The paradox of dating choice: why quality is better than quantity

Toothpaste. Ketchup. Instant coffee. The most everyday list of items and yet the grocery store offers variety after variety of each. Indeed, every decision we make these days – from what to have for breakfast to who to date – is loaded with an abundance of choice: one of the perks of living in a globalized society, right?

In fact, having too much choice may turn out to be more bust than boom, especially when it comes to dating. EliteSingles investigated this ‘paradox of choice’ concept, discovering that long-term happiness might be best achieved when we have fewer options…


What is the paradox of choice?

As popularized by psychologist Barry Schwartz in his 2004 book (and subsequent TED talk), the term ‘paradox of choice’ refers to the idea that too many options in life lead to difficulty making decisions and, ultimately, nagging dissatisfaction. At its heart, the theory essentially says that ‘’the more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option you chose.’’1

This has troublesome implications for Canadians who, like much of the Western world, are living in times of unprecedented plenty. That we have options is certainly a privilege, but does it make us happy? Schwartz doesn’t necessarily think so, theorizing that, when ‘’everything is possible, you increase paralysis and you decrease satisfaction’’2

In other words, too much choice means we tend to agonize over making a final decision and once we do make our pick, we are more likely to regret it. Even when we find a pretty-much-perfect match, we can’t stop considering the alternatives.

Dating, choice and long-term happiness

It’s easy to see how this paralysis and restlessness might relate to something like toothpaste options, but can we apply this idea to people as well as objects? Does the paradox come into play when the question involves something more emotional, like dating choice? Well, yes, as it happens – and the result just might dictate the way in which we look for romance.

Since Schwartz wrote his book ten years ago, many have begun to apply the paradox to people (and to dating in particular), and they’ve found that it certainly influences the way we approach love. Indeed, Schwartz himself said in a recent interview that ‘’my suspicion is that [social media] and dating sites have created just the thing I talk about in connection with consumer goods: Nobody’s good enough and you’re always worried you’re missing out.’’3

It’s not just Schwartz who feels this way; other research has shown that people can easily feel swamped by an unfiltered online dating process. When faced with a sea of profiles, daters can fear being left behind – leading them to make quicker decisions, based on less compatibility information. The general idea is this: when you’ve got a ton of options to swipe through, you don’t have time for anything other than rapid judgement calls.4

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but whether or not it appeals will depend on your relationship goals. In the words of sex and relationships researcher Dr Amy Muise, having lots of dating options is ‘’a strategy [which] may be better suited for daters who are looking for casual sex as opposed to a long-term partner.’’5 If your tastes run more towards the latter, then it might be time to think about streamlining your options – focusing on quality, not quantity.

How EliteSingles can streamline your options.

EliteSingles is designed for those seeking deep compatibility and lasting love – so it shouldn’t be surprising that, when matchmaking, we prefer the streamlined approach. Our partner suggestions are targeted to each member’s specifications, enabling us to pair our users with other Canadians who are truly on the same wavelength.

This doesn’t mean that we completely remove chance from the equation: instead we prefer to stack the deck in our members’ favour. Instead of a flood of potential matches, we offer a manageable selection of highly compatible suggestions – typically 3 – 7 per member, per day (although this number can go as high as 20 with the ‘have you met ‘ feature). We think this is the ideal number for serious online dating: it allows time to browse profiles carefully while still giving our members the freedom to choose the right partner for themselves.

Furthermore, although our partner suggestions are streamlined, they are always based on each user’s individual preferences: from personality to relationship goals to location in Canada. This means that, even though we don’t offer unlimited dating choice, our members are still very much in the driver’s seat when it comes to the search for love. We just help them reach their destination that bit more easily.

Are you ready to take the smarter route to lasting love? Then join EliteSingles today – click here to get started with our free personality test.

Have you ever experienced the paradox of choice? Is quality or quantity better when looking for love? Let us know below or email us at [email protected]

About the author: Sophie Watson

See more articles written by Sophie Watson