The Paradox of Choice in Relationships

02 Jul

We all yearn for new experiences, right? New adventures, new friendships, new experiences… and new relationships? It certainly seems fair to say that we all enjoy the freedom of choice when it comes to whom we are romantic with – but is it possible that sometimes there can be too many options?

Couple smiling

Too much of a good thing?

The concept of the paradox of choice in relationships was popularized in the 2004 book of the same name (aptly subtitled Why More is Less) by esteemed US psychologist Barry Schwartz (superbly summarized here by professor of educational administration at the University of Saskatchewan Keith Walker).

Schwartz honed in on market consumerism. He argued that eliminating consumer choices significantly reduces anxiety for shoppers because, despite us living in a society that values freedom above all else, it would seem on some fundamental level that humans tend towards preferring fewer choices overall. This is perhaps because it reduces thinking time and frees us up to get on with our lives.

Philosophers as far back as the 17th century have pondered the deeper meaning and implications of what they termed the ‘tyranny of choice’: humans strive for freedom of choice, and yet it would appear you can have too much of a good thing. But how does this all relate to the realm of love?

Romance… at the swipe of a button

As a matchmaker, the paradox of choice in relationships has always intrigued me. In the past few years, I have seen it play out firsthand in the world of dating.

Online dating really began in the late ’90s, when access to a computer with an Internet connection became widespread. Its popularity skyrocketed, though, in 2012, with the advent of Tinder, followed by a number of copycat swipe apps. A number of experts in the US dating services industry now estimate that, within five years, 50% of all couples in the West will have met online. From there, it would seem likely that we will only see an exponential rise in that figure.

Online dating is often more conducive to casual, shorter-term relationships, precisely because of the paradox of choice. Humans evolved in tight bands of a maximum of 150 individuals and lived that way for millenia. Our brains are simply not wired to deal with the prospect of an essentially infinite pool of potential partners – which leads to the paradoxical effect of limitless choice causing an inability to choose. In a nutshell, why would you decide arbitrarily to settle on this person you’ve just started dating, whom you met online, when you know full well that an even better potential partner could have been just a single swipe away?

Online dating has led to a decline in monogamy in young adults in the past few years. It could further be argued that it has even warped their expectations of what romance really is. Numerous studies have found that, all variables being equal, single people who do not use dating apps have greater life satisfaction and overall wellbeing than those who do. Simply put, too many potential partners can create a harmful expectation that each partner should surely be ‘better’ – perhaps even ‘more perfect’ – than was the last.

Managing your expectations with a matchmaker

Here at Maclynn International we understand the paradox of choice in the modern world – and the modern dating scene. Many of our clients are just too busy to spend time thumbing their way through the same old dating apps, have the same old unstimulating, fruitless bar chat with yet another date. You might be going on dates, but the dating scene – especially in the city – can nevertheless feel pretty lonely.

At Maclynn International, we know the value of your time. Our unique psychology-led compatibility profiling allows us to get a deeper understanding of your ideal partner based on what you value most in life. We put in the groundwork, get the ball rolling behind the scenes – saving you time for the good stuff. Our 85% success rate speaks for itself, and our expertise is second to none. And don’t just take our word for it – why not read what previous happy clients have said about us?

Why not be our next success story? Get in touch today – fall in love tomorrow.

by Gina Yannotta

Chief Operating Officer, New York City.

Gina Yannotta is Head Matchmaker & Chief Operating Officer at Maclynn International's New York office. Gina’s unyielding passion for the field, in combination with her extensive experience in matchmaking, has allowed her to orchestrate successful and everlasting relationships amongst her clients. Tasked with running the Manhattan office, Gina utilizes her interpersonal skills and relationship expertise to make a splash in the matchmaking pool, personally connecting her clients with their ultimate match while simultaneously taking advantage of the endless possibilities that NYC offers to its client-base.More by this author