If anything, this showcases how few sports metaphors I really know.

I was talking to a friend today about relationships. Big surprise, right? We were chatting about people we’d dated, what we learned in the past. Things that had challenged us and how we’d taken that knowledge to move onto bigger and better things. My friend talked about someone they dated who’d supposedly been “dating down” while they were together. I was shocked. My friend is the checklist of things you’d want in a partner: Hilarious, clever, attractive, smart, emotionally intelligent and observant. Here they thought their partner was the one who’d been trading down?

Apparently their partner had gone on to date tall, attractive people that looked like they had their shit together. The phrase “out of my league” came up, which stumped me further. As if there was a hierarchy of inherent quality to people, or rankings that we all adhere to. Can we retire this phrase already? People aren’t better or worse, they’re different. Compatibility is everything and that’s irrespective of how much you earn or what you look like. Dating is about finding people who synch with you, who you can open up to and be yourself around. It’s not about other people ranking higher than you at all. The league idea does not work. If you keep giving it power, it only serves to fuck you over even more.

I get where the sentiment comes from. We’re bombarded with messages from all corners that tell us what success looks like, what to aspire to. We’re force fed the qualities we’re told to admire. That beauty is an Amazonian goddess or a well square jawed stud. People in positions of influence or power. When we’re used to hearing this, it’s very easy to believe it. We place value on ourselves for bringing these people into our lives and, by association, qualities these people possess. Everyone has excellent and less excellent qualities. It’s just that people’s appeal shines and hides their detractors in the shadow. Someone might be so attractive or intelligent, you forget how much their lack of punctuality irritates you. Or how they chew with their mouth open. The handsome bubble is real, and it extends beyond mere looks. It’s as if by connecting ourselves intimately to them we hope this will rub off on us and we’ll be seen by others in a similar light. Then if there’s a risk of losing them, a faint desperation arises of losing not only them, but that additional layer they added to your life. If you break up, they’ll be fine and you’ll be the broken one. Because they were out of your league, right?

Which is dumb, because people don’t exist in tiers. It’s easy to be blinded by the things that society tells us matter, when, if we’d look closer, we’d see all the ways we’re not compatible. Nobody is truly out of your league, when the issue isn’t someone being too good, but not the right fit. What if you’re attracted to someone, but don’t have interests or values in common? Are you willing to overlook or compromise on things that are actually important to you? To let go of things that actually define you in order to let your partner shine through?

 If the notion of leagues has any truth, it misses the fact that you, too are out of their league. In fact, you’re not even playing the same sport. If you’re looking for people who are better than you at a different game, nobody is gonna win. Instead of buying into what you’re told you should be looking for, discover what it is that matters to you, what turns you on, lights you up, and also what your bottom line is. What are your dealbreakers? If your needs aren’t being met, are you really holding onto a winner? If the goal is the greatest amount of happiness for all players, maybe take some time to work out a strategy and play with the long game in mind.

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