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Suitable partners can be like buses, you spend a lifetime waiting for one and a few turn up at once and just like buses, each potential partner can take your life on a different route. With options, comes questions, what kind of journey do you want? Where do you want to end up? Sometimes hesitations arise and in other cases, having other options can clarify the qualities that you are looking for. There has been much research on our abilities to make decisions as humans and the impact the decision-making process has on our happiness and although many of the studies have focused on economic gains or losses, some of the cognition behind the processes could be applied to the dating world.
As discussed in the article Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brainby On Amir“The human mind is a remarkable device” however it has its limitations. Our executive function is not a limitless entity and “unrelated activities that tax the executive function have important lingering effects and may disrupt your ability to make such an important decision.” We can therefore limit our brains ability to make clear decisions if we increase how many choices we have to make because we strain our minds. Despite the fact that it has always been suggested that multi-tasking is beneficial to us, studies, including this article in Psychology Todaywritten by Bryan Robinson, now propose that it actually “inhibits your ability to focus and produce. It fatigues your brain and eclipses your ability to interact with others and enjoy the present moment.” This is referred to as ‘decision fatigue’ which can alter the decisions you would make if you had less options to choose between. This concept could therefore be applied to the context of dating.
However, in order to make a decision we must first gather the relevant information. In the case of dating options, you need to gain a level of understanding about who that person is and whether you match against values, characteristics and lifestyle. Once you have ascertained those things about someone, you can then assess the alternatives and draw a conclusion, before reviewing your choice. As clinical as it may sound, we are continually evaluating the choices we make in life, whether it be what we had for lunch, to what relationship we are in and because of our ever-globalised world, our choices are multiplying and with it the decision-making process becomes harder. Research conducted by Schwartz (2004) aptly named The Paradox of Choice, found that having too many options negatively impacted the individual making the decision and “argues that the cumulative effect of choice that is causing our society substantial distress”. You could therefore presume that an increase in suitable partners would draw the same negative impact.
There is also an aspect of what you are like as a person. This is demonstrated in the research and states that there are two key aspects; a maximizer or a satisfier. Being a maximizer suggests that “you seek and only accept the best. You exhaust all other alternatives to make sure that you know that what you’re buying is the absolute best (quality, price, etc...). You aspire to achieve a given goal and are less likely to get satisfaction out of the choices you make compared to the satisfier.” Whereas a satisfier refers that “you settle with something that is good enough and you don’t worry about the possibility that there might be something better out there.” As a result, there may be a combination of, number of choices and temperate, that effect how happy we are with the decisions we make. For example, you could have fewer options as maximizer but still feel less satisfied than a satisfier who had more choices, as it is in the nature of a maximizer to question more intensely the options they have.
This may perhaps be further explained by the term ‘Overchoice’, which was coined by Toffler (1971). It refers to several ‘equivalent choices’ available to a person, which results in them becoming overwhelmed due to the number of potential outcomes and the fear of making the wrong choice. It therefore highlights that more may be less. However, the research also showed that it is dissatisfying if a person has no choice at all and thus a small but not limited choice set, leads to increased satisfaction and reduced regret. Consequently, it is better to have fewer, more apposite suitors than it is to have hordes of candidates.
This can be directly linked to the dating world and the current increase in the access to thousands of potential partners we now have. With the rise of apps etc we have a flood of potentials right there on our phones but as is mentioned in the blog ‘Here’s Why Too Much Choice Is Ruining Dating’by Erica Gordon“You could get overwhelmed by the ‘options’ and suddenly feel paralyzed, not acting on any of them. Even worse, you could end up alone because the deceptive perception of something better always being around the corner can cause you to never just choose someone and stop looking.” This is where the benefit of focusing on one potential partner at a time comes into play. This is because you get to know that individual at a deeper level, which may consequently prevent you from jumping straight to another person when something may not go your way.
This is also where matchmaking can be of assistance, instead of decreasing your satisfaction by swiping your way through countless people, take a focused approach. Matchmaking can help you whittle down the options to maximise time and effort on relationships that have a chance of going the distance. Of course, as we’ve seen, it is beneficial to have a few options, but it is still important to remember that a successful relationship will only flourish if you focus on each potential relationship at one time. Knowing that you have gathered all the relevant information and had the freedom of feeling like you really want to be with that person will speak volumes and in turn gives a loving relationship a chance to grow. Focus drives clarity and with clarity you can have peace of mind that the decisions that you are making are coming from a place of clearness and true feelings.
Another issue that can arise if we do not focus on a particular potential partner at a time, is that rather than concentrating on what that person can bring to the table, we start to pick and choose attributes from multiple people on what we are looking for. As discussed in my previous blog‘The art of self-sabotage, too scared to find what you are looking for?’though it is great that we can build an understanding of what we are looking for, it can also limit us because “when we do come across a potential partner, they are held to these unrealistic criteria. In doing this, we are essentially sabotaging any chance of a healthy, balanced, successful relationship. We may tell ourselves that we will only be content if we have A, B and C fulfilled and as a result refuse to see the persons endearing and positive qualities.” It is therefore important to consider that if you have multiple potentials in mind, you may be muddying the waters, making your perfect person less and less clear by posing such strict preferences on your goals.
So, to answer the question, are having dating options; a help or a hinderance? We can express that there needs to be an element of balance. Too many and you become confused and unsatisfied, constantly thinking is the grass greener and too little you wind up thinking whether you have settled and are discontented. Focus on each person individually and learning to understand everything about them and you will find that you are closer to finding a long lasting and successful relationship.
Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why less is more. New York: Ecco.
Toffler, A. (1971). Future shock. Bantam.
Today, there is a name for everything, so it’s only natural that new terms have been invented for everything to do with dating. These new terms include cuffing season, ghosting,hauntingand zombieing. They reveal psychological processes that help us make sense of what’s happening in the dating world, so it’s worthwhile knowing what they mean.
Let’s begin with a timely one – cuffing season. Cuffing season refers to the winter months, when people who are usually happily single start to seek a committed relationship. With the days getting shorter and the nights longer, the temperature dropping and the trees becoming bare, it’s the perfect time for cosy nights in with your loved one, building a relationship. It is the optimal time of year for past partners to creep up on you, too. If an ex-partner is single, they might try to come back you to spend these cosy nights in with you. Clinical psychologist Seth Meyersexplains that ‘our energy levels are lower during the colder weather and we are moodier’, so we have less motivation to organise interesting dates. This, coupled with poor winter weather, means we have fewer places to go and things to do. This makes us seek out an easier option, such as a past partner.
This may help to explain why ghosting in relationships is on the rise. Ghosting refers to when an individual ‘disappears’ without a trace. One day, two people are communicating as normal, and the next, one of them just stops. Ghosting someone can be a way of avoiding your own emotional anguish. However, it can also be passive-aggressive and intentional; it’s a cowardly way to end a relationship. Researchhas shown that emotional rejection activates the same pathways in the brain as physical pain does (MacDonald & Leary, 2005). Being ghosted is painful and means the person who has been ghosted has no closure. They may have several questions for their partner – why did you do this? Don’t you love me any more? What went wrong?
Some people are more likely to ghost than others. Researchhas shown that people with stronger ‘destiny’ beliefs (as opposed to growth beliefs) are more likely to ghost another person or intend to ghost (Freedman et al., 2018). Those who have ‘destiny’ beliefsbelieve that relationships succeed or fail because two people are either inherently compatible, or they’re not. If a problem were to arise, destiny theorists are more likely to conclude that the relationship was not meant to be rather than work to overcome these problems and find a solution; they are more likely to ghost someone than face the problem head-on. In contrast, people with growth beliefsthink that relationships thrive when people overcome challenges and obstacles; they think this helps the relationship to grow and develop. It’s important to remember that being ghosted says nothing about you, and everything about your ex. Move on to find your next potential match.
While ghosting refers to current relationships ending abruptly, there are also terms to describe past partners creeping back into your life. This is done indirectly by haunting or directly by zombieing.
Haunting refers to when – after a substantial amount of time and no communication – a past love begins to subtly resurface in your life. This is done, for example, by liking your posts on social media, which makes you think of them without them actively communicating with you. Why are they following me on social media? Why are they liking my posts? These ghosts from past relationships usually only stop haunting you when they have found someone else to fixate on. Unfortunately, there is noghostbusterthat we can call for you to get rid of them. So, keep an eye out and ensure you don’t engage with a haunting ex.
Zombieing differs from haunting in that it is an active way of an ex coming back into your life; it’s as if someone has just come back from the dead. They send a ‘Hey, how are you?’ message out of the blue and begin to communicate with you as if they only spoke to you yesterday. People tend to be zombied when the person who is zombieing is regretting their decision to end the relationship, or simply because they’re feeling bored and lonely. As it can bring back feelings of nostalgia,it can make you question why now, after all this time, when you are moving forward with your life, they have decided to come back into it.
Haunting and zombieing can be psychologically draining, since getting over an ex is emotionally challenging. They’re both a form of control, and can prevent a vulnerable person from moving on with their life because they bring a sense of false hope that there’s a chance of getting back together. On the flip side, it may be genuine and your ex may be coming back into your life because they genuinely miss you. The key is to figure out why this is happening. Is your ex only thinking about his own emotions, or is he genuine? If they really want you back in their life, then you’d find out quite soon: they would apologise or try to win you back. If the same person ghosts, haunts or zombies you more than once, then it’s more than likely down to boredom. They’re trying to manipulate you and keep some control over you. It’s definitely time to move on.
Let’s look at some more of the newer dating terms.
Cushioningis the act of actively pursuing someone who is already taken, keeping them close to you. Imagine the person you like is in a steady relationship. You don’t flirt with them but you talk to them regularly, you have inside jokes and shared memories, and you tag them on social media. But you have an ulterior motive. You are preparing to be their ‘cushion’ if things don’t work out with the person they’re with. Or you might prepare someone to be your ‘cushion’ if your current relationship ends – this can be seen as infidelity.
It’s best to have firm boundaries in place when you’re communicating with someone who is in a relationship. If you’re in a relationship, respect the person you’re with by not overstepping your boundaries. This will avoid cushioning. Cushioning is about putting a lot of effort into someone, with the hope it might lead somewhere. The opposite is breadcrumbing(or ‘Hansel and Gretteling’, after the fairy tale with the dark twist). This means sending out flirtatious, but noncommittal, text ‘breadcrumbs’ to lure someone in without expending a lot of effort. There is no point getting your hopes up about a breadcrumber; they’re just bored.
The final back-up scenario is benching, which is very common – and frustrating. Benchinghappens when someone is unsure about being in a relationship and doesn’t want to commit to you, so they stop contacting you and start cancelling dates at the last minute, making excuses not to meet up. However, they don’t want to commit to replacing you and end up regretting their decision so they keep you on the bench, just like a substitute in football. If they can’t find anything better or they finally decide they want you, they’ll take you off the bench. Be wary of people who do this: as quickly as they can take you off the bench, they can also move on to someone else.
When we talk about appearances, we mean how you present yourself to other people. Are you showing them your true self, a Photoshopped version, or a different person altogether? At Seventy Thirtywe discuss with our clients the importance of good, accurate photos and information. This does them justice by representing them in the best light, but still portrays an accurate representation of themselves. This brings us on to the next term,kittenfishing. Kittenfishing means showing inaccurate photos of yourself: for example, Photoshopped photos, photos using filters, or photos taken years ago that don’t show how you look now. It can even mean changing your personality depending on how you think your partner wants you to be, and lying about things you are interested in. Kittenfishing is more prevalent now than in previous years, due to an increase in the number ofappsthat can make you look slimmer, alter your skin tone and change your appearance with the click of a button.
Even more extreme than kittenfishing is catfishing. This term originated from a 2010 film, and it often begins due to a lack of self-confidence. Individuals use a fake identity and someone else’s pictures for their profile on dating sites and social media, and go the extra mile to make another person believe their fake identity is actually them. They may become so engrossed in their lies and false reality that they can’t admit what they’ve done. Catfishing is psychologically damaging: if you’re catfished, you’ll find it harder to trust other people. It’s important to remember to be yourself when dating. There is no point in lying, as lies will catch up with you eventually.
Hot and cold
If someone isn’t fully invested in you but doesn’t want to be without you, they may blow hot and cold – they may treat you inconsistently, sometimes being lovely, and at other times being nasty.
Love bombingis when a relationship starts out as a whirlwind romance, all hearts and grand gestures. It is highly manipulative and can be a way to gain control over another person. They will tell you they love you very early on, and that they’ve never felt this way about anyone. You may be flattered, and think you feel the same about them – but when you start to reciprocate, they will lose interest in you. They enjoy the chase but as soon as they manage to catch the person they are after, they start looking for the next chase.
The final term is known as stashingor Jekyll and Hyde-ing. ‘Stashing refers to the act of dating someone seriously, only to have them hide you away from everyone they know’ (Salaky, 2017). They are affectionate when they see you, but they don’t tell their friends and family about you, and don’t share pictures of you on their social media; they ‘stash’ you away. Maybe they’re benching you, maybe they’re cushioning someone else, but they are definitely not committing to you, so it’s time to move on to someone who wants to tell the world about your relationship.
It’s important to remember that people who act in any of these ways are only thinking abouttheirfeelings, not about the psychological effects their behaviour might have on another person. It is okay to feel pain, sadness and confusion if you’re treated like this, but to be able to move forward and continue the journey to find everlasting love, you need to find happiness within yourself. It can’t be dictated by someone else. To hear more on this topic, listen to our podcast,‘Are you up to date with dating terms?’
MacDonald, G. & Leary, M.R. (2005) ‘Why does social exclusion hurt? The relationship between social and physical pain.’ Psychological Bulletin, 131(2), 202.
Freedman, G., Powell, D.N., Le, B. & Williams, K.D. (2018) ‘Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting.’ Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0265407517748791.
Salaky, K. (2017) ‘Everything you need to know about the newest trend wrecking your dating life – stashing.’ Retrieved from http://uk.businessinsider.com/what-is-stashing-dating-trend-2017-8
First-date nerves are par for the course and Jake was no exception. As he made his way to the Mayfair private members’ club, Marks, often frequented by the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson, the 47-year-old venture capitalist struggled to contain a “rush of anxious energy”.
He needn’t have worried. Utterly charmed by Anna, a glamorous 38 year-old PR executive (“She was so stunning, I almost knocked over my glass of water”) Jake married her seven months later.
But this was no ordinary whirlwind romance. Jake had travelled over 3,000 miles from New York to meet London-based Anna, whom he was introduced to by Seventy-Thirty, a matchmaking service that helps high net-worth individuals find love, wherever in the world they are based.
The new jet-set dating elite don't let oceans get in the way of finding true love.
The couple are very much typical of this new jet-set dating elite – the super-rich whose lives are so international they don’t see a few oceans as a barrier to true love.
Seventy-Thirty has a global membership of around 2,000, with the majority of their clients aged between 30 and 60. When its Managing Director, Lemarc Thomas told Jake he had found the perfect match for him in London, Jake saw it as opportunity not a problem.
“The dating scene in New York is too aggressive for me,” he explains. “I travel a lot and I’m more drawn to the effortless sophistication of European women. Anna sounded intriguing so I flew out to meet her the following weekend.”
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