When my cousin and I were in middle school, I asked him what he looked for in a girlfriend. “Pretty and nice,” he said. I laughed at the idea that those two characteristics were enough, though my own criteria for boyfriend material – “cute and smokes pot” – really wasn’t any better.
I dated a lot. I dated every boy who asked me, at least once. Frankly, I didn’t know I was allowed to say no when a guy asked me out, because I’d heard SO MUCH about the social hardship of boys who face rejection. (Meanwhile, guys I asked out felt no problem rejecting my advances. Something unfair about that system of socialization.)
“Reads for fun” was added to the boyfriend list in college. And then suddenly I was pregnant and dropping out and getting married and I wished I’d had a lot more on my list to begin with. Things like “sober” and “not abusive” soared to the top of the list.
“Financial stability” suddenly had buckets of sex appeal where it hadn’t before, once I became a poor single mother. And “devoted father” became crucial as I realized how much I was struggling to give my son everything he deserves. And now with disability setting in, now I find I finally have good enough standards.
Do not settle for a partner who will not stay by your side, helping you with everyday tasks, while you are gross and sick. Do not settle for a partner who will leave you if you are physically or emotionally unavailable for sex for an extended period of time. Do not settle for a partner who could even stand the thought of ever losing you due to their own careless words or angry actions. And then, then my friend, you will finally feel loved.