Dating and the challenge of too many choices
January 26th, 2012
07:21 AM ET

Dating and the challenge of too many choices

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

If online dating hasn’t led you to your perfect match, perhaps the issue isn’t that you’re too choosy, but rather that there’s too much choice.

There’s no doubt that dating in the 21st century offers a lot of opportunities. Think about your parents’ generation: They grew up with no Internet, they likely stayed in the same town for most of their lives, and they automatically had more in common with the people in that town as a result. Today, women and men are increasingly marrying someone outside of their religion, their ethnicity and their geographic area.

Never in history have we had so many potential partners to choose from - and never have we had so much difficulty choosing. In fact, several recent studies suggest that this explosion of options has made men and women feel more confused and uncertain about finding a partner than ever before.

The challenges of choice was well illustrated in a study in 2000 that looked at people’s buying habits. Researchers asked customers to participate in a tasting of different types of jam; those who sampled the product were given a $1-off coupon. On the first day, the researchers offered a choice of six different jams. On the next, they offered 24 different jams.

People tasted the same number of jams, regardless of the number of available samples. Yet their buying choices varied dramatically: Offered six jams, about 30% of samplers ended up purchasing a jar. Faced with 24 choices, though, only 3% bought a jar.

The conclusion: When given so many choices, people have more trouble making any decision, and this sense of indecisiveness could lead to a cascade of negative effects. In his seminal book, "The Paradox Of Choice," Dr. Barry Schwartz writes, “Choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis. And in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.”

The problem could be our quest for perfection. We all want to believe in "The One" - a person that meets every item on our relationship checklist, who’s our soul mate forever. But when you search for perfection, you’re unlikely to find it.

“People who attempt to make the 'perfect' choice, whether it comes to buying a car or finding a partner, end up less satisfied, regardless of what or who they choose. That’s because they tend to look for flaws, and become disillusioned with all of their options," says Andy Trees, Ph.D., author of "A Scientific Guide to Successful Dating."

Many services also ask you to fill out exhaustive questionnaires about your likes and dislikes. It might seem like more information would help you make smarter choices, but again, that’s often not the case.

The more criteria and qualities you consider for a partner, the tougher it can be to narrow down your choices. In fact, according to a 2006 Pew study of online dating, people generally use Internet sites because they believe that having lots of choices will result in a better match. But research suggests that such increased choices actually have the opposite effect.

There’s evidence that even non-Web-based dating services can suffer from the challenge of choice: A study of people attending speed-dating events, published in the August 2011 issue of Biology Letters, found that they made fewer decisions to date when they attended events with higher numbers of candidates and greater variety. Again, the researchers concluded that people who have too many options will choose nothing.

Although one day someone may indeed invent the perfect algorithm to match two people, no online dating site has yet provided proof that its formula works, regardless of what its marketing department wants you to think.

So how can you harness the power of technology to your advantage? “First, don’t give up on the Internet - it can still be a useful way to meet people," says Trees. "Understand, though, that you’ll need to take the responsibility to choose your matches. Don’t expect the service to find you the perfect person. Pace yourself and keep a normal dating schedule. Seeing a new person every night of the week isn’t going to increase your chances of romance, just your risk of exhaustion.

"And be patient and realistic. There’s no perfect mate out there, just people that you can enjoy spending a day - or maybe even the rest of your days - with.”

soundoff (2,695 Responses)
  1. c-tadalafil

    buy tadalafil side effects of tadalafil tadalafil tablets ip

    June 5, 2021 at 03:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. hydroxychloroquine buy

    chloronique shortage of hydroxychloroquine is chloroquine a sulfa drug

    June 5, 2021 at 03:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. leflunomide

    chloroquine antimalarial sulfasalazine cloroquina 250 mg

    June 5, 2021 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. buy cialis usa

    vardenafil vs tadalafil cialis tadalafil research chemical

    June 5, 2021 at 03:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. tadalafil pah

    tadalafil uses tadalafil cost tadalafil research powder

    June 5, 2021 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. generic cialis

    canada generic tadalafil cialis online tadalafil alcohol

    June 5, 2021 at 08:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. chloroquin

    hydrochlorique chloroquine new zealand hydroxychloroquine hcq

    June 5, 2021 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. 파워볼 최상위사이트

    After looking at a few of the blog posts on your web page, I seriously appreciate your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site as well and tell me what you think.


    June 5, 2021 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. cialis tadalafil

    tuf 20 tadalafil cost tadalafil generic liquid tadalafil citrate

    June 5, 2021 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. generic cialis

    tadalafil bph mechanism buy cialis online tadalafil daily online

    June 5, 2021 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Repair 2006 Dodge Sprinter


    June 5, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. best price usa tadalafil

    tadafil what is tadalafil erectafil 10

    June 5, 2021 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. oc rv storage

    Hi there! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after looking at a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím certainly happy I found it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


    June 5, 2021 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. 경주출장

    Very good info. Lucky me I found your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I've book marked it for later!


    June 5, 2021 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. side effects for plaquenil

    chloroquine tab side effects for hydroxychloroquine sulfur effects on body

    June 5, 2021 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. electricians near me

    After I initially commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!


    June 5, 2021 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. chloroquine hydrochloride

    hcq medication buy aralen online uk what is hydroxychlor 200 mg

    June 5, 2021 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. interactions for hydroxychloroquine

    malaria drug chloroquine hctz hydrochlorothiazide cloriquine

    June 5, 2021 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. 경주출장마사지

    Aw, this was an incredibly good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to make a superb articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.


    June 5, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. buy cialis online

    tadalafil mechanism cialis 20 mg tadalafil without a doctor prescription

    June 5, 2021 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sprinter Repair Shop

    Your style is so unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this blog.


    June 5, 2021 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. 파워볼사이트목록

    Gambling is a favorite pastime for all Americans. Millions
    of Americans enjoy betting online or on the race tracks.
    Americans enjoy gaming because they enjoy winning and they
    love the struggle of gaming. It can be an enjoyable outlet of energy and also for most Americans it can replace
    unhealthy life styles and add excitement into their own lifestyles.

    Thus why is it that gamblers generally have a long-term edge along with other gamblers?
    Many gamblers have been known to walk away from a match with more income than they started
    out with. Some players might have bet that a little too
    much and not need it work to their benefit. What could a person do to have a
    long-term edge and earn more money than they would ever have gambled with if they'd not found a means to become better player?

    It all boils down to skill and learning more strategies. Most gamblers will probably be familiar with some of the popular advantages that players use to acquire.
    There are numerous unique aspects that could affect
    a person's ability to see such edges and become a long-term winner.
    If a person has plenty of working experience in a
    particular match or they are proficient in playing with a certain game then they will
    have an extremely noticeable advantage when compared with some one who does not have experience in that match.

    June 5, 2021 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. buy cialis

    tadalafil peptides cialis tadalafil pah

    June 5, 2021 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. tadalafil bph mechanism

    tadalafil mechanism purchase peptides tadalafil generic tadalafil from uk

    June 5, 2021 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. cloroquine

    chloroquine and plaquenil what is clonidine hydoxychloroquine

    June 5, 2021 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. 파워볼사이트

    When I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. There has to be a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!


    June 5, 2021 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. tadalafil from india reviews

    tadalafil medication tadalafil contraindications sublingual tadalafil

    June 5, 2021 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. 파워볼사이트

    Great info. Lucky me I recently found your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!


    June 6, 2021 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. 파워볼사이트

    Iím amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog thatís both equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I came across this during my hunt for something concerning this.


    June 6, 2021 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Sprinter Van Front Wiper Rust Repair

    Can I simply just say what a comfort to uncover somebody who actually understands what they are talking about on the web. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to read this and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you're not more popular because you definitely have the gift.


    June 6, 2021 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. 파워볼 사이트

    Hello there! This article could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


    June 6, 2021 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. tadalafil troche

    tadalafil from india reviews cost tadalafil generic tadalafil pah

    June 6, 2021 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. hydroxychloroquine generic name

    chlorowuine hydroxychloroquine chloroquine chloroquine tab

    June 6, 2021 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. 최상위 파워볼 사이트

    After looking into a few of the blog posts on your web page, I really appreciate your technique of blogging. I saved it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website as well and tell me what you think.


    June 6, 2021 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. aralen where to buy

    hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine side effects chloroquine price in india hydroxyquine drug

    June 6, 2021 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. side effects for tadalafil

    what does tadalafil do tadalafil side effects elevex 20 mg

    June 6, 2021 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sprinter Auto Repair


    June 6, 2021 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. what kind of paint to use on a horse trailer


    June 6, 2021 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. chloroquine phosphate generic name

    hydroxychlorquine aralen phosphate chloroquine phosphate hydroxychlor

    June 6, 2021 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. 파워볼 사이트

    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it. I have got you saved as a favorite to check out new things you postÖ


    June 6, 2021 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Prediksi Togel

    We are a gaggle of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community.
    Your site offered us with valuable information to work on. You've done an impressive task and our entire community will
    be grateful to you.

    June 6, 2021 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. 파워볼 사이트

    Hello! I just wish to give you a big thumbs up for your great info you've got here on this post. I will be coming back to your web site for more soon.


    June 6, 2021 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. cialis without a prescription

    tadalafil drug tadalafil tadalafil and dapoxetine

    June 7, 2021 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. 파워볼 전용사이트

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the greatest blogs on the internet. I am going to highly recommend this website!


    June 7, 2021 at 03:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. tadalafil

    tadalis 20 cheap generic cialis for sale tadadel

    June 7, 2021 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. 파워볼전용사이트

    I love looking through a post that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!


    June 7, 2021 at 04:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. liquor store open near me

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your internet site.


    June 7, 2021 at 05:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. plaquemine

    is chloroquine over the counter hydroxychloroquine nz chloroquinr

    June 7, 2021 at 05:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. 먹튀검증커뮤니티

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this post! It is the little changes that produce the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 7, 2021 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. wandavision costume plus size

    2020 Disney+ series WandaVision is coming, if you are seeking wanda maximoff outfit, scarlet witch costume for children or ladies, or vision outfit to buy


    June 7, 2021 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.