Here's where the business analogy comes in handy: Let's say you are applying for a position at a company that requires a particular set of skills to be able to capably perform the required tasks:
- You lack the skills, you aren't producing the needed results to maintain your employment, and you get fired/downsized/let go.
- You're looking at applying for a job that is simply way below your qualification level, the concern employers have is that you will get bored, and move on to a different position with higher pay in short order, wasting their time and training funds.
- You apply for a job that has specialized skills that are taught by the employer. Even in this scenario, there are personality traits that are desired, and a high investment on the part of the employer in bringing the employee up to speed.
- You find your DREAM JOB! This is something you've trained and educated yourself to do for years! You feel competent, well-compensated, and satisfied for the time and effort you put in on behalf of your employer.
Does this apply to age? Perhaps. There are quite a few sets of skills that I would like a potential new partner to have, and some of them are very unlikely to be found in a person under a particular threshold of age. An example of this is that I prefer to date people who have at least 5 contiguous years of relationship experience with a single partner. Just having some years on you isn't any guarantee that those skills have been acquired though, so the screening process still needs to allow for people with exceptions on each side.
Let's say that I connect with someone with vastly more experience, or much broader relationship desires than I have previously explored. I need to consider that this may not be a good match in "employment expectations", or that I will need to do a high level of on the job training to catch up to the more experienced partner. If I am still able to bring the qualities that someone is looking for to the table, it may be worth their investment in bringing me up to speed.
Sometimes, in the process of dating, I meet someone who is darned appealing, but their current skills don't line up with my employment requirements, or they don't have the qualities that would help bring that in closer alignment. Perhaps I make an educated guess that the learning curve there is going to be slower than I would have the ability to accommodate, and keep the door open for a return in a few years, if they've acquired the desired skills in the interim. Basically, I keep their resume on file. ;) People have surprised me by their willingness to dig in and grow, and those are cases where I really like being wrong!
To be very clear, I consider each partner potential partner in a relationship to be considering "employing" the other. This isn't a case of one person holding all the cards or power by being in charge.
Having a checklist for a potential partner to fill isn't the goal, but having clarity on what makes relationships work well for you, and being able to recognize those skills and qualities in others is crucial. It isn't a value judgement to decline a relationship opportunity that doesn't suit your needs, it's a recognition that, even when you really like someone, you may not be a good partner-match.