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Jam & Relationships: The Paradox of Dating Choices

Paradox of Dating ChoicesThe terms of dating have changed. Its rare that we say “dating” or “courting” when it comes to our relationships. Not because the terms are seen as old school or dated but rather that the relationships aren’t following the same progression.

Dating is about getting to know another person. However, with modern technology, it is rare that we are getting to know just one person at a time. Instead, we are sifting through profiles, answering texts and meeting people with the swipe of a finger. To that end, singles seek to keep their dating options open for you never know who is just a click away.

In The Paradox of Choice, written by psychologist Barry Schwartz, there is a memorable account of the famous jam study by psychologists Mark Lepper and Sheena Iyengar:

When researchers set up [in a gourmet food store] a display featuring a line of exotic, high-quality jams, customers who came by could taste samples, and they were given a coupon for a dollar off if they bought a jar. In one condition of the study, 6 varieties of the jam were available for tasting. In another, 24 varieties were available. In either case, the entire set of 24 varieties was available for purchase. The large array of jams attracted more people to the table than the small array, though in both cases people tasted about the same number of jams on average. When it came to buying, however, a huge difference became evident. Thirty percent of the people exposed to the small array of jams actually bought a jar; only 3 percent of those exposed to the large array of jams did so.

This is what psychologists refer to as the paradox of choice. In short, having many options makes the decision to pick one harder. It leads to second guessing your choice as to if it is the right one for you or if there is in fact a better one available. Many options lead to higher expectations for “the one,” meaning you aren’t willing to settle or work with someone who fails to meet all requirements on the checklist.

The truth of the matter is that no one will hit all of your preferences. Relationships aren’t about finding the person who fits your criteria for the one. It’s about finding the one that fits your values, traits and personality. Its about finding the person you will grow with and can relish shared moments with.

Stop looking at the options and start looking at the person. Until you narrow your focus on the one across the table from you, you will never see the true person they are.

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