Who Are We to Judge?

Meeting and dating others, when you’re single, can be complicated, especially in today’s world with all of the dating websites and apps putting people out there like some sort of open-24-hours buffet-style smorgasbord of sex.

Whether you’re looking for a soulmate to marry, eHarmony-style, or for more casual hook-ups à la Tinder — seeking, finding, meeting, and sealing the deal with another person comes with all sorts of considerations. What do you look for in another person? What don’t you like? How do you decide whether to give it a go? Do physical things like weight, height, hair color, skin color, etc. matter? Does age make a difference?

To swipe right or left, that is the question. [photo | Rawpixel]
We’re tempted to say that those complications double for folks venturing into the Lifestyle as a couple, but mathy sorts would probably correct us and say the questions of compatibility actually increase exponentially. After all, it’s not just two people trying to figure out whether they connect. It’s now four unique individuals and two couples trying to decide whether there’s a connection between all of them that’s worth pursuing.

Does he like her? Does she like him? Does his her like him? Does her him like her? Do the hims approve of one another for their hers? Do each of the hers okay the other her for their hims?

In the Lifestyle, when choosing whom to play with, we evaluate all sorts of aspects of the others involved in light of our own preferences, desires, and needs as individuals and as couples. In other words, we make critical judgments.

Does that make us judgy?

Semantics can muck things up when it comes to this question. The word critical and its variants has positive, neutral, and negative implications — depending on how it is wielded. Critical thinking is widely considered good to do. To critique something is more-or-less neutral — it’s just the act of examining and analyzing based on some sort of criteria. (Ah, but what criteria? There’s the rub.) To criticize or be critical of something generally carries negative connotations aligned with the idea of being judgmental or judgy. No one wants to be considered judgy.

“What do you think of this couple?” [photo | Rawpixel]
But there is a difference between making judgments and being judgmental. We’d argue that making judgments (evaluating, assessing) is healthy, natural, unavoidable, and necessary to both daily life and dating life. On the other hand, being judgmental means either applying too-harsh of expectations when evaluating or establishing unrealistic criteria in the first place. Being judgmental means not only applying criteria to determine compatibility, but then perhaps taking it a step further to condemn, ridicule, or at the very least marginalize others for not meeting our criteria.

Most people don’t care to be described as “judgmental,” especially in the Lifestyle. This is a tribe that prides itself on cultivating open-mindedness.

So how do you tell whether you’re “being judgy” or making valid, necessary evaluations?

We really like Dr. Gregg Henriques’ take on this in Psychology Today. He identifies eight dynamics to help determine whether we are making constructive or problematic judgments. In the end, he concludes that, “Someone is being judgmental when their judgments are power-driven, unempathetic, based on their own idiosyncratic values or tastes, overly based on other people’s character, are closed, shallow, and pessimistic, and ultimately have the consequence of making the other person feel problematically diminished.” Essentially, Dr. Henriques offers a way to examine and reflect upon the motivations/drives that impact our judgments.

That’s a good definition and primer for avoiding being judgmental, in general. When it comes to something specific in the Lifestyle like evaluating online dating profiles and deciding whether to accept a couple’s invitation to meet up, we’d take it a step further and also ask, “Are the criteria we apply counter-productive to our aims? Are we being too harsh in our assessment of any of those criteria? Are we over-valuing something? Are we under-valuing something?”

“Are the criteria we apply counter-productive to our aims? Are we over-valuing something? Are we under-valuing something?”

Probably the best example we can give is the question of age. Lots of dating sites allow (or require) users to not only specify their own ages when they set up a profile, but also to filter their searches by an age range. Some ask users to specify in their profile what age range they prefer to date.

Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 10.29.57 AM
[screenshot from LS dating site]
So it’s safe to say that age is a thing in the Lifestyle. Like sexual preferences, hygiene habits, drug and disease status, and physical attributes — age is one criterion LS couples often consider before agreeing to meet and play. But should it be? Is a couple closed-minded if they rule out playing with a much-older or much-younger couple? Is it judgy to discount potential playmates simply because one or both of them aren’t close to our own age range?

It’s safe to say that age is a thing in the Lifestyle.

There’s seems to be no end of debate about this. We recently found a couple of interesting discussion boards that focus on age and swinging — one on Swingers Board and one on Reddit (r/swingers). The Swingers Board discussion focuses specifically on the question of playing with a couple that has a sizable difference between the two partners within a couple, but the user contributions there reveal a lot about age-related attitudes in general. A quick read of either forum shows that some lifestylers adamantly cling to specific age ranges and would not dream of playing with anyone older or younger, while many others in the lifestyle preach from experience that age truly does not matter (so long as things are both consensual and legal).

So where does that leave us on the question of judging based on age? Pretty much back with Dr. Henriques. If we esteem a couple too old or too young to play, we can reflect on our why — our motivations and drives in making the judgment. Perhaps, as Mr. & Mrs. Jones suggest in the most recent We Gotta Thing podcast, we are very new to the LS and it’s all terribly overwhelming, and adding a major age difference to all of the other intimidating factors is just too darned much right now. That doesn’t seem judgy to us. That seems like sane self-care, and something that can be re-evaluated down the road when we’re more experienced and comfortable.

Look for deal makers, not just deal breakers. [photo | Omar Medina]
Then again, maybe we are applying this criterion arbitrarily or in isolation. If all other things about a couple tell us “this is a go,” should age difference alone doom the deal? Should any one factor be a deal-breaker? This is what we mean when we ask, “Are we over-valuing something? Are we under-valuing something?” Being judgy has the potential to hurt others, but it could very well also hurt us by keeping us from meeting — and possibly playing with — amazing Lifestyle friends.

The solution  may lie in two things: being mindful of our motivations/drives when we make judgments, and cultivating within ourselves a habit of being “glass half full” sorts — of looking for all of the things that are right and exciting and attractive to us about a couple rather than focusing too narrowly on one or two things that may intimidate us because they push our comfort zones. After all, we didn’t join the lifestyle not to grow.

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featured photo | Bruce Mars


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