Is more less when it comes to dating?

Remember when choices were as simple as “regular latte” or “skinny latte”? These days it’s more like “decaf latte, double shot, caramel syrup, half-soy, half-oat, 180-degrees, no-foam, with a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top”. Let me tell you something… the online dating landscape is not too dissimilar! The challenge these days for many singletons, particularly where dating apps are concerned, is not just about dishonesty, but decision-making as well.

Once upon a time I found dating apps fun and interesting but after using them for a few months, the novelty quickly wore off. Now I merely see them as tedious and exhausting… it’s like an endless stream of “potentials” along with endless swiping (left), every time I open the apps. While the barrage of choice should make connections easier, it also makes us more picky. Whether we’re looking for something better or just completely overlooking, do we miss a good opportunity when it’s presented right in front of our eyes?

The paradox of choice

“Maximising” is a term coined by Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College and author of “The Paradox of Choice”. Briefly summarised, “maximisers” are those who believe the grass is always greener on the other side. This particular pool of people treat dating and relationships very much like clothing. They might try a few options before committing to the right item, perhaps they’ll stay on the look out “just in case” or if they really can’t decide, it’s possible they’ll end up with two similar garments and flit between them. The only difference is, there’s no refunds or exchanges in the dating world! Have you ever found yourself in this type of situation? I know I have… and I’m talking metaphorically and literally.

I once dated two guys at the same time… whilst also lightly entertaining three others potentials just because I could. Normally I’m someone that likes to stick with one person, at least that way they can have my full attention plus it means less faffing around. But for the sake of trying out a new strategy, I decided to run an A/B split test.

The subjects

Although the two had very different personalities, I found them equally attractive. Guy #1 was the extrovert. In a nutshell I’d describe him as extremely social, well dressed, nicely built, perfect height, super chatty, great fun, hilarious, confident but not cocky. Guy #2 was quite the opposite. Totally introverted. Had a whole lot less to say but any time he opened his mouth, there was good, intellectual substance behind his words. Slightly more mature in the mind which was a nice change in comparison to other men I’ve dated previously! A little on the short side( though that didn’t bug me too much), kinda geeky, generous, thoughtful, well put together and also had a great build!

Activity

After a couple months in, I realised it was getting a bit too much! Multi-dating is honestly so mentally and physically draining. It’s the constant upkeep of texting back and forth trying to maintain several conversations at once, managing dates to ensure there’s no clashes, getting paranoid in case one guy would see me with the other, the effort of getting dressed up to actually go out on these dates (between 3-4 times a week!) …all of this while you’re still trying to suss them out. And that’s just the dating side of my life! Your mind is always in a pickle about which one to eventually kick to the curb, not to mention date requests coming in from the other potentials! This was a mess. It was time to optimise the strategy.

Results

So I ended up getting rid of both guys… and deleted all apps from my phone. Sometimes that’s the way it needs to be. Truthfully I was getting bored and felt overwhelmed with the whole dating palaver. I couldn’t be arsed to make a choice and I definitely couldn’t be bothered to go on any more new dates. It was all unnecessary drama that I didn’t need in my life.

What I found particularly interesting about the “A/B test” was the correlation between my handling of the situation and one of the studies discussed in Schwartz’s book. It concluded that while having increased options can be beneficial to a certain point, giving people too much choice would likely cause poor decision making, feelings of dissatisfaction, regret, or we become exhausted and make no decision at all!

If you think about it, it’s not just dating where we might experience over-abundance of options. It happens in everyday life. At restaurants when looking at a menu, down each aisle during grocery shopping, choosing a Netflix film to watch, figuring out which stocks to invest in, etc. Dating apps are great in bringing you closer to someone compatible, but if you’re hitting it off with one person and still have another 78 others waiting for you to match with them; is it worth having a look through? Or do we focus on this one person and keep those as part of an “emergency stash”?
In my opinion, if you’re someone who is actually serious about making a real, long term connection then the approach needs to be adjusted to fit your objective. Here are a few of my suggestions/thoughts:

1. If you have multiple dating apps, why not stick with your preferred one? At least this will cut down your swipes and choices.

2. If you’re already dating/chatting to someone, spend the time to get to know them properly before jumping ship. Don’t be quick to judge and learn to give people the benefit of the doubt… no one is perfect!

3. We need to stop treating a people as if they’re disposable or some type of commodity. It’s only fair to base a person on his or her own merits and not in comparison to 3, 5 or 10 other people. If I’ve instantly clicked with someone and things have progressed to a second date then they definitely warrant 100% of my attention.

Marriage or Mirage?

I’m not opposed to the idea of marriage. I’m just not bothered about it. I’m pleased for all my friends who have tied the knot and I hope they’re enjoying every moment of it… but the concept of marriage bears no significance to me, and I’ve held the same view since I was 16.

Typically the sort of responses I get after sharing my opinion goes a little something like…

“Oh my God why not!?”
“Really??”
“Yeah you say that now…”
“So what’s the point of being in a relationship then?”
“But it’s part of building a relationship with someone… why wouldn’t you?”


These days my friends don’t bother questioning me, likewise I don’t feel the need to explain (they know what the deal is!) So I was inspired to write about this topic after finishing a booked called “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. There was a chapter titled “Thinking about Life” which addressed the link between life satisfaction and marriage over time (refer to the image below.) On the following page he states: “People who decide to get married do so either because they expect it will make them happier or because they hope that making a tie permanent will maintain the present state of bliss.” Not only did this part make me chuckle but Kahneman’s thinking really resonated with me. While his words are still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to express my non-conformist, female perspective on this particular subject.


I think it’s fair to say that everyone’s trajectory is different and thankfully we all have freedom of choice. Choice over our own narratives and choice over how we show our own versions of commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I hold many traditional values and beliefs but marriage is not one of them. For many of us, it’s the implicit next step in the script of life, a way to display your commitment to each other through a cultural and legal institution. Seriously though, besides the formal paperwork, ceremony and taking someone else’s surname (we don’t even have to do that), can anyone tell me what the difference is between long term companionship and marriage? I don’t get it. I’m not sure if I’m missing a bigger point here?

I spoke to someone about it today and he made an interesting point: “It’s about financial security for the party that earns less. Over time any gains are seen as a 50-50 split, without marriage, they would be prorated.” To which I responded, “So marriage is an investment?” He answered “Principally yes.” — Financial security… it just doesn’t make a great reason for marriage. I’m still struggling to see any benefits. After some thorough research to back up my views, please allow me to share my findings:

Can we skip straight to the honeymoon?
Industry experts estimate the average wedding cost in the UK to be anywhere between £18,000 to £32,000. I say screw the wedding party and put more money towards the luxury honeymoon holiday. I want paradise, cute outfits, tannage, champagne, all the fancy food and pampering sessions every day… until I return. Honestly, there are so many better things to spend the money on… if not a fabulous holiday then what about a loft conversion? A conservatory extension? Garden landscaping?How about investing the money? The list is endless!

It guarantees nothing
According to recent divorce statistics in 2019, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. Sorry but I’m afraid marriage isn’t always the finish line for a relationship; neither are kids for that matter. I’m not cynical, I’m just speaking the truth. Everyone knows relationships require a lot of continuous work. You have to sustain them to keep them healthy and worthwhile. The reality is people change, so there’s the possibility that marriages might fall apart.

Cringe
Weddings are planned and few really want to attend. I don’t even know if I’d turn up at my own wedding! 😂 The day is non-stop, all eyes are on you, pointless dresses are worn never to be seen again, awkward family photos are taken, having all of your families in one place sounds like a nightmare, spending the whole day making menial conversations with guests, having to sit through embarrassing or mushy speeches, then feeling knackered out by the end. I can’t.

Social norms
As far as commitment goes, I don’t believe getting hitched is the ultimate expression of love. The reality is that marriage won’t make you love your partner any more or any less, and vice versa. In the earlier days it was expected that one would be married by the time they were in their late 20s or certainly early 30s at the latest. Others would pass judgement if you didn’t meet the expectations. Thankfully we live in different times now, and I merely see marriage as another one of those social stigmas.

The truth is, marriage isn’t for everyone. For some it’s wonderful as well as appropriate. I have a few friends who are in happy and healthy marriages which is amazing! I couldn’t be happier for them. However, in terms of where I stand, I’m quite content examining these implicit life choices and carefully deciding whether I want to buy into any of them.