The Reacher & The Settler
[Disclaimer: I always get brilliant (to my mind) ideas late at night, and wait to write them until I’m thinking well. But I never do. So I’m writing this at 3 a.m. Forgive me.]
I’m watching the How I Met Your Mother episode called “Jenkins.” In it, they discuss the concept of the reacher and the settler. For the uninitiated, it’s pretty simple: in every relationship there’s a reacher, who dates above their “grade”, and a settler, who dates below theirs. Marshall gets pretty upset at the idea of being the “reacher”, and trying to explain it away, I came to a conclusion.
The reacher is ambitious, and that ambition comes from self confidence. He (for the sake of simplicity) believes he’s good enough to date up, so he does. The settler, on the other hand, is self consious. She believes that if she dated at or above her level, she’d be at risk for getting dumped, so she dates below it. Done. Marshall doesn’t have to feel bad anymore.
Then my mind kept working… What if the reacher is the self conscious one, and focuses on dating someone particularly attractive because he thinks it’s incredibly important how his partner’s attractiveness reflects on him. And the settler is confident enough to not care about that at all, and focuses on personality. Uh oh.
Oh but there’s more…let’s mix up the two pairs just described: a self conscious man who seeks someone “out of his league” because he needs it to feel good about himself, and a similarly self conscious woman who is afraid to date someone who she thinks has options, and so dates down; a confident man who believes he’s worthy of anyone and so is free of intimidation, and a confident woman who doesn’t associate her partner’s attractiveness with her value. Things just got complicated.
As a single man, whose friends are nearly all single, dating’s a bit important…we talk about it a lot. What? We have jobs? Oh right, we need those to pay for dates. And clothes for dates. And apartments we can bring our dates back to after dinner. It’s that simple.
But the complexity of dating – and our complete failure to figure out how to do it successfully (please help us) – leads us to simplify it when we talk. We try to find ways around it, to explain our heartache, to work the system. But even a concept as simple as the reacher and the settler has layers, and you can’t figure out where you stand until you take a chance and see where things end up. You have to know yourself well, and take the time to really get to know another person, and it’s not easy. It’s way easier to just blame it on some half baked theory.
There’s only one thing simple about dating: keep trying. Failure is inevitable, but…that’s it. I can’t guarantee you a silver lining or a payoff. I would if I could (you know that, don’t you?). Don’t lose hope though. One day, you’re going to die, and it won’t matter anymore. Yes, I am ever the optimist.
This has been a Public Service Announcement from Dallas’ most optimistic single guy.