I’ve been a professional matchmaker for six years and in just that time I’ve seen a significant shift in how people date around the world. In most countries, every category related to dating, from public opinion about it, to average length of time couples see each other, to satisfaction, have plummeted. We’re living in a time I label as “alarming” and fully expect if there is not an immediate shift in how we date, our communities will fall apart. After all, marriage is the cornerstone of society and dating is the cornerstone of marriage.
Below, are the 9 biggest problems with dating today and my thoughts on how to solve them.
1) We Don’t Know How To Define “Dating”
Ask 10 random people on the street what “dating” means and you’ll get 10 different answers. Going out, being together, being with someone, seeing each other, hubby/wifey status, just friends (wink, wink), friends with benefits, and on and on. Over the years, with the introduction of casual dating, then the ushering in of hook-up culture, it’s clear most of us have lost our grasp of what dating truly means.
SOLUTION: We must decide on a definition and champion it. Here’s my favorite (from Wikipedia):
Dating is a form of human courtship consisting of social activities done by two persons with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a spouse.
Key words in the above definition:
– Courtship (it’s not dead)
– Activities (not chillin’ at their house watching a movie)
– Assessing (requires you to know what you need, first)
– Spouse (the end goal shouldn’t be a “let’s live together for 20 years,” rather let’s get married)
2) We Don’t Date Anymore
The average person who is single in the U.S. has not been on one date in the last two years according to research by Dr. Neil Clark Warren. From my observations, not only is Dr. Warren’s claim true, but those who are dating (as defined by our new definition in #1 above) are an exclusive set. I believe 80% of dating today is done by only 20% of the single population. The following thoughts (#3-9) represent some of not only dating’s biggest problems, but they double as reasons why we’re not dating anymore.
SOLUTION: See the solutions listed in #3-9 below.
3) We Have a Low Value of Marriage
The most startling study I’ve seen about marriage was conducted by Pew Research Center and concluded that 67% of millennials today no longer see value in marriage. WOW! Imagine if that same question was asked of your parents or grandparents generation when they were twenty-somethings? I bet close to no one would have said they don’t see value in getting married. However, times have changed and today it’s clear the generation of prime marrying age carries the prevailing thought two people can just have babies together or two people can just live together, and there aren’t compelling reasons for a more formal procedure like marriage.
SOLUTION: (Happily) married couples need to speak up! After being in a marriage for over 13 years (and being satisfied), it definitely trumps my single days and I know I speak for the masses of married couples. Younger generations in particular need to understand tangible benefits that come with a strong marriage; better health, more income, and better sex life…for starters. More marriage mentors would serve our world a significant amount of good.
4) We Actually Believe & Mimic The Relationships We See On TV
99% of the relationships on TV are dysfunctional. The most shocking aspect of that is we, the viewing public, know this and STILL pattern our behavior based on this trifling stuff. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen blog posts, tweets, or heard actual comments about what someone learned about relationships from a “Real Housewife of blah blah”. WHAT? There is nothing to be learned from something that is fake, phony, and fabricated.
SOLUTION: We must refer to “reality TV” for what it is: new age “soap operas” and modern day garbage TV. The realness of our relationships can never be compared to the ratchetness of reality TV relationships.
5) There is Way Too Much Profile Puffery and Projection
With most singles now use dating websites and apps, we’ve become an amalgamation of acutely edited selfies and finely perfected (yet falsified) profile narratives. With a slick online facade in place, most singles then make the most tragic dating mistake of all, they project. Projection takes place when based on very little information, you come to elaborate conclusions about the person in question (pulling from your previous relationship experiences). This often happens when someone looks at your profile photo (92% of the decision to contact someone is based on their profile photo). Nearly all daters project to a certain extent and while I get the possible efficiency of it, this puffery and projection is not effective. The only way to truly know if someone is a good match for you requires you to meet them IN PERSON.
SOLUTION: Meet as many people in person as you can! Place less emphasis on photos and tell yourself, I won’t know what the person looks like, sounds like, and values until I meet them in person.
6) Dating Is Too Expensive & Time Consuming
Here are two conflicting yet fascinating data points:
a) The average U.S. date costs $150 per person.
b) 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
You see the issue? This topic first came on my radar 3 years ago when I began wondering why I received so many requests from men asking for inexpensive date ideas. Many of these men continued further to tell me they often went on only 1-2 dates per month, not out of disinterest but because of lack of funding. When I researched the topic further, I found that over half of my female clients had passed on a date because of either no money… or time! The average duration of a date from start to finish is 2.5 hours (with most people spending 30 minutes to 1 hour just to prepare and travel to and from the date location). In total, a date could eat up 3.5 hours of your day. This is much too long! If you’re someone who wants to date frequently, only a handful of dates at this duration would be the equivalent of a full-time job.
SOLUTION: I believe ALL couples dating should commit to a cap of $50 total per date for the first several dates. Also, the first date shouldn’t be anything close to 3.5 hours. 30 minutes is more than enough time for the first meetup (I don’t even want to call your first time seeing a potential partner a date). Keep it short and simple. You only need enough time to answer two questions for yourself on the meetup: 1) Am I attracted to him/her? 2) Do we have a complimentary personality (in other words, were you able to communicate well)? If the answer to both are “Yes”, please proceed with a longer duration 1st date. If the answer to either question is “No,” don’t waste your time or money moving forward.
7) The Dating Industry is Not Very Helpful
I love many of my matchmaking and dating industry peeps, but I have to call us out! We’re not doing our jobs well enough. What we do best as industry professionals is simply talk about solutions rather than create real solutions. I believe 85% of people who claim to be date coaches and matchmakers have no practical or theoretical training, no actual clients, and no tangible results. Yet, many have a following because we live in an age where the loudest get the most attention. Moreover, online dating sites and mobile application companies tout very suspect results, too. The number of marriages and matches these entities claim are significant, but keep in mind they deal in a very high volume of people so of course they’re going to get a few connections. Also, when you look at many of these companies’ success on a percentage basis (matches, marriages, satisfaction, etc) they’re very low.
SOLUTION: Consumers simply need to do more diligence before contracting for dating services.
8) We Have Too Many (Perceived) Options to Date
Isn’t it ironic, while we don’t go out on dates anywhere near the same amount we did as a society decades ago, we also believe we have more dating options today than ever before. The bottom line is online dating sites and mobile applications have tricked us. Because you know you can pull out your phone and use an application to flip through 100s of dating profiles, it gives you a false sense of your actual dating options. Then you take the psychological trip even further by falling into the trap called “analysis paralysis,” coined by one of my favorite social scientists, Barry Schwartz. Having an unlimited number of profiles at our finger tips sounds cool, but in actuality, it’s detrimental because less is more. Schwartz summed it up perfectly in his book The Paradox of Choice, “we receive less value in each option we have as the the number of options grows.”
SOLUTION: Own the fact that your dating options are limited. You don’t have an endless supply of potential partners. I don’t want to sound like a Debby Downer on this one, but I truly believe if we accept that we’ll only have the opportunity to date a handful of people in our lifetime (less than 25 for most of us), we’ll make different adjustments and decisions with our batch.
9) We Too Easily Accept Negative Sex Stereotypes
Jump on any social media platform, run a hashtag search on #dating and you’ll see the most venomous messages aimed at the opposite sex. Women largely calling men dogs and lazy. Men preferring to go with the all-inclusive “crazy” title for most ladies. Dig deeper on any of these posts and you’ll see a trail of comments giving virtual high-fives to each other based on who dropped the most cutting blow at the opposite sex. It’s truly scary to watch. To grasp how a man can easily dismiss ALL women, knowing his mother brought him in this world is unbelievable. To see a woman cast aside ALL men, based on interactions with SOME men is disheartening.
SOLUTION: Ultimately, we must accept our reality is based on our beliefs. If we believe all men or women act or do a certain thing, that will be exactly what we see. The most transformative changes my agency has been able to realize with clients have been those that began by simply showing what is possible. I encourage anyone feeling overridden with anger or doubt about your potential pool of partners to seek a love mentor, a quality workshop, or a good coach. Don’t ever give up on the possibility of love.