The Fascination Of Mismatched Partnerships: What Happens When We Date Out Of Our League

 / 

,
What Happens When We Date Out of Our League: Mismatched Partners

What happens when we date out of our league? Is dating out of our league an exception or a norm? Let’s find out more about what it means when we date out of our league and how important equality in romantic relationships are. 

Key Points:

  • Desiring superior potential partners, who are about 25 percent more desirable than how we see ourselves, is the norm.
  • Revising the importance of personal characteristics and reevaluating the disparity between partners helps reduce inequality between them.
  • Significant gaps between romantic partners are toxic, while small gaps can be valuable in some circumstances, such as romantic relationships.

When I dated this guy I felt was out of my league, it always made me question why he liked me and why I couldn’t be as smart as him when I was putting in so much effort. It honestly took a toll on me, considering I dated him for a year.” — Morgan

The value of equality in close relationships has been cherished in both philosophical and empirical studies.

Discussions on equality in romantic relationships focus on two major kinds: (a) an equal status and autonomy and (b) an equal sense of the person’s overall value. The first factor is hardly disputable, while the second, my focus here, is divisive.

Notwithstanding the value of equality, many people dream of marrying someone superior to them. The Cinderella story, where a young, poor woman marries a king, exists in many cultures. But would we really want to date someone out of our league?

Related: Romantic Inequality: How It Can Lead To Extramarital Affairs

The Advantages And Risks Of A Superior Partner

“My husband was way smarter than I am, but we were equal in everything else. I totally loved being with someone so smart. I don’t know exactly how I would feel if someone were a multimillionaire or a super athlete, but I suspect I would like it as much as I enjoy intellect.” — Maureen

Superior partners can uplift us from our inferior circumstances by providing the characteristics and social advantages that we lack. In the short term, inequities might give rise to great admiration, which increases love and sexual desire.

Because of this, those who can provide us with an elevated social status, such as the rich, the famous, and the powerful, generate more intense sexual desire and satisfaction.

However, in the long term, significant inequalities become problematic for both sides, whereupon superficial short-term goals, such as associating with a famous person, become of less importance.

It follows, then, that inequality of a person’s overall value may cause inequality of status, expressed in a lack of reciprocity.

Significant inequality is indeed harmful for both sides. Thus, one study found that such inequality encourages extramarital affairs. This is the case for both the “superior” person, who feels that she could do better, and the “inferior” one, who feels indignant at being unappreciated by the partner.

Equality is significant for promoting meaningful, pleasant interactions over time (Prins et al., 1993). Realizing that your value is lower than that of your partner, or vice versa, injects lethal poison into the relationship for both partners.

Feeling that we or our partner “are not in the same league,” which grades romantic partners like we grade beauty queens and football teams, is humiliating (Ben-Ze’ev, 2019).

Significant inequalities in a couple’s overall values are problematic for an enduring loving relationship. What about minor inequalities?

Small differences between partners are meaningful but often work differently in generating negative and positive emotions. For instance, if someone feels the negative emotion of envy, he may focus on the competitive and comparative elements between him and his partner.

Jon Elster (1991) speaks about “neighborhood envy,” where each person within a hierarchy primarily envies the person immediately above themselves.

Indeed, one study found that most high-achieving men report that they would like to marry, or have already married, a woman who is as smart as, or smarter than, they are.

These men believe that, in marrying such a woman, they have made a smart deal (Whelan, 2006). Another study found that approaching potential partners who are more desirable than oneself is not just an occasional act of wishful thinking; it is the norm.

However, there is a limit to the desirable gap: Both men and women pursue partners who are on average about 25 percent more desirable than themself (Bruch & Newman, 2018).

When feeling positive emotions such as romantic love, small gaps between partners enhance love since the cooperative concern is associated with increasing the prospects of having a better life. Partners are unconcerned with their inferiority because, in this sense, minor inequality does not humiliate them.

Our attitude toward inequality is not merely shaped by our positive or negative attitudes toward the other but also by a temporal dimension. In the short term, inequalities can produce admiration, thereby increasing feelings of love and sexual desire.

In this sense, brief casual sexual encounters are typically more exciting with someone who is different or superior to us, such as our boss, the rich, or the famous (Ben-Ze’ev, 2023). In the long term, significant inequalities become problematic for both partners.

When we date out of our league, it important to give this belief in mind
Equality In Romantic Relationships

Managing the Distance

“My wife does not want my lover to be superior so that she isn’t a threat to her. However, she does not want the lover to be far inferior to her as this somehow belittles her.” – A polyamorous husband (cited in Carmi & Sade-Saadon, 2022).

Certain inequalities in the overall value of each partner are inevitable. However, evaluating these inequalities requires some leeway on the couple’s part. They must (a) decide how to reduce the inequality gap and (b) reevaluate the importance given to each characteristic.

Of course, deciding on a partner’s overall value is not a matter of giving scores. Significant characteristics such as wisdom, beauty, and kindness involve some flexibility.

Indeed, when asked whether his wife is wise, beautiful, and kind, one man replied, “She is neither stupid nor ugly, but she is extremely kind.” This man gave his wife “low scores” in wisdom and beauty—though not a zero— while increasing her overall value by taking into account her kindness.

Deciding on the comparative value of both partners not only reveals the small and large differences between them but also gives each characteristic relative importance. This man greatly admires his wife for her kindness, which he considers to be more important than wisdom and beauty.

Similarly, a woman may say that she perceives her spouse to be as handsome as he was when she first fell in love with him, but this no longer matters to her, since the importance of his negative characteristics has increased so much in her mind that she no longer loves him.

Moreover, it was found that despite the considerable damage that unequal division of domestic labor has on relationship satisfaction when individuals feel appreciated by their partners, they maintain satisfaction even when the division of household labor is unequal (Gordon et al., 2022).

Women, more so than men, may also diminish the level of inequality by “playing down” their advantages, thereby maintaining their love of the “inferior” person. This action may be a temporary, superficial remedy, though, in the long term, the actual overall value of the partner is likely to emerge.

Related: Why Women Should Stop Putting Marriage Ahead Of Career

Concluding Remarks

Having an equal standing in a relationship is important for its long-term quality and satisfaction. However, there are various domains of comparison, and it is up to the lover to determine the relative value of each one.

Accordingly, considering our partner as superior or equal to us partly depends on our values. In profound love, the comparison between the partner and others is of little concern; you love the person because of who the person is and not because of how they rate compared to you.

Profound love, whose bread and butter consists of shared activities and experiences, involves autonomy and equality of status. The presence of overall equality of meritocracy is less significant if the differences are not too great.

References:

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2019). The Arc of Love. University of Chicago Press.

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2023). Is casual sex good for you? Casualness, seriousness and wellbeing in intimate relationships.” Philosophies, 8(2), 25.

Bruch, E. E., & Newman, M. E. J. (2018). Aspirational pursuit of mates in online dating markets. Science Advances, 4(8), eaap9815.

Carmi, Z. & Sade-Saadon, L. (2022). A Few Is the New Two.

Elster, J. (1991). Envy in social life. In: R. Seckhauser (ed.), Strategy and Choices. MIT Press, 49–82.

Gordon, A. M., Cross, E., Ascigil, E., Balzarini, R., Luerssen, A., & Muise, A. (2022). Feeling appreciated buffers against the negative effects of unequal division of household labor on relationship satisfaction. Psychological Science, 33, 1313–1327.

Prins, K. S., Buunk, B. P. & Van Yperen, N. W. (1993). Equity, normative disapproval and extramarital relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10, 39–53.

Whelan, C. B. (2006). Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women. Simon & Schuster.

Written By Aaron Ben-Zeév 
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today
dating out of our league
The Fascination Of Mismatched Partnerships: What Happens When We Date Out Of Our League

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

How to Read Someone’s ‘Digital Body Language’ and Improve Your Dating Game

How To Read Digital Body Language? Important Things

Gone are the days when catching someone’s eye across the room, or brushing someone’s arm, were the main ways of communicating interest and feelings. Now dating is online, and digital body language (DBL) is becoming important when it comes to connecting with potential partners.

In this article, we will explain the importance and how to read digital body language. Are you ready to get into the world of online dating and relationships? Let’s go!

What is digital body language?

All physical behaviors which express thoughts, intentions, and feelings are called body language. This includes facial expressions, gestures, eye movement, touch, even body posture.

Similarly the te



Up Next

Is She Playing You? 8 Signs Of A Female Player

Signs Of A Female Player: Is She Playing You Like A Chump

Dating these days can feel like a wild ride, isn’t it? You might find yourself wondering if that certain someone genuinely likes you or is just playing games. If you suspect that your partner may be a female player, then you have come to the right place, because that’s what we are going to talk about today.

Females players are masters of disguise, who are experts at blending charm and manipulation effortlessly. They can make you feel like you’re on top of the world one moment and leave you doubting everything the next.

So, how would you know if you are dating a female player? What are the hints and red flags you should be looking out for? Let’s explore that, shall we?

Related:



Up Next

What Is Your ‘Couple Identity’? 3 Ways It Can Help Enhance Your Love Life

What Is Your Couple Identity? Clear Benefits Of Knowing It

What’s your couple identity? It has everything to do with that sense of “we-ness” which develops between lovers as time goes on. Let’s explore more!

It’s like having a unique dynamic where you see yourselves as part of one close-knit team. But what does that mean exactly, and why is it important for your relationship? Let me explain

What Is Couple’s Identity?

The term “couple’s identity” signifies the shared feeling of “we-ness” that is created by people in love. This implies that one begins to look at oneself not just as a separate entity but also as part of a larger whole.

Couples should strive for healthy interdependence within their relationship.



Up Next

What You Should Know Before Double Texting Your Crush (Ignore At Your Own Peril)

The Double Texting Dilemma: Basic Rules You Should Know

Ever heard of double texting? It’s like when you send a message, get no response, and then hit send again, hoping for a miracle. Simply put, it’s the digital equivalent of poking someone repeatedly to get their attention.

It is okay when you do it to your best friend- fire off 10 texts in a row, and spam them with memes and tiktoks. They’d probably just laugh and roll their eyes. But try the same with someone you’ve only known a few days, and suddenly you’re tiptoeing into “clingy” territory faster than you can say “send.”

So to save you fr



Up Next

What Is Val-Core Dating: 4 Signs This Is Your Thing!

What is Val-core Dating? signs it is your thing!

One of the latest dating trends in 2024 is the Val-core dating or value-based dating. But is it a new trend or has it just been newly named? Have you always prioritized values to choose a partner? Did you feel attracted to someone who shares the same values?

In Val-core dating people choose partners based on the values that matter to them.

Let us understand the concept first.

Val-Core Dating: Is It Your Thing?



Up Next

What Is Rotational Dating? 6 Best Tips For Doing It Right And Making The Most Of It

Rotational Dating? Best Tips For Doing It Right

Have you heard of the new trend called ‘rotational dating’ doing the rounds these days? But what is rotational dating? Well, think of it as the dating world’s version of a buffet – you get to sample different dishes before deciding on your favorite.

If you are curious to know how it works, and want to navigate this exciting approach to romance, then you have come to the right place. Today, we are going to talk about what is rotational dating, how to do it the right way and the benefits of rotational dating.

Let’s start with what is rotational dating first.

Related: ‘Alphabet Dating’: The A T



Up Next

What Is Breadcrumbing And Why Do We Fall Victim To It?

What Is Breadcrumbing And Why Do We Fall Victim To It?

Have you ever been on the other side of breadcrumbing? If you have, you know how horrible it feels. So, what is the best way to deal with this? Let’s find out, shall we?

KEY POINTS

Breadcrumbing is characterised by avoidance of intimacy and commitment uncertainty.

Breadcrumbers often want to seek attention from their partners and appear cool to their friends.

Dealing with breadcrumbing sometimes involves breadcrumbing others.

Breadcrumbing takes its name from the Grimm Brothers story of Hansel and Gretel — two children who in escaping from their wicked stepmother, dr