Giving Yourself Too Many Options Can Ruin Your Love Life

four men, one right for love

Beggars can't be choosers? There may be something to that!

Freedom is a good thing. Most of us would agree to that. And having a wide variety of options to choose from is ideal, right? Not always. Too many choices or options can actually cause inactivity or paralysis. You may have experienced this phenomenon when trying to decide what to order at a deli that has a 15-page menu. Or at a huge restaurant buffet that offers so many food options and varieties that you feel overwhelmed, and after being inundated with so many choices, you end up unenthusiastic about eating any of it.

Too much to choose from definitely has its downside. It's what economists call the Opportunity Cost — those nagging questions that we ask ourselves after having made a choice: Did I make the best possible choice? Should I have opted for one of the alternatives? How does the choice I made compare with the other options available? This phenomenon has been termed The Paradox of Choice and is illustrated beautifully in Barry Schwartz's Ted.com talk.

How does the Paradox of Choice impact single men and women engaged in online dating? It presents them with three hurdles:

  1. Paralysis from having too many options. (Too many candidates —how to choose?)
  2. Anxiety caused by Opportunity Cost. (What if I missed someone who’d be better for me?)
  3. Confusing availability with accessibility. (Thinking you have a shot, when you really don't.)

The downside of free choice dating solutions is that the online dater is flooded with hundreds (even thousands) of prospective candidates who all appear to be available. When we shop at Whole Foods, and we see that perfect head of butter lettuce, we're accustomed to being able to choose that head of lettuce, pay for it, and take it home. Not so with dating, as the object of our interest also has a choice to make, and so very often that choice is a "No thanks."

I watched these phenomena in action during the years that my husband and I owned and operated two large video dating services back in the 90s. The male prospects would all select the same 12 women as their ideal match, their "choice". And those popular, in-demand women were simultaneously approached by hundreds of men, yet only a handful of them actually had a real shot at dating her, leaving hundreds of men "choosing" with great enthusiasm someone who would never agree to meet them.

That same trend is repeating itself today in online dating. Women selected most often by the men tend to be those the men find most visually appealing. Among the dozen or so men who were constantly selected by the women, these were the candidates who appeared to be able to offer lots of financial security or who were exceptionally good looking. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the people in the online dating community were left out in th cold, rarely selected, and in many cases never selected, by anyone.

How can you combat these too-much-choice roadblocks to your online dating success?

1. Figure Out Your Top 3 Criteria

What are the qualities and characteristics that matter most to you in the person you'd love to have in your life? It's okay if that list is long, but get very clear about what these top three key criteria are, so you'll be able to spot them quickly in someone (and so you can steer away quickly from someone when you don't).

2. Don't Waste More Than 30 Minutes A Day Looking At People Online

You'll avoid the overwhelm and paralysis that the buffet phenomenon can cause.

3. Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

Initiate invitations, rather than waiting for them to come your way. Say "yes" to the candidates who first show interest in you, as you've actually got a shot with this person, as opposed to the illusive candidate who's not responding to your message or expressing even a remote amount of interest in you. If you're a woman and uncomfortable emailing a man first, try using the "favorite" option available on many of the online sites, giving a man a good indicator that you'll respond to his invitation if he were to initiate. If the invitations still aren't coming in, then you have nothing to lose by trying a more proactive approach.

4. Press The Pause Button When You Find Someone You Like

When you're enjoying the process of getting to know someone, stop right there. Hide your online profile to minimize distractions and the Opportunity Cost phenomenon. Relax and explore possibilities with this real, live person right before you, rather than worrying if you're missing someone else who might be a bigger, better deal.

5. Find Your Local Matchmakers

Many of today's modern day matchmakers provide private, free registration opportunities for both men and women, enabling a higher level of personal vetting, qualifying and screening. Email me if you're interested in connecting with a local matchmaker in your area. We would be happy to offer a personal recommendation for you.