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By the spring ofMissi Brandt had emerged from a rough few years with a new sense of solidity. At 45, she was three years sober and on the leeward side of a stormy divorce. She was living with her preteen daughters in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota, and working as a flight attendant. Missi felt ready for a serious relationship again, so she made a profile on OurTime. Among all the duds—the desperate and depressed and not-quite-divorced—a year-old man named Richie Peterson stood out.
His friends were jealous. Did online dating change my perception of permanence? His relationships with the other two are headed toward physical intimacy.
But today, more people have had failed relationships, recovered, moved on, and found happiness. Jacob also felt pressure from his parents, who were getting anxious to see him paired off for good.
He chalks this up to a few things. Was compatibility something that could be learned? After six weeks, Jacob met a year-old named Rachel, whose youth and good looks he says reinvigorated him.
He was passive in their arguments, hoping to avoid confrontation. It was sleeker, faster, more efficient.
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His old profile was still up. No studies in the romantic sphere have looked at precisely how the range of choices affects overall satisfaction. People seeking commitment—particularly women—have developed strategies to detect deception and guard against it. But most of the online-dating-company executives I interviewed while writing my new book, Love in the Time of Algorithmsagreed with what research appears to suggest: the rise of online dating will mean an overall decrease in commitment.
Two of the three—satisfaction and quality of alternatives—could be directly affected by the larger mating pool that the Internet offers.
By the time two people meet face-to-face, they already have a level of intimacy. Another online-dating exec hypothesized an inverse correlation between commitment and the efficiency of technology.
There's no evidence online dating is threatening commitment or marriage
Almost immediately, he was surprised by the difficulty he had meeting women. Whatever the flaws in their relationship, he told himself, being with her was better than being single in Portland again.
What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track? But there were other issues.
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But research elsewhere has found that people are less satisfied when choosing from a larger group: in one study, for example, subjects who selected a chocolate from an array of six options believed it tasted better than those who selected the same chocolate from an array of Online dating is, at its core, a litany of alternatives. The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship.
Indeed, the profit models of many online-dating sites are at cross-purposes with clients who are trying to develop long-term commitments. On the other, evidence is pretty solid that having a stable romantic partner means all kinds of health and wellness benefits.
She was from a blue-collar military background; he came from doctors. First, familiarity is established during the messaging process, which also often involves a phone call. He likes the pharmacist most. And he thinks, Oh my God. While out with one woman, he has to silence text messages coming in from others. A permanently paired-off dater, after all, means a lost revenue stream.
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Alex Mehr, a co-founder of the dating site Zoosk, is the only executive I interviewed who disagrees with the prevailing view. You network for a job. No doubt. You know what to do with women, how to treat them and talk to them. As a result, they are more likely to make careless decisions than they would be if they had fewer options, and this potentially le to less compatible matches.
Past girlfriends had complained about his lifestyle, which emphasized watching sports and going to concerts and bars. The same thing will happen with meeting. Psychologists who study relationships say that three ingredients generally determine the strength of commitment: overall satisfaction with the relationship; the investment one has put into it time and effort, shared experiences and emotions, etc.
They realize that that happiness, in many ways, depends on having had the failures. It only changes the process of discovery. As we become more secure and confident in our ability to find someone else, usually someone better, monogamy and the old thinking about commitment will be challenged very harshly.
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At first I just thought it was some kind of weird lucky streak. I was eager to see what else was out there. Others enjoy barhopping. Would permanence simply happen, or would he have to choose it? And the population of online daters in Portland seemed to have tripled. You find a flatmate.
The problem is that she wants to take things slow on the physical side. Surely personality will play a role in the way anyone behaves in the realm of online dating, particularly when it comes to commitment and promiscuity.
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When I sensed the breakup coming, I was okay with it. Of course, no one knows exactly how many partnerships are undermined by the allure of the Internet dating pool. Gilbert Feibleman, a divorce attorney and member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, argues that the phenomenon extends beyond dating sites to the Internet more generally.
Was this The One? They dated for a few months, and then she moved in. But something was different this time. He slept with three of them on the first or second date.
All of a sudden I was going out with one or two very pretty, ambitious women a week. Both names have been changed for anonymity. Before long, his new relationship fell into that familiar pattern. After going to college on the East Coast and spending a few years bouncing around, Jacob moved back to his native Oregon, settling in Portland. People always said that the need for stability would keep commitment alive.
After two years, when Rachel informed Jacob that she was moving out, he logged on to Match. What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? The goal has always been to make it faster. Add to that the effect of online dating. Jacob was single for two years and then, at 26, began dating a slightly older woman who soon moved in with him. At the same time, however, the reality that having too many options makes us less content with whatever option we choose is a well-documented phenomenon. Around this time, he ed up for two online dating sites: Match. Having lived in New York and the Boston area, he was accustomed to ready-made social scenes.
Second, people who are in marriages that are either bad or average might be at increased risk of divorce, because of increased access to new partners. Some like going to basketball games and concerts with him. But the pace of technology is upending these rules and assumptions.
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S ince Rachel left himJacob has met lots of women online. Now in his early 30s, Jacob felt he had no idea how to make a relationship work. And evidence shows that the perception that one has appealing alternatives to a current romantic partner is a strong predictor of low commitment to that partner. Relationships that begin online, Jacob finds, move quickly. Gender, too, may play a role. She seemed independent and low-maintenance, important traits for Jacob. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new?
His relationships tended to drag on.