I don’t know about you, but everyone and everything annoys me (I’m judgmental, sue me). If I’m at a group dinner and someone takes a second helping of meat without asking if anyone else wants it, I immediately label them as a selfish asshole with no soul. A friend in college once cried over a lost lipgloss, and it took everything in me not to tell her that this was not a real problem and to quit her bellyaching. Should someone tell me that they like Taylor Swift, I immediately know in the depths of my being that they have no taste in music. So, I’m sure you can guess that when it comes to dating, I am tempted to write people off before, according to most sane people, it might be necessary. After doing it one (or one hundred, whatever) too many times, I’ve decided it’s time to banish my Grinch-like tendencies and figure out what exactly makes the monster in me emerge.
A good amount of this can be credited to living in the social media age. I’ve gone into a date already grossed out by a guy’s frosted tips and shark-tooth necklace, even though he very possibly hasn’t actually looked that way since 2007. I, like many others who find themselves flipping through the first Facebook album someone ever made, make judgments, assessments, and become annoyed at things that aren’t based on any real evidence.
“Before Instagram, we’d never sneak into someone’s house, look at their photos from high school, sneak out, and decide we didn’t like them. Now, people are doing their research and making assumptions before they even meet up,” says Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW, and founder of Manhattan Wellness Associates. It may be worth remembering that if a stranger wanted you to do a deep dive into their 20-something years on this planet, they’d DM you the links to do so.
Silvershein attributes our snoopy behavior to self-protection instincts. You want to anticipate flaws in the hopes that it will hurt way less when they come to light. And so all before even meeting a person, your subconscious turns into the illegitimate love child of Judge Judy and Simon Cowell. Once you are IRL, though, try to be open minded (I know, it’s a big ask). There’s a huge difference between a red flag and something that just grinds your gears a bit.
“Was it offensive, unsafe, or malicious?” Silvershein asks. “Was it a core value issue? Or was it something someone can learn? Is it a preference or a need?” While, for example, you may have wanted your date to walk you home, someone else could’ve found that totally creepy. Instead of casting them out for their—in this case—reasonable choice, be clear that it’s something you would like in the future. It’s fair to have expectations, but it’s not fair to judge someone for not being psychic, says Silvershein. “The only way someone [gets to know you] is from you sharing your preference and them seeing a pattern, not from them reading your mind,” she explains. Now, there are things that are definitely worth getting annoyed about, like when someone is super rude to a waiter, clearly has a combative nature, or insults you in some way. If any of those things happen, I grant you permission to be annoyed and to not go out with them again.
In the case that their behavior was an honest mistake or misunderstanding, the next step is to avoid stacking the person you’re with against anyone else you’re dating or have dated in the past. Comparison can, you know, coax the judge-y monster out of its cage. That’s not to say you don’t bring lessons you’ve learned from previous experiences, but don’t weigh their pros and cons against those of your exes, says Silvershein.
The moral of the story is this: being judgmental, and as a result getting annoyed, is, especially in this day and age, natural (thanks, interwebs). But if you want to give yourself a fighting chance in the world of dating, then you better slaughter the judge within, or at least lock it away somewhere very, very deep. Fine, fine, I’ll do it, too. God, you’re annoying.