The Common Dating Strategy That’s Totally Wrong

The Common Dating Strategy That’s Totally Wrong

If you are in the dating market, that might sound like good news

“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness. Click here to listen to his podcast series on all things happiness, How to Build a Happy Life.

A ccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, 126.9 million Americans are currently unmarried. And yet most “daters”-people who are not in a committed relationship but would like to be, or people who date casually-are struggling. Three-quarters said that finding someone to date was difficult.

Finding love might have always been a challenge, but evidence suggests that it has gotten harder in recent years. According to the General Social Survey, from 1989 to 2016 the proportion of married people in their 20s fell from 27 percent to 15 percent. And in case you think that’s just a commentary on traditional e survey shows that the percentage of 18-to-29-year-olds who had not had any sex in a year nearly tripled from 2008 to 2018, from 8 to 23 percent.

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.

In a 2020 survey by the Pew Research Center, 67 percent said their dating life was not going well

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H ere’s an assertion that might seem indisputable: To find that special someone, you should look for a person with whom you have a lot in common. Social scientists call this “homophily,” and have shown that we rate those who share our views-especially our political views-as more appealing (socially and romantically) than those who don’t.

Survey data on dating behavior support this assertion. According to the online-dating site OkCupid, 85 percent of Millennials say that how a potential date votes is “extremely or very important” to them. 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.

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. They also found that 43 percent of daters with a master’s degree judge potential partners based on the college they attended.

Some similarity is no doubt beneficial to a partnership, but sameness brings huge costs as well. Romantic love requires complementarity-that is, differences. A sociologist named Robert Francis Winch advanced this idea in the 1950s by interviewing couples https://hookupdate.net/es/adultspace-review/ and assessing the personality traits of those that were successful and those that weren’t. He found that the happiest couples tended to round out each other’s personality-an extrovert and an introvert, for example.

Newer research has found that strangers assigned to perform a task in pairs feel warmer toward each other when their personalities are complementary than when they’re similar. In one study, people described their ideal romantic partners as similar to themselves, but their actual partners’ personality traits were uncorrelated with their own. We may think we want partners like ourselves, but we wind up pursuing relationships with people who are different from us.

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