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How Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce are inspiring people to raise their dating standards

Some people online say Swift and Kelce's high-profile romance exemplifies what it looks like to be loved loudly and proudly.
Photo Illustration: Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce
 The hype over Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce is pushing some to re-examine what they look for in partners.Justine Goode / NBC News; Getty Images

It’s a love story that people just want to say yes to: Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce — who have been rumored to be dating since September — are inspiring people to step up their own dating expectations.  

While no one knows what their very viral and public relationship is like behind closed doors, many fans — who have parasocial relationships with Swift — are rooting for her happiness. Kelce, it seems, is the fairy tale match they hoped she would find. 

He’s on the sidelines of her Eras Tour show with Swift’s dad, singing along to “Blank Space” and grinning when Swift changes the lyrics to “Karma” to refer to him. He catches her in his arms when she runs to give him a kiss at her show. He praises her on his podcast. Even before the two were romantically linked, Kelce was a fan with a friendship bracelet and a dream

Seeing how Kelce has publicly supported and praised Swift has elevated many people’s own expectations for what they seek in romantic partnerships. Some online say they are making changes in how they approach dating.

“I definitely was dating the worst of the worst of the worst of men, and I thought it was normal. I was begging for phone calls, for just any form of communication,” said Martha Mary Santos, 26, of Mandeville, Louisiana, who made a TikTok video reacting to Swift and Kelce. “When I saw the way Travis treats Taylor, it was a massive wake-up call for me.”

Lisa Carr, 32, a TikTok commentator on women’s culture and pop culture, noted the parallels between the popularity of Swift and Kelce’s relationship and this moment in culture. Music charts are dominated by women; the Greta Gerwig-directed “Barbie” movie became a box office phenomenon; Swift’s Eras Tour and Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour broke records, she said.

“There is an insane amount of sociological and cultural factors that are captured at this intersection of Travis and Taylor right now,” Carr said in a TikTok video that went viral. “What are we kind of saying no to, and yes to, as a society? This has been a loud and resounding yes.” 

“The women are winning loudly, and the men have been real quiet,” she added.      

In an interview, Carr, who is from Tacoma, Washington, elaborated on Swift and Kelce’s relationship. She said their public support of each other — whether at a football game or on a concert tour — exemplifies a key facet of healthy relationships: being each other’s biggest cheerleader. 

Kelce seems to appreciate Swift for exactly who she is, Carr said. Instead of trying to woo her solely with grand but generic gestures, he leans into simple behaviors meant to make his partner feel seen: making her a friendship bracelet, speaking highly of her on his podcast, holding up a “We Will Stay” sign during her performance of “The Archer.”

“I know a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, wait till they break up.’ And so what? I actually wish every single one of her ex-boyfriends was like this,” Carr said. “We shame these sort of expressions of love, of gentleness, of commitment. We underappreciate them in our society. So I just hope that people can really start to expect that from other people.”

For Santos, what stands out about Kelce is that he isn’t feigning detachment to appear cool to other men, nor is he threatened by Swift’s overwhelming success. Instead, he seems openly lovestruck for millions to see. 

Having recently left a two-year relationship, Santos said watching Swift and Kelce’s romance unfold has extinguished any doubts about whether her breakup was for the best. Now, she said, she has seen the kind of love story that’s possible.

Los Angeles resident Emily Hamocon, 28, also ended a relationship about five months ago. Hamocon, who posts self-love advice on TikTok, said she and many others in the dating pool are tired of being treated as if they are unworthy of being loved out loud.

Kelce “is not afraid to show his emotions, to show his love,” said Hamocon, who also shared her thoughts in a TikTok video. “That takes a lot of courage, especially since he knows there’s millions and millions of people watching the relationship and he still chooses to show that sensitive side of him, which means he’s definitely very secure in his masculinity.”

Raghav Kalra, 23, who is from New York City, said observing Swift and Kelce’s dynamic has raised his own barometer for finding a partner. 

“There’s something to be said about the fact that someone is proud to be dating you,” said Kalra, a self-proclaimed Swiftie. “I think what a lot of people like about this relationship, and what they’re looking up to and also expecting going forward, is to just not settle for less.”

Atlanta resident Jess Rose, 36, said Kelce is “the personification of: ‘If he wanted to, he would,’” a sentiment many online have echoed.

The phrase has become a popular piece of dating advice in recent years. Though some criticize it as oversimplifying dating — not everyone can fly 11,000 miles round-trip to spend a weekend with their partners — many say the point is that someone who cares will put in the effort to show it.

For Rose, watching Kelce demonstrate his commitment reminds her of the green flags she had noticed in her now-husband, who would regularly drive three hours round-trip simply to have lunch with her. (She calls it “love math,” an iteration of terms such as “girl math” and “boy math,” jokes that trended this year to delineate the whimsical logic behind people’s decisions.)

I hope this is giving women that permission to not lower their standards to be with a successful equal man.

-Jess Rose, tiktoker

“Taylor being with a guy like Travis, who seems to check not only the success bucket, but good to his family, good to his community, confident in his own right, really wanting to be an equal,” said Rose, who also made a TikTok video about the topic, “I hope this is giving women that permission to not lower their standards to be with a successful equal man.”

She said much of the dominant narrative in pop culture has taught women that if they date a successful man, they should accept the relationship as it comes — even if that means diminishing their own needs to accommodate those of their male partner.

“I have a young daughter, and I like that she can look to our marriage,” Rose said, “but I also like that this is giving her a relationship in such a public eye of a man who’s really honoring his equal partner and not asking her to change who she is or dim her light for him.”