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  • Writer's pictureDr. Speshal Walker Gautier a.k.a. Dr. Spesh

Sis, You don’t have to settle when it comes to love.

A theme I have come across in dating advice for Black women is the idea that you need to “lower your standards.” Inherently the message implies that if you want to settle down, then you need to do just that… settle. I find it frustrating that the narrative implies that Black women don’t get to have standards. It relates to the struggle narrative, the first part of the message being “it’s hard out here,” the second part being “take what you can get.” It takes the agency away from Black women around choosing someone who is a good match for them.

In actuality, it is quite okay to have standards when you are looking for love. There are some factors that are more useful in setting standards whereas others are more arbitrary. I’ll drop a future Love Letter in your mailbox with more on this topic. In terms of relationship longevity, it’s helpful when you align on important values (e.g., finances, family). In areas where you fundamentally differ, it’s important that you and your prospective partner navigate differences in healthy ways. Setting standards around who is a good fit is essential. The idea that Black women don’t get to select a mate based on what matters to them is problematic. Not being selective can be a set up for insurmountable challenges in your relationships.

When looking for love, not everyone is going to be an ideal fit for you and that’s okay. You also will not be the best fit for some of the people you date. You may notice feelings of sadness and disappointment when these mismatches occur. It can be tempting to try to make things work in spite, especially when you are longing for connection and perhaps really wanting to settle down. Learning to tolerate uncomfortable feelings is key. Remember it is okay to feel difficult emotions. Be kind and compassionate toward yourself when you recognize these feelings coming up. It's best to acknowledge, rather than avoid, these feelings.

Sometimes we want to avoid difficult feelings at all costs. It can be hard to tolerate being alone, particularly when alone time is accompanied by feelings of emptiness. Addressing these feelings requires self-work, rather than a temporary fix. Remember, a relationship won't complete you. Many of us have fallen into the trap of dating someone to pass the time. You know, dating someone because it felt good even though it didn’t feel right (as in the right fit). However, investing your time and energy in relationships that you know aren’t right for you is only a set up for greater disappointment in the long run. So, give yourself permission to have standards. Remember that having standards means not everyone will meet them, and that's okay, Sis.

*Dr. Spesh is an Atlanta based Clinical Psychologist, blogger, and diversity consultant.*

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