Whilst watching re-runs of BET’s The Real, it was said that a Match.com survey revealed that men preferred to ‘date up’, meaning they were seeking intellectual, career driven women. Though there are some men who believe in traditional gender roles such as being the breadwinner whilst women maintain the home and raise the kids, this shift is definitely a step in the right direction, especially when it comes to social discussions on gender equality.

We’re always encouraged to ‘date up’ whereas the idea of dating down is regarded as doing yourself a disservice. However from a female perspective, is dating up necessarily a good thing?

First of all, we need to define what dating up actually is. More often than not, it is associated with physical aspects. To date up would mean dating someone who is far more attractive than a previous ex. Perhaps someone who is much more refined in terms of their physique and meets a mental image of what you feel to be attractive.

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Maura Kelly wrote an article for Marie Claire recalling a conversation she had with a friend who said: “You know, I think for the most part, 9s date 9s and 7s date 7s.” He then went on to list the type of people who were exempt from this rule and could afford to date up easily. As common as this may or may not be, thinking in terms of where you rate on a scale is not an accurate or realistic way to properly explore this topic.

As discussed on The Real, hosts Tamar Braxton, Tamera Mowry-Housely, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai and Adrienne Bailon were inclusive of other elements such as education, finances, career aspirations and morals in their discussion. There’s no doubt that physical attraction plays a big part in relationships, but by redefining the idea of dating up and focusing on equally important aspects, we are better placed to determine the longevity of our relationships.

It’s important to be inclusive of various factors rather than placing an emphasis on one. Jessica Machado explored her habit of dating down and being drawn to men who were dependent on her. Writing on The Frisky, what made her admission somewhat unique was that it wasn’t looks that attracted her to the men she dated. It was that sense of security, knowing they weren’t going anywhere when she needed them.

What kept us together wasn’t as exciting as sex or arguments over our incompatibility — but that I could show up at his place at 10 p.m. for a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and a snuggle in front of “Law and Order.” There was a comfortable fondness and security. I knew he wasn’t going anywhere, literally and figuratively.

After words with her step-mum, she was advised to “date better” and “date what you deserve” which is exactly what she did. She stopped ignoring the one aspect that had been detrimental to her previous relationships from flourishing and eventually met a man who stimulated her mentally and shared common interests. By redefining her interpretation of dating up, Machado found a connection that challenged her and made her appreciate a dynamic that had previously been absent within her relationships.

She writes about her eventual husband:

He took me to museums and talked about politics deeper than a 16-page New Yorker article, and at first I worried that he was too smart, too cultured for me, but once I got over my insecurities and learned to find my legs on this equal ground, I felt brighter to form opinions about his opinions, and more inspired in my own writing to see the artwork he was creating.

In this instance dating up can open our eyes to appreciate our own capabilities, in turn making us better rounded individuals as oppose to dating down where we become accustomed to a comfortable situation that does nothing for us in terms of stimulation. When done right, dating up can be empowering and fulfilling, however there are times where expectations are too high and can be detrimental to our wellbeing.

Not having enough confidence or self esteem can damage us when dating someone who excels in a certain area of their life. For example, a very successful person may find it hard to wind down often as they have consistently worked hard to attain what they have. Another example could be that the person you’re dating has always been complimented on their looks and are still desirable to some people. These are both very testing environments where jealousy and envy can easily develop. It takes a certain person to cope with intense dynamics like this and frankly speaking, if you’re not confident and comfortable within your own skin, then you risk chipping away at your own insecurities by dating up.

If we go back to that Match.com survey though, it’s clear that attitudes are changing, which is great when it comes to discussing gender related issues. This change in men challenges long standing gender stereotypes. Nowadays, men aren’t necessarily threatened by successful females, whilst women are viewing men as more than just earners. Roles are becoming equal and that’s the way it should be.

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Tracy Moore, writing for jezebel.com said:

Expecting a woman to shoulder the more mundane aspects of domestic relationship upkeep — social calendar, cooking, cleaning, finances and so on — because you’d rather play video games is, of course, a hot load of retrograde shit that no person should tolerate. If a person is too lazy or apathetic to contribute to a relationship, that person is likely a garbage person, male or female.

Moore’s article encourages us to disregard this notion of dating up or down and encourages us to date equally. This has nothing to do with ‘how much money they make or how their resumes compare. It’s a matter of chemistry and like-mindedness and shared values.’

People’s tastes vary so vastly that it’s impossible to properly determine who rates highly on the desirability scale. Dating up in fact has more to do with you, your value and what you feel you deserve. Not everyone is going to land a ’10’ by society’s standards, but as long as you are fulfilled in the areas that are important to you and are with someone who compliments you mentally, physically and morally, then surely that’s worth much more than a superficial rating?

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