The best thing about online dating is the amazing number and variety of people you get to meet with a click. Sometimes, that’s also the worst thing.If you’ve spent years failing to meet a suitable partner through traditional means – perhaps you belong to a small church, or you have a limited Christian social circle – you may be dazzled by the endless possibilities on offer when you take your dating online. And with good reason. Modern technology has allowed millions of people to meet their partners when their paths would never have otherwise crossed – what a blessing! However, the thing that makes online dating so successful can also be its downfall, so we need to navigate it with thoughtfulness and self-awareness.
When I first joined a Christian dating website, I was excited to discover all the interesting and attractive people I was sharing that corner of cyberspace with. However, during my 10 years of dipping in and out of the church singles scene, I noticed something interesting. Many of those same people remained, year in and year out, surrounded by great prospects but still searching for that special someone (and yes, obviously, I was one of them!).
There are many complex reasons for this but one, I suspect, is that we can start to take a marketplace approach to dating. With endless possibilities, and new people appearing every week, there’s less incentive to ‘settle’ and commit to one person. You may meet someone lovely today, but you might meet someone even better tomorrow. Having so many options can make us less likely to see the value of the person in front of us, because we’re always looking over their shoulder in case someone better is coming along.
It’s a known characteristic of human nature that the more choice we have, the less likely we may be to make a decision. Studies have found that, for instance, if someone has a choice of three products, they are likely to settle on one; but if they have a choice of 20, they’re more likely to be overwhelmed by ‘choice overload’ and feel unable to decide, ultimately leaving empty-handed.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz has also found that having too much choice can lead to anxiety and ‘decision paralysis’, and that having fewer options can actually lead to feeling happier, more satisfied and less concerned about missed opportunities. Less really is more.
The same can be true in dating. We’ve never had so many potential partners, yet more of us than ever remain single. So if you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of possibilities, and finding it hard to commit to dating one person, here are my top tips:
1. Know your dealbreakers. Although it’s good to keep an open mind about the kind of person you might meet, being aware of your boundaries, goals and values, and focusing on individuals who share those criteria, will help to narrow your search.
2. Concentrate on the individual. Instead of taking a scattergun approach to contacting people online, take time to read their profiles and only contact those who really catch your interest.
3. Practise self-awareness. A child follows their desires; an adult directs their desires. If you know you have a tendency to be dazzled by all the attractive people you might encounter, or become obsessed with the search for perfection, take time to step back and observe your behaviour and impulses, and remind yourself to take a more mature approach.
4. Don’t multi-date. If you meet someone you’re interested in, date only them until you decide if the relationship has real potential or not. Don’t continue to browse online profiles, contact people or set-up dates. Commit to interacting with one person at a time.
5. Keep your eyes on the prize. Of course, there are millions of attractive possibilities out there, but you can’t marry all of them! Your goal is to meet one person you are attracted to, with whom you share values and can build a life. Staying focussed on that means you’re more likely to find a partner for life.