When I first rejoined the dating scene several years ago I followed the well-worn path of many other people my age and joined a handful of online dating sites. After a few false starts, a friend explained to me that I was completely doing online dating the wrong way. She said that it was a “numbers game”, and that I should try to go on multiple first dates a week, week after week, until I find “The One.” I didn’t realize at the time that this was how many people treated online dating in the Bay Area. I said, what the heck, and gave it a shot.
At the beginning I found it to be fun. I realized I was meeting people that I would have never met before, and this gave me a huge amount of confidence that I would run into the woman of my dreams. I also made two very good friends and met one woman with whom I had a multi-year relationship. Even though it didn’t work out, I am still grateful that she was in my life.
After some time of playing the numbers game, I became frustrated and disenchanted with the entire process. I started to realize I was going out on dates where nothing progressed beyond small talk and running through lists of shared hobbies and travel destinations. Even if we both felt there was the potential for something more, follow-on dates started becoming fewer and fewer, mostly due to scheduling conflicts, and that quickly became a lack of interest.
Worse, I realized that the disappearance of my date didn’t bother me, as I knew that there would be someone else who was, well, let’s just say a “swipe right” away. While intellectually I knew that this was the same thought process my date was going through, I still felt a bit icky about the whole experience. As a family-oriented guy that has been in long term relationships for the majority of my life, I felt that this isn’t the behavior of the man that I thought I was or wanted to be.
I could not understand how, with all of the opportunities to meet someone that were available to me, that it was so incredibly hard actually to meet someone. Recently an article appeared in the New York Times that spoke to how I felt. The author reaches the conclusion that all of the online dating technologies have caused us to think in terms of the “numbers game”, and that there was an infinite number of possible partners, and we should toss each aside until we find the perfect mate. If this is our dating mentality, why should we ever bother committing to a person, as a better option could be right around the corner?
I knew the numbers game didn’t work for me, and stopped playing some time ago. I started to pick up on when I was a participant in someone else’s rapid fire dating game, and was able to understand how it felt. When you are playing the numbers game, every person you date becomes a number and not a human being.
Whenever you go out on a date, you have to remember that the person sitting across from you is a person, like yourself, with their own hopes and dreams, anxieties and fears. They have felt both joy and hurt in relationships, and are very possibly hoping that the first date they are on, with you, right now, will be their last first date ever. I can’t think of a more disrespectful action than what most serial daters do, namely walk into the date with the intention of making a judgment in the first five minutes, then hopping back onto Tinder.
The numbers game causes you to focus on quickly observed superficial qualities, such as hobbies, material possessions, and clothing, rather than what really determines the suitability of a partner. The important stuff, like ability to communicate, shared values, empathy, and capacity to provide support in stressful situations, can’t be determined from only one date.
The numbers game relies upon the idea that not only there are an infinite number of partners, but also that you have an infinite amount of time. We don’t. As a guy in my mid 30’s, I for one don’t want to be an “old dad”, and want to be in good enough physical shape that, if I get to have children, I would not only play with my kids on the floor but also be able to walk any future daughters down the aisle when I am twice my current age.
Women, well, they have much more defined biological clocks, with 35 being the medically recognized fertility cliff. While the numbers game can go on forever, our bodies can’t.
There are some things I miss about rapid fire dating. I miss finding instant chemistry. I miss learning about someone’s way of viewing the world. I don’t think it works, however, and would much rather spend time getting to know a small number of quality people than get three cocktails a week with complete strangers.