I was having lunch with a gal pal when she asked me how my dating life was going. I turned to her with a cheeky smile and told her I was having a good time, and she took that to mean I was anti-relationships and therefore staying unaffiliated. Her assertion was only partly right. I'm certainly staying unaffiliated but not because I'm swearing off relationships. I'm actually doing quite the opposite. I'm very much pro-monogamy, so much so that I'm willing to wait patiently until the right person presents himself.
When I explained my code of conduct to her, she questioned how I manage not to get emotionally attached to my "friends." I can't even imagine investing an exorbitant amount of energy in a man who I know isn't exactly what I'm looking for. The idea at this stage in the game for me is absurd, so I blankly responded to her, "well, they're not my husband." That's when she asked me how I knew that for sure and bestowed her well-meaning wisdom on me that "no one is perfect." She just wanted to make sure I was open to the possibilities.
In my adulthood, I don't think it's necessary or wise to cast a wide net or else feel like I'm missing out on the elusive hidden gem of a man. The secret is, there are no hidden gems. People are who they are at the time you rendezvous with them and treating every person as "potential" only leaves you open to a slew of people who aren't right for you. Casting a wide net is nothing more than an indication of not trusting yourself and your ability to make good decisions. If you think your "picker" is broken then, of course, you won't feel comfortable honing in on specific traits and sifting through the dating scene for a mate who embodies those traits. I'm unwilling to exchange perfection for a warm body, and by perfection, I mean perfect for me. I can wait. Call me picky.
Becoming emotionally attached to every person you date isn't a gesture of hopeless romance. Rather it's an emotional connection based on need instead of want, a connection that's almost always one-sided. What you're feeling is not at all about the other person, it's about you making someone else your remedy. No matter how 1940's romance films painted the excruciating longings of unhealthy love, needing a relationship to make you feel good is a recipe for a toxic situation. So, refine your "picker" and give yourself permission to be a smidgen (a lot) more ruthless about what you want. Then make sure you embody those same traits and ask for nothing less in return. As you filter through casual dates, you'll have a much easier time setting expectations and staying emotionally open.
Oh, and about that hidden gem mentality, it usually plays out in one of two situations. A hidden gem needs time to dust themselves off, and they can't do that while in a relationship. Or, spending less time dusting off hidden gems leaves you emotionally available to connect with the polished gem who is looking for a person with your exact qualities.