The 6 Most Common Prejudices in the Dating World
Height, weight, religion, and several other biases that keep us from connecting.
Posted October 3, 2016
The social stigmas and prejudices at work in our larger culture also color the social interactions we have while dating. If a prejudice exists in society, you can be sure that it will show up in dating interactions. In my clinical work I find a common set of prejudices that can appear in every stage of dating process—date selection, the first date, and in a relationship.
In date selection, prejudices first manifest in the scanning and screening that occurs when you consider whether you want to date a particular person. Whether you are scrolling through online profiles, swiping images, or scanning a room full of people at an event, you may be rejecting prospective dates based on biases.
Have you ever felt that someone was prejudiced against you on the first date? Have your preconceived notions about someone influenced your feelings about a first date? When a person shows up for a first date, he or she may have expectations about what they want their date to be like, including some prejudices.
Many relationships—short and long-term—end because of prejudice. Perhaps you thought you could look past a certain issue, but realized later that it's more of a concern than you imagined. On the other hand, sometimes it’s the prejudices other people have regarding our partner that cause a relationship to end. You may have parents, siblings, or friends who will never accept a partner because of a certain prejudice, and your relationship may ultimately end because the conflict becomes too uncomfortable to manage over time.
The Top 6 Prejudices in Dating
Ask yourself which, if any, you are susceptible to, as well as the painful question of which of these others may hold against you. (The issues are listed in no particular order.)
1. Bad teeth.
I can't count the number of men and women who have told me over the years that the Number One thing that turns them off is bad teeth! This prejudice is so common in part because one's teeth are visible as soon as one opens his or her mouth. While it’s understandable that bad teeth may not be something you are looking for in a partner, isn’t it too extreme to cast someone aside for this reason? (Especially when you consider the fact that teeth can typically be fixed.) Are you sure you’re not being unfair or too quick to shun a subset of people?
Prejudice about money almost always has to do with not having enough of it, as opposed to having too much. (Many people believe having great wealth would be terrific, but have no idea how many problems and insecurities arise once someone actually has a lot of money.) Being prejudiced against someone because they have a menial job or don’t make much money is extremely common. Both men and women are guilty of it, and no financial prejudice compares to the stigma of not having a job at all. If you meet someone who is out of work at the moment, remember that this individual could potentially find a job—by the time you have a second date. Your goal should be to find someone who can hold a consistent job, not to find someone who brings in an arbitrary revenue that you believe is "enough."
If you don’t believe that there is massive prejudice in the dating world when it comes to height, just ask a very short man or a very tall woman. These kinds of prejudices are frustrating because, by indulging them, we keep them alive for future generations. If you wouldn’t date a short man or a very tall woman, ask yourself if you’re proud of yourself for taking that position. I always ask clients, “Is this something you’re OK with, or is this something you want to change?” If you rule out an entire group of people based on a factor like height, you are focusing on the wrong qualities. Judge on internal characteristics, not external ones.
4. Plans to have children.
Men and women are making the conscious choice not to have children more than ever before. In the past, the very idea of not wanting children—especially for women—was perceived as freakish. Although the prejudice against people who don't want children is not as strong as it once was, it still endures. Many men and women find themselves on a date with a person who doesn't want children, and judge such an individual as "bad" or "selfish" because of it. One's decision to not have children shouldn't be judged; it should be accepted as a decision in line with that person's individual needs.
Religious beliefs continue to be a major source of prejudice in and out of the dating realm. One client I worked with didn't include the fact that he is a practicing Catholic—attending church every week without fail—in his dating profiles for fear that others would forgo a date with him because of it. But instead of casting aside prospective dates because of their religion, why not have a dinner with them and ask them to share with you what they find fulfilling about their faith?
Obesity provokes such a powerful prejudice in the dating realm that we don’t need to spend much time reviewing it. We all know how overweight people are often treated. Dealing with a weight problem keeps many men and women from trying to date in the first place. After all, who would willingly subject themselves to a firing squad? Who wants to show up for a date and watch the other person’s eyes look them up and down in a negative way? My advice to men and women: Try to lose weight if it bothers you, then set up an honest dating profile with an honest photo so there are no surprises. Don’t let your weight, or other people’s problem with it, prevent you from sharing your life with someone special.
The best thing any of us can do is to try to be aware of our own prejudices and to identify the prejudices of our dates when we see them. Ideally you will get to a place where you can rid yourself of generalizations about others and gravitate toward people who do the same. Remember, individuals with the healthiest self-esteem also have the most positive and accepting views of others.
Feel free to explore my book about dysfunctional romantic relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.