There are many fish in the sea, but with the advent of Match.com, Tinder, even Twitter, those fish have never been so easy to catch. We can order up our next date the same way we order a pizza.
One in 10 Americans – and a total of 91 million people in the world – are now looking for love online. With that many people at our fingertips, dating has become a game of quantity over quality.
“First dates are easy to get,” said Lauren Fogel, a psychologist and certified sex therapist for Allina Health Nicollet Mall Clinic, but landing a second “is a mark of triumph.”
Combine busy schedules, a need for instant gratification and the ever-replenishing well of the Internet, and it’s no wonder that many daters prefer to keep their options open.
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“When it’s so accessible like that, it gives the perception that there’s always something better out there,” Fogel said. “Unless it’s a breathtaking, magical experience, we’re not giving enough of the ‘maybes’ a chance.”
There are a number of reasons why a relationship might fail to flourish after the first date. There are the obvious faux pas, such as bragging, drinking too much or talking about your ex. But other, less transparent missteps can be just as damaging.
SET UP FOR DISAPPOINTMENT
David Konopacz is fed up with online dating, saying he often feels he’s been duped once he meets a woman face-to-face. The 55-year-old St. Paul, Minn., luxury car salesman admits that the “thrill of the chase” usually ends in disappointment.
“When you find a potential match, you’re excited and your expectations are high,” he said. “When you meet that person and those expectations aren’t met, that’s frustrating and then you don’t want to waste your time.”
While there are no doubt instances of bait-and-switch online, Twin Cities dating coach Kimberly Koehler said that many first dates fail because of the human tendency to believe what we want to be true when given incomplete information.
“A lot of people will read a profile, create an idea of who that person is, get their hopes up, and then they meet them and it falls short in 2.2 seconds,” Koehler said. “They’re devastated … and the person they’re on the date with is going to have a very hard time recovering from that judgment.”
Koehler also said that daters often misconstrue vague statements such as “I like to work out” to match their own expectation of the phrase – whether that means an affinity for weekend hikes or training for the Twin Cities Marathon.
It doesn’t help that we have less than a second to impress prospective mates with our prowess. Princeton psychologists found that strangers form impressions within a tenth of a second of seeing our face. Talk about pressure.
As for Konopacz, he’s hopeful he can keep his expectations in check when he joins a singles golf league he found on Meetups.com.
CHEMISTRY ON DEMAND
If you’ve experienced the feeling of being swept off your feet, you may count yourself among the lucky ones. But it’s a double-edged sword. Once you’ve experienced the euphoria of love at first sight, you may launch yourself on a mission to find it again. And again.
A recent neuroscience study on love found that the euphoric “love at first sight” feeling has the same addictive impact as cocaine. Neurotransmitters like phenylethylamine (the “love drug”) and oxytocin are released when we meet a special someone, so it’s understandable that so many first dates turn out to be last dates if there’s no immediate spark.
This is especially true of millennials, who often get labeled as the “Instant Gratification Generation.” The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that the hyper-connected lives of people age 35 and under lead to a lack of patience.
“When a young person doesn’t feel immediate chemistry, the likelihood of a second date is lower than it’s ever been,” said Tai Mendenhall, an associate professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota.
“Chemistry absolutely can grow over time, but in this fast-paced culture we are in, and with the availability of potential partners, it’s the exception to the rule,” he said. “Most of the time there needs to be a little bit of chemistry to get to the second date.”
Psychologists say our social intuition – our gut, our inner voice – is usually spot on. In other words, when we meet someone who gives us a bad feeling, we should trust our gut and not see them again. But we shouldn’t let their looks alone shape our opinion. If there’s no physical chemistry right away, another area of our brain kicks in to help us decide if someone’s personality makes them a good catch.
That’s why Koehler advises her clients to have a three-date rule.
“If you look at them and can say they’re an attractive person, but you don’t feel the lust, that wow, that spark, then you really owe it to yourself and them to go out three times,” Koehler said. “It allows you to get to know them as a person … you may see them in moments that make them more attractive.”