shocked that you consider them to be better than you at anything.

So, get out there and date whomever you want. Try your best and see what happens. If you do pursue the man or woman of your dreams, you’ll be far happier than dating down and settling for the first person that comes your way (or worse).

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About the Author

Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett is a writer, speaker, and dating/relationship expert. He's helped millions through his articles, speaking, consulting, and coaching. He's appeared in over 500 major publications, including Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and Psychology Today.

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