In the grand scheme of things, dating someone of a different height isn’t that big of a deal. And if you’re notably short or tall, you’ve probably been there, done that. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re starting a relationship with someone who is much taller — or shorter — than you.
Don’t be weird about height differences
“Don’t be weird” is solid advice that applies to pretty much every situation in life, but here, we’re specifically talking about two instances: Don’t be weird by constantly bringing up a date or partner’s height, and don’t be weird by actually fetishizing height.
Katie Jacobson, a 29-year-old visual artist near Minneapolis, explained, “I wish people knew that it’s weird. Society makes it weird. A lot of men assume that I’ve already dismissed them because I’m taller than them. They put that on me instead of just asking.”
At 1.52 m-11, Jacobson is seven inches taller than the average American woman, so she has experience here.
“I haven’t encountered too many fetish things but it’s a common enough problem that other tall girls I know mention how creepy it is,” she added. “I suppose it is similar to how short women get infantilized and fetishised, but instead guys have this power fantasy about being crushed by a tall Amazon woman, and it’s like, ‘My guy, I also do not want to do that.’”
Eric Del Valle, a 1.83 m-2 New Yorker, said he’s been on a number of dates where the topic turned to his height.
“It’s annoying,” he said. “It becomes the whole focus. It feels good in the beginning, but after a while, it’s like, ‘OK, there’s nothing else, really, to point out.’”
He advises potential mates not to ask tall people if they play basketball. Write that down. And even if the height difference isn’t in your relationship, don’t point it out in others’.
“There are also comments from people not in the relationship,” Jacobson said. “I’m sure any height discrepancy in most couples would be pointed out but if I’m next to a short man, it is like people have to comment on it. Being tall in a relationship is something that people constantly notice. Even if the two folks involved are cool with it, everyone you encounter makes it a thing to be remarked upon.”
Be accommodating — and avoid giving in to stereotypes
If you’re dating a shorter person, don’t put the most commonly used cooking ingredients or cleaning tools on the highest shelf in the cabinet. If your different-heighted partner drives your car, try not to be persnickety if they forget to move the seat back to your preferred position. Definitely don’t police how they act or dress, either; a short person doesn’t have to act shy or sweet, and a tall person won’t always be assertive. Don’t create a stereotypical ideal for them to live up to and get so wrapped up in it you forget they’re a regular person with their own personality.
“There is a pressure to not wear tall shoes,” Jacobson said. “I used to work at a shoe store and women wouldn’t wear heels because they were close to or the same height as their partner. It was a constant consideration from them. I’ve been like, ‘What the heck, I’ll wear whatever I want,’ but then it becomes a statement, like I’m emphasising or saying something instead of just wearing what I want on a date.”
Keep in mind, too, that accommodating or understanding your partner depends a lot on what expectations exist for them outside of your relationship. This is especially true with gender roles. As Jacobson noted, a hetero couple with a taller woman is more likely to be scrutinised than a hetero couple where the man is taller. It’s not your job to break every societal stereotype, but you do need to be aware of them, if only to better ignore them and support your partner.
Gendered expectations can be so frustrating for tall women, especially, that there’s even an app for them. James Valladares, founder and CEO of DateUp, explained his dating app as one “with the mission to create a better dating experience for tall women.”
Pointing to “feedback that tall women have provided over the past year,” he explained, “Many tall women have a preference to date tall men, but many are also open to dating shorter men if they are confident and comfortable with the height difference. DateUp doesn’t weed anyone out based on height, only those that are not open to dating someone taller.”
If you do take a look at that app, refer back to tip one: Don’t be weird. No fetishizing. Just because you’re open to a certain height doesn’t mean you have to be creepy about it or seek it out.
Don’t worry about it
Valladares explained that confidence is the key to a successful multi-height relationship. That’s true, but after a while, you’ll get used to it, if you even cared about it in the first place.
“For couples with a height difference, it’s important to have an understanding of the values that we place on a relationship,” he said. “If you can be confident in the values that you both share, it’s easier to ignore societal and social pressure and focus on building a strong, long-lasting relationship.”
Laugh together. It can totally be funny if one partner has to crouch to get into a closet the other can enter easily or has to jump to pull the cord on the ceiling fan. The next time your tall partner is complaining about cramped seating on an aeroplane or your short partner gets handed a kids’ menu, look for the humour.
“On a funnier note, I dated a tall guy who was [1.83 m-5], and both of us fitting into his dorm’s twin bed was comical to say the least,” Jacobson said.
There’s more to your partner than their height, which you already know. Alyssa Molina, a 1.52 m-2 New Yorker who dated someone who is 1.83 m-5 for a while, told Lifehacker that when it came to what attracted her to him, “it wasn’t his height.”
“Physically, he is my type but he also was very sweet, calm, and inviting,” she said. “He was easy to talk to.”
Valladares summed it up like this: “For those hesitant about dating someone of a different height, my advice would be to be open-minded. Sometimes love can come when you least expect it, so you might find a perfect match with someone that you didn’t expect.”