· E ver since her last relationship ended this past August, Liz has been consciously trying not to treat dating as a “numbers game.” By the year-old Alaskan’s own admission, Estimated Reading Time: 9 mins · In a survey by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent said their dating life was not going well. Three-quarters said that finding someone to date was difficult. Enjoy a year of AdDate Online - Thousands of Local Profiles. Match, Chat & Flirt Now. Simple Dating in Your Area with iDates. Start Chatting, Flirting & Dating Now. Easy! ... read more
So far, the data are promising: a recent Harris Interactive poll found that between September of and September of , eHarmony facilitated the marriages of more than 33, members—an average of forty-six marriages a day. And a in-house study of nearly married couples showed that people who met through eHarmony report more marital satisfaction than those who met by other means.
The company is now replicating that study in a larger sample. Ultimately, our dream is to have the biggest group of relationship psychologists in the country. But how useful is this sort of data for single people like me? They included a bald man with a handlebar moustache, who was fourteen inches taller than me; a five-foot-four-inch attorney with no photos; and a film editor whose photo shows him wearing a kilt—and not in an ironic way.
Was this the best science could do? Over at Chemistry. com, a new site launched by Match. com, short-term attraction is already built into the system. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University, whose research focuses on the brain physiology of romantic love and sexuality. com is currently assembling a multidisciplinary group of psychologists, relationship counselors, sociologists, neuroscientists, and sexologists to serve as consultants.
And with the fourth one, you do. What creates that chemistry? Sex drive, for instance, is associated with the hormone testosterone in both men and women.
Romantic love is associated with elevated activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine and probably also another one, norepinepherine. And attachment is associated with the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. Romantic love, Fisher maintains, is a basic mating drive—more powerful than the sex drive. For Chemistry. So when Chemistry.
Turns out she knew quite a bit: Genes for the activity of dopamine are associated with motivation, curiosity, anxiety, and optimism. Testosterone is associated with being rational, analytical, exacting, independent, logical, rank-oriented, competitive, irreverent, and narcissistic. And the hormone estrogen is associated with being imaginative, creative, insightful, humane, sympathetic, agreeable, flexible, and verbal.
Serotonin became the Builder. Dopamine, the Explorer. Testosterone, the Director. The item compatibility questionnaire on Chemistry. One question, for instance, offers drawings of a hand, then asks:. com questions are designed to translate visual interpretation into personality assessment, thus eliminating some of the unreliability.
We see a woman in a sexy spaghetti-strapped dress gazing at a man several feet away in the background, where he leans on a stone railing.
According to Fisher, each response is correlated with one of the four personality types: Choice A corresponds to Explorer, B to Builder, C to Director, and D to Negotiator.
Another question, for instance, presents four smiling faces and asks:. Fisher says that people with high levels of estrogen—usually women—have better social skills, and are better at reading other people. The problem with sites like eHarmony, she believes, is that they place too much emphasis on similarity, whereas, in her view, falling in love depends on two elements: similarity and complementarity. To illustrate, Fisher cited her own relationship.
Determining which works best—similarity or complementarity—may change with the circumstances. Do Explorers go well together? Do likes attract likes? If this sounds a bit, well, unscientific, Fisher is the first to admit it. This is why she decided to include an item on the Chemistry.
At the same time, Fisher wants couples to be fascinated by each other early on. The goal is to incorporate this information into the algorithm to provide better matches, but it can also serve as an accuracy check of the data.
Say, for instance, that Jack describes himself as a fashionable dresser, but Jill reports that he showed up for their date in flip-flops, cut-offs, and a do-rag. Or, it might know better than to match me—an avid reader attracted to literary types—with the guy whose personality assessment indicates a literary bent but whose essay reads as follows:.
Pepper Schwartz—who developed the Duet Total Compatibility System in conjunction with the two-year-old site PerfectMatch. She was speaking by cell phone from San Francisco, where she had just attended a meeting of the National Human Sexuality Resource Center, on whose board she sits. A sociologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, Schwartz is PerfectMatch.
In fact, the nifty- sounding Duet Compatibility Profiler takes some complex deconstruction. This makes sense, given that Schwartz has been studying gender relations since the early s, when she was a sociology graduate student at Yale and wrote a Ph. thesis on how people hooked up in the college mixer system. Like Helen Fisher, the Rutgers anthropologist, Schwartz believes that both similarity and complementarity are integral to romantic compatibility.
On the first four, she believes, a well-suited couple should be similar; on the last four, however, a couple can thrive on either similarity or difference—provided that both people know themselves well enough to determine which works best.
Her questionnaire, she believes, will help users to think in a conscious way about who they are. As an example of the kind of introspection she hopes for, Schwartz cites the area of money. When it comes to money, PerfectMatch asks users to get specific—and honest—about how important it is to them. Do you feel you need to make extravagant purchases every once in a while?
Like Chemistry. But, Schwartz explained, Duet is different from Myers-Briggs in several ways. I took the Duet test and was classified on the similarity scale as X, A, C, and V—that is, Risk Averse, High Energy, Cautious, and Seeks Variety.
The site then interpreted the findings, which, to my surprise, rather accurately captured my personality:. Yet the complementarity section of my test results—those traits on which my best match might be similar or different—reflected my temperament on only two of the four parameters.
Or you can keep the same profile, but in addition to the matches we provide for you, you can do a search on your own. Say I think a passionate person would want another passionate person.
This, she said, distinguishes PerfectMatch from eHarmony and Chemistry. We are in the early stages of a dating revolution. The sheer quantity of relationships available through the internet is transforming the quality of those relationships.
Though it is probably too soon to say exactly how, Witt and Weigel offer a useful perspective. Nor are they part of the rising generation of gender-fluid individuals for whom the ever-lengthening list of sexual identities and affinities spells liberation from the heteronormative assumptions of parents and peers. Weigel, a Ph. candidate in comparative literature at Yale, embarked on her charmingly digressive, nonacademic history of American dating after being strung along by a caddish boyfriend torn between her and an ex-girlfriend.
His confidence that he was entitled to what he desired even if what he desired was to be indecisive , compared with her inability to assert her own needs, dismayed her. How retrograde! The sexual revolution had failed her. To understand how she, and women like her, came to feel so dispossessed, she decided to investigate the heritage encoded in the rituals of dating.
Witt, an intrepid journalist and mordantly ambivalent memoirist, looks forward rather than back. Adopting the role of participant-observer, she moves through an assortment of sexual subcultures. Many of these are artifacts of the internet, from online dating to sadomasochistic feminist pornography sites to webcam peepshows such as one called Chaturbate.
She hopes to find clues about what relationships might look like in a postromantic, postmarital age. Neither Witt nor Weigel is naive or nostalgic. They understand that mating practices have always reflected economic conditions and been openly transactional for women whose lives and livelihoods depended on their outcome.
I imagine the two authors as undergraduates writing papers about the romantic ideal as an ideological construct and bridezilla weddings as its death throes. Both of them want to discover more-authentic ways to bond. As Weigel tells it , dating is an unintended by-product of consumerism. Nineteenth-century industrialization ushered in the era of cheap goods, and producers needed to sell more of them. Young women moved to cities to work and met more eligible men in a day than they could previously have met in years.
Men started taking women out to places of entertainment that offered young people refuge from their sharp-eyed elders—amusement parks, restaurants, movie theaters, bars. Romance began to be decoupled from commitment.
Trying something on before you bought it became the new rule. Then as now, commentators fretted that dating commercialized courtship. Weigel worries that the naked mercantilism of recreational sexual encounters coarsens us and reinforces stereotypes.
Those who try to wriggle out of the old gender roles end up skittish and confused. You did your best. According to the General Social Survey, from to the proportion of married people in their 20s fell from 27 percent to 15 percent. From the December issue: Why are young people having so little sex? If all of this rings painfully and personally true, you might be tempted to conclude that the cause is hopeless, and that something is wrong with you.
The evidence suggests a different explanation, however: The way people look for their perfect match is all wrong. Modern daters, and the tools they often use to find one another, rely excessively on making sure a potential mate is similar to them. By doing this, they ignore what matters more for romance: that the person has differences that complement them.
Want to stay current with Arthur's writing? Sign up to get an email every time a new column comes out. Survey data on dating behavior support this assertion. And among college students surveyed last year, 71 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans said that they would not go out on a date with someone who voted for the opposing presidential candidate. Read: The unique tensions of couples who marry across classes.
The effects of homophily are even stronger when it comes to education. Researchers at Grand Canyon University found last year that educational attainment is the most important dating criterion for Millennials, exceeding earning potential, physical attributes, and political and religious affiliations. Some similarity is no doubt beneficial to a partnership, but sameness brings huge costs as well. Romantic love requires complementarity —that is, differences.
We may think we want partners like ourselves, but we wind up pursuing relationships with people who are different from us. Read: Stop waiting for your soul mate. The attractive force of difference may have biological roots. Scientists have long known, for example, that children inherit a wider variety of immune defenses when their parents differ greatly in a group of genes called the major histocompatibility complex MHC.
The women preferred the smelly shirts worn by the men whose MHC genes were most different from their own. Later research on different populations found the same result.
More recently, a plethora of market-minded dating books are coaching singles on how to seal a romantic deal, and dating apps, which have rapidly become the mode du jour for single people to meet each other, make sex and romance even more like shopping.
The idea that a population of single people can be analyzed like a market might be useful to some extent to sociologists or economists, but the widespread adoption of it by single people themselves can result in a warped outlook on love.
M oira Weigel , the author of Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating , argues that dating as we know it—single people going out together to restaurants, bars, movies, and other commercial or semicommercial spaces—came about in the late 19th century. What dating does is it takes that process out of the home, out of supervised and mostly noncommercial spaces, to movie theaters and dance halls.
The application of the supply-and-demand concept, Weigel said, may have come into the picture in the late 19th century, when American cities were exploding in population. Read: The rise of dating-app fatigue.
Actual romantic chemistry is volatile and hard to predict; it can crackle between two people with nothing in common and fail to materialize in what looks on paper like a perfect match. The fact that human-to-human matches are less predictable than consumer-to-good matches is just one problem with the market metaphor; another is that dating is not a one-time transaction. This makes supply and demand a bit harder to parse. Given that marriage is much more commonly understood to mean a relationship involving one-to-one exclusivity and permanence, the idea of a marketplace or economy maps much more cleanly onto matrimony than dating.
The marketplace metaphor also fails to account for what many daters know intuitively: that being on the market for a long time—or being off the market, and then back on, and then off again—can change how a person interacts with the marketplace. W hen market logic is applied to the pursuit of a partner and fails , people can start to feel cheated. This can cause bitterness and disillusionment, or worse. She estimates that she gets 10 times as many messages as the average man in her town.
Recently, Liz matched with a man on Tinder who invited her over to his house at 11 p. When she declined, she said, he called her 83 times later that night, between 1 a.
and 5 a. Despite having received 83 phone calls in four hours, Liz was sympathetic toward the man. The logic is upsetting but clear: The shaky foundational idea of capitalism is that the market is unfailingly impartial and correct, and that its mechanisms of supply and demand and value exchange guarantee that everything is fair.
And in online spaces populated by heterosexual men, heterosexual women have been charged with the bulk of these crimes. T he design and marketing of dating apps further encourage a cold, odds-based approach to love.
While they have surely created, at this point, thousands if not millions of successful relationships, they have also aggravated, for some men, their feeling that they are unjustly invisible to women. Men outnumber women dramatically on dating apps; this is a fact. A literature review also found that men are more active users of these apps—both in the amount of time they spend on them and the number of interactions they attempt.
Their experience of not getting as many matches or messages, the numbers say, is real. But data sets made available by the apps can themselves be wielded in unsettling ways by people who believe the numbers are working against them. This is, obviously, an absurd thing to publish on a company blog, but not just because its analysis is so plainly accusatory and weakly reasoned.
Even without these creepy blog posts, dating apps can amplify a feeling of frustration with dating by making it seem as if it should be much easier. To him, the idea of a dating market is not new at all. Balls were the internet of the day.
You went and showed yourself off. Read: The five years that changed dating. The human brain is not equipped to process and respond individually to thousands of profiles, but it takes only a few hours on a dating app to develop a mental heuristic for sorting people into broad categories. In this way, people can easily become seen as commodities—interchangeable products available for acquisition or trade.
Or, it makes a dater think they can see the market, when really all they can see is what an algorithm shows them. T he idea of the dating market is appealing because a market is something a person can understand and try to manipulate. This happens to men and women in the same way.
And the way we speak becomes the way we think, as well as a glaze to disguise the way we feel. Someone who refers to looking for a partner as a numbers game will sound coolly aware and pragmatic, and guide themselves to a more odds-based approach to dating. But they may also suppress any honest expression of the unbearably human loneliness or desire that makes them keep doing the math. Skip to content Site Navigation The Atlantic.
Popular Latest Newsletters. Sections Politics Ideas Fiction Technology Science Photo Business Culture Planet Global Books Podcasts Health Education Projects America In Person Family Events Shadowland Progress Newsletters. Explore The Atlantic Archive Play The Atlantic crossword.
The Print Edition Latest Issue Past Issues. Search The Atlantic. Quick Links. Sign In Subscribe.
AdDate Online - Thousands of Local Profiles. Match, Chat & Flirt Now. Simple Dating in Your Area with iDates. Start Chatting, Flirting & Dating Now. Easy! · E ver since her last relationship ended this past August, Liz has been consciously trying not to treat dating as a “numbers game.” By the year-old Alaskan’s own admission, Estimated Reading Time: 9 mins · In a survey by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent said their dating life was not going well. Three-quarters said that finding someone to date was difficult. Enjoy a year of ... read more
She goes further at OneTaste, an organization that sells workshops on something called orgasmic meditation, which is meant to train people, particularly women, to focus on their own sexual pleasure without the distraction of emotions, expectations, and inhibitions. So we had tons of questions on ability, even more on interest. Perhaps it is fear of the unknown, or family pressure to conform to a particular way of life. Their first thought was to produce educational videotapes on relationship compatibility. Read: Stop waiting for your soul mate. Over at Chemistry. W hen market logic is applied to the pursuit of a partner and fails , people can start to feel cheated.November Issue. They hand-select the individuals for you to meet. After all, Warren had atlantic monthly online dating written his book, Finding the Love of Your Life. Do likes attract likes? T he design and marketing of dating apps further encourage a cold, odds-based approach to love. But then what? And among college students surveyed last year, atlantic monthly online dating, 71 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans said that they would not go out on a date with someone who voted for the opposing presidential candidate.