The Economics Of Dating: Is Romance Even Possible Anymore?

Five reasons dating is tougher than ever right now.

Woman discovers why the economics of dating sucks. Dean Drobot, George Lovic | Canvas

As someone who regularly gives relationship advice and sees the impact of dating on her friends, I’ve become completely and utterly convinced that the modern dating scene is as poisonous as can be. We live in a world where lashing out due to rejection, ghosting, fading, cheating, and unsolicited pics has become the norm rather than the exception. We no longer treat one another as humans, and why would we? No one seems to care about actually doing the right thing anymore, anyway.


The emotional harm due to dealing with horrible dates, bad interactions, and shallow websites is palpable. I have seen some of the kindest people I know slowly have the spark of hope extinguish because of the way potential dates, as well as legit dates, have treated them. I’ve seen perfectly wonderful souls remain in abusive relationships, simply because they felt it was better to be with any partner rather than brave the dating scene again.  

The slings and arrows of trying to find that perfect person just never seem to stop, and it’s gotten to the point where many of the strongest, kindest, most wonderful friends I know have all but given up trying to find love. Even I have been chewed up, used up, and spit out by the current dating scene’s vile ways. It’s the main reason why I quit; I felt the game was rigged and no longer worth playing. But that doesn’t help my friends who do still want to try to find love. More often than not, the one thing that people ask me is why dating is so tough right now. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and here’s what I’ve come to think about it: it’s economics, pure and simple. Here’s why dating sucks for both men and women, according to an economic standpoint.


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Here's why dating is so tough right now:

1. The oversaturated market

To illustrate this point, I want to start by talking about oysters. Oysters, as many may know, are delicious and considered to be “rich people’s food.” They’ve always been great, but nowadays, they’re a lot more valued than they used to be. You see, back before the 20th century, oysters were insanely plentiful. They were considered to be a pest because there were so many of them. Poor people would just go to the beach and grab buckets of them, simply because they were free and plentiful. Eating oysters, as it was considered, was a “poor man’s thing.” The reason it changed is due to the factories and pollution that the Industrial Revolution had caused. Oysters died out, and then the price of oysters skyrocketed from “FREE” to “$3 PER OYSTER.” The moral of the story is that people didn’t appreciate oysters until there were fewer of them left.

Now, think about what’s going on with the dating scene these days. Right now, we have more dating options than at any point in human history. Oysters, or in this case, partners, are plentiful. We can screw (or screw over) as many people as we want, knowing that we can still find someone else around the corner. Knowing this, a lot of people — most people — have taken an “onto the next” attitude. A girl didn’t like unsolicited pics? Oh, well, the guy will send it to the next girl. A girl didn’t appreciate being called easy or didn’t put out fast enough? Well, he’ll just hang with her until he finds something better. In the past, these guys would never have behaved that way because they only had a set number of ways to meet people. People have become disposable, and as a result, everyone’s always looking for the next bigger, better thing. Such is the nature of an oversaturated market. It literally would take women and men dropping out in droves for the market to correct itself.

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2. A crisis of consumer base

Among businessmen, the saying is that “Premium products deserve premium pricing.” In a healthy relationship, both people would put in a serious amount of work to make things happen. However, people have gotten insanely inflexible about this. People no longer want to commit. People no longer give a flying crud about respect or even about a potential date’s feelings. All many people seem to care about is what they get from a date. Premium products — or in this case, decent human beings — often don’t get the commitment, love, and care they deserve. People will often tell partners who were good to them that they “aren’t ready to commit,” only to come back when they need something. I know this because it’s happened to me plenty of times. All the while, buyers demand more and more features from the “products” they’re dating. Standards, especially on a physical level and “glamor” level, have never been higher. We've all seen it when girls turn away guys for not having a cute enough apartment, or when guys turn girls away due to their waistlines.

From what I’ve heard, people used to be a lot less choosy and also would work harder to cultivate a good relationship. Nowadays, we live in a world where we expect instant gratification, and so God help us if that instant gratification doesn’t come with someone who doesn’t have model good looks. In business, this is called getting a bad client base and it can be potentially lethal to a business. Right now, many people feel like they can either “stay on the store shelves” as single, or they can “go on clearance,” which means that they end up settling for someone less than they deserve.

In a business, if too many items end up being sold at a loss (settling), then the business’s bankruptcy will ensue. Similarly, if nothing gets sold, you’re also not in business. In the dating world, this is how you get people who slowly waste away in bad marriages and people who become bitter shells of who they used to be. We’ve all turned into the fussy customer who demands to speak to the manager because gourmet organic honey-baked ham isn’t the price she wanted it to be. And, at the same time, we’re also the beleaguered business owner who’s trying to get buyers but only ending up with demanding jerks who criticize them.

3. A transaction that can’t happen

Another problem we have is how self-centered our society has become, and how often most of our interactions with others happen behind a screen of some sort. A lot of us seem to forget that the other genders out there have feelings, needs, and dreams of their own! This leads to people believing that love is transactional. What I mean by this is that humans stopped treating humans as humans and started to treat them like vending machines. A lot of people think that if you put time, niceness, or date tokens in, intimacy and love will fall out. If they don’t get the intimacy they ordered, then they feel entitled to shake or kick the vending machine in hopes that the intimacy falls out that way.


Going on with the vending machine metaphor, let’s talk about how guys and girls reject one another. I’ve personally had men get brutal and ditch the date the minute they saw me. I know I’m not alone. Moreover, most people get ghosted all the time. Would you apologize for walking away from a vending machine? Of course not! It’s not a person, and to people who behave this way, you’re not a person, either. Rather than being a person, you’re a transaction they don’t want to make. This is why Nice Guy Syndrome is so common; they feel entitled to intimacy or love just because they did X, Y, and Z. This is why ghosting is so common, too. Love isn’t transactional and, unfortunately, people no longer remember that.  

4. No value in customer experience

Now, let’s talk about something else that’s making the dating pool a cesspool. Because of the constant barrage of people telling us to look out for number one, a disproportionate number of people no longer seem to care at all about the emotional fallout that their dating habits tend to have on other people. What I’m saying is that we’ve started to mimic the same kind of ethics as the airline industry. Flying on an airplane USED to be glamorous. It was something people longed to do, just because you were treated so well by the airline staff. Flying during the 60s meant that you’d be served champagne by models, given ample leg room, and would never be dragged off a plane.

Such was the way that dating used to be. Both parties treated one another well. However, much like with the airline industry, people started to try to see how much “good” they could extract from a person without putting in much effort. Slowly, the things that made dating special got chipped away and replaced with cheaper things. Guys stopped sending flowers to girls they liked, but girls still dated them. Girls stopped cooking meals for guys, but guys kept dating them. Guys stopped paying for dates, girls picked up the slack. Girls started to ghost guys regularly, guys started to do the same. You get the idea. Eventually, the “airline” of dating turned into a nightmare, a delay-filled experience with grumpy flight attendants, beatings if you refused to “volunteer” your seat, and cramped legroom. Much like with airlines, people stopped looking forward to flying...and started trying to find alternatives.


The Economics Of Dating: This Is Why Dating In 2024 Suuuuucks Pexels / Brett Sayles

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5. What could fix this terrible dating economy?

Honestly, I’m not completely sure that the economy of dating could be fixed. It would take our society as a whole to look at the way we treat people to do so. It would also require people to invest in the “customer experience,” even with people they aren’t attracted to or willing to commit to. Moreover, the biggest problem — the oversaturated market — would have to solve itself. So, perhaps, that may mean people quitting online dating because it’s become a cesspool. Perhaps that means more people need to rage-quit the scene. I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that it’s an increasingly worrisome trend that will probably end with both genders viewing one another as enemies rather than lovers.


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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.