I hug her goodbye and tell her it was a pleasure to meet her.
As I turn my back and walk away, I instinctively pull out my iPhone, swiping left and right on my way to my car.
3 more Tinder matches, 1 Bumble match and 3 messages on OkCupid fill the contents of my screen.
A laugh comes over me. This is ridiculous. This was my 23rd first date.
What the hell is wrong with women these days? They seem so boring and unattractive.
Or is it me? Is something wrong with me? Am I boring and unattractive?
Is my dating strategy worse than eating raw chicken livers?
All over America, singles are swiping right into love, while others are developing arthritis in our fingers.
I can’t help but feel annoyed as I look out over Seattle’s moonlit lake.
If online dating is the new way of finding love, what was I doing wrong? Why can’t I be one of the 35% of people clicking their way into the hearts of others?
So I set out on a journey to uncover my dating problems.
The Analysis Paralysis of The “Best” Romantic Partner
Today single people no longer have to settle for the girl next door or someone they met at school. We now have the tools to find the “best” soulmate in the world!
If a girl is too short or too tall, she doesn’t cut it.
If she watches a stupid reality TV show like the Kardasishes, she’s kicked to the curb.
If her hair is too blond, she’s out.
There’s always another option just one swipe away.
Today, all romantic possibilities are on the table. Online dating apps like Tinder and Bumble create the illusion of endless options.
With endless options of traits, body types and interest in the 24/7 singles bar in the palm of your hand, why settle for less than the best?
On average, people who search for the best put much more time and effort into their romantic search. They go on more dates; they ask more friends for advice, and feel more miserable in the process.
Rather than comparing the women I’ve been going on first dates with, my mind ended up selecting the features of each woman I saw (both in person and online) to create a “fantasy woman.” An ideal that no woman could measure up to.
I created a gorgeous woman who turns heads as she walks by. Bursting with charm and charisma, lighting up every room she enters. A rising start in her career and cherished by all her friends. And that’s just her public persona – at home, she’s mind-blowing in bed, an amazing cook, selfless, and devoted.
Research into this phenomenon has shown that, online, men seek younger and prettier women than they would in real life. Women seek taller and higher-earning men than they normally would. Online, people tend to seek the ideal profile, rather than someone with real potential.
As I’ve clicked through OkCupid, I’ve stumbled upon a beautiful woman, with a witty bio, a job she is passionate about, and lots of shared interests including salsa dancing.
But she’s not… perfect. After looking her over for a few seconds, I go back to my search, leaving her and many other good matches to die in my browser history.
Instead of finding a woman that is good enough, I have to find “the best” woman for me. But how do I know I’ve found the best?
To answer that question, I would have to date every person there is. It’s a recipe for countless first dates into complete misery.
Since I’m living in Seattle and being an avid online dater, I am flooded with dating options. Every corner and swipe revealed more potential matches. The world of love has opened the doors into the house of choices, and that’s the problem. According to Sheena Iyengar, an excess of options can lead to indecisions and paralysis.
In one of her studies, she set up a table offering shoppers samples of jam. Sometimes they were offered six types of jam, and other times they offered 24.
The larger selection of jams lured more people to the table for a jammy taste, but they were ten times less likely to buy a jam.
The study, among many others, demonstrates how an overload of options frustrates us from choosing, even when it is not in our self-interest. Having too many jam options prevents us to enjoy a jamming love life.
Let’s say I go out on a date with a brunette-flavored jam. On my way to the bathroom, I check my phone to see texts from three other jams. I open up Tinder and I see even more jam, so I hop on OkCupid and add filters to find even better jam.
Should I go on a second date with this average brunette jam that is good enough, or should I go on dates with the 5 other jams that washed up on the screen of my phone? Could one of them be the best?
Even before asking a girl on a date, my way of analyzing my options are brutal.
Online dating has allowed me to be more picky and analytical. I was messaging a girl the other day and she mentioned that she occasionally likes line dancing. Instantly my mind said, “Yup, you’re done.”
That’s all it took – something fun she did every once in a while. Of course, sometimes these kind of deal breakers end up making their way into the picture even if a contender somehow makes it to the first date.
One of the problems with a first date is we know very little about a person, so we overweigh those few things that we learn about the person. Suddenly they’re wearing orange pants and you don’t like orange pants, so they’re out. Or they don’t know what Gureye cheese tastes like, so you don’t pursue the second date.
Next thing you know you’re a serial First Datepreuner, drowning in the sea of choices and rising tide of unrealistically high expectations.
These expectations and illusions cause far more frustration in our pursuit of the “one.”
The life raft in the sea of dating options
1) Change expectations: Frustration from online dating is a byproduct of unrealistic expectations. While online dating does expand your potential dating pool and enables you to meet women you’d never meet, most of these people are unavailable to you. Online dating includes a lot of upfront effort that may produce zero results.
You may chat with someone and never go on a date. And most online dating requires a lot of first dates that never turn into second dates because they’re not what you’re looking for, you’re not what they are looking for or the chemistry just isn’t there. As more and more people venture into the virtual world of love, we are not only flooded with options, but we have to filter through lots people and red flags before we find someone that clicks. Online dating is an exhaustive dating strategy because it is like a second job that requires knowledge and skills that very few of us have.
In fact, my research has convinced me that too many people spend way too much time doing the online dating, and not enough time on the actual dating part.
2) Broaden your standards: Given the illusion of options in online dating, it is easy to overlook attractive people who are interesting just because they are two years older or two inches shorter than your ideal. The biggest problem is the selection criteria such as age, height, body type, hair, education, income, ethnicity and religion.
These items tell you pieces about a person, but very little about whether or not she would be a good match for you. Thus, our ridiculous standards cause us to be over selective on traits that aren’t as significant as we think.
Most men who date online use the “0 years up, 10 years down” rule when it comes to age, which deletes a lot of amazing women. According to Christie Hartman a majority of men were interested in women 10 years younger, while the majority of women were not interested in men 10 years older.
“It’s not enough to focus on the women you want; you also need to focus on which women want you.” – Christie Hartman
Very often, a 5 year difference doesn’t make a difference. So Christie Hartman suggest a “10 down, 5 up” approach for men in her dating book Changing Your Game.1
By broadening your standards, you’ll expand your chances of having more second and third dates.
3) Optimize your dating portfolio: If online dating is your only source of potential partners, you’re severely castrating your love life. Just like stocks and identity, investing all of your effort in a single dating basket puts your self-esteem and emotional well-being at risk.
Staying involved in work, your friends and family, and volunteering not only help alleviate the exhaustion of online dating, but they also filter people who you are more likely to be compatible with because of your interests in the things you spend your time doing.
4) Go on better first dates: If you’re a man, you typically take the lead in orchestrating the first date. A study titled “Couples’ Shared Participation in Novel and Arousing Activities and Experienced Relationship Quality”2 discovered that couples that did novel and exciting activities showed a significantly greater increase in relationship quality.
Most dates we have include coffee, drinks, or a meal. Although we seek to find someone who excites us, we tend to subject our potential romantic partner to a boring resume exchange which limits us to building rapport. Instead, go to an interesting environment that really opens both of you up to get a sense of each other. Studies in social science show that more interesting dates lead to more romantic success.
5) Focus on quality, not quantity: With online dating it’s easy to create a dating policy focused on optimizing the quantity of people we go on dates with. For me this included exploring as many options as I can.
I was consistently choosing to meet new people instead of investing in the potential of a relationship. To combat this, I decided to change my dating strategy to investing more in people and to spend more time with one person. Rather than go on five first dates, why not go on five dates with one person? Normally if I took a girl out on a date and she felt like a six, I wouldn’t invite her on a 2nd date.
Rather I’d be giving my swiping thumb more unnecessary exercise in search of the elusive first date with a nine or ten. When I implemented my new dating strategy, I noticed the sixes on first dates usually evolved to an eight or nine on the second date. The second date allowed me to get to know her better and discover things about her that weren’t initially apparent. Sometimes we would create inside jokes and connect on some really goofy stories.
Being a First Datepreuner in the hunt for Mr. or Ms. Perfect is an exhausting strategy of endless dates that rarely lead to the connection and chemistry that builds on the second and third date. Sadly, there are probably a lot of women who I would have had a quality relationship with who I eliminated for some unrealistic standard. Not to mention this dating strategy is way less stressful than thumb punching countless messages into the screen of your phone with more and more people.
So if you find yourself becoming a First Datepreuner, change your expectations, broaden your standards, go on awesome first dates and focus on quality. Not quantity. Studies show that over time a person’s “mate value” that you decide on their first impression matters far less than a person’s “unique value,” which develops over time spent with them. Plus, your thumb really hates arthritis.
- Book: Changing Your Game: A Man’s Guide to Success with Women by Christie Hartman. ↩
- Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 78(2), 273-284. ↩
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