by Jillian Owens
The title of this article is also the title of a Tyler Perry movie.
I have never seen this film, but I saw its dvd case whilst perusing movies at the video store (remember those?) years ago, and the title stuck with me.
Here’s why. I have a long history of dating down. With remarkably few exceptions, I’ve always settled in relationships. I’ve always dated the starving artists, the “nice guys” who can’t quite get their sh*t together, the unmotivated, the aimless, and the incompetent man-children who have to ask me how to do everything…such as how to properly load a dishwasher (how do you not freaking know this?!?!).
Buy why? Even while I was doing this, I knew what was going on.
I didn’t want to be alone.
I didn’t want to be alone so much that I emotionally invested in unemployed losers with bad teeth and picked up their checks even when I wasn’t doing all that well financially myself all through college. I tolerated guys who weren’t clever, were antisocial, and had no drive. Because they were nice to me. And that was good enough for most of my adult life.
In my late 20s I found myself living with a man I didn’t respect. I knew he wouldn’t leave no matter how mean I was to him and no matter what I did. I had a “get out of loneliness free card” and I thought that was awesome. It was good enough. It would do.
But as time dredged on, I started noticing things. He made terrible financial choices. He had awful credit. He bought a car at a ridiculously high interest rate and didn’t even try to negotiate the price. He was passive-aggressive towards me. His life wasn’t even on a positive trajectory. We were both broke, but I felt like I was at least going places. I was clever. I had a plan.
“I can do bad all by myself,” I thought.
And I left.
And I stopped dating down.
And I’ve been alone a lot since then.
And it’s been surprisingly awesome.
Every time I see a young woman or man who is bright, motivated, and clever with someone who is holding them back—whether it be financially or emotionally—I cringe. Relationships require time and emotional energy, and when that energy is directed towards a person, it’s not being used for other things. Other things can be investing in your community, playing guitar, enjoying time with friends, or writing random articles where you overshare your personal life because you couldn’t think of any better ideas and today is the deadline. These things matter.
If you read nothing else in this article, please read this: If you are in a relationship with someone who isn’t making your life better by being there, you’re dating down. Don’t settle out of fear.
And do amazing things with your newfound energy.