Dating isn't easy and love isn't a science, but the judicious application of statistics to your dating life may make the difference between a Saturday night alone and a fun night out. Here's a look at a few dating trends, studies, and statistics that may help improve your love life, both on and offline.
I've spent the last year or so going on a dates that went poorly for a variety of different reasons. That led to a lot of frustration, so I started to keep track of my own behavior in order to figure out what, if anything, I was doing wrong. I also looked for statistics and studies that offered advice about compatibility, how people approach various dating situations, what expectations I should have, and so on. With the help of popular dating site OKCupid's blog, Psychology Today, and a few other helpful sources, I was able to learn quite a bit about navigating the dating world. This post is an in-depth look at how that information helped me and may be able to help you, too.
While there are many positive things you can take away from a scientific look at love, it's important that you remember that people are unique and not easily defined by statistics. If a statistic suggests a person who loves zucchini will also hate every cat owner she meets (note: this is not true at all), you don't want to spend your life running away every time a date has a photo of a kitty in his or her wallet. Statistics and studies can be fascinating, illuminating, and helpful, but it's easy to take them too far. Use the information in this post to help you figure out new and better approaches to dating while avoiding judgments and assumptions on and about the people you meet. You may love zucchini, but that doesn't make every cat lover evil. Keep that in mind as you read.
Online: What to Do Before the Date
How to Make First Contact
When you're dating online, most interactions begin in the same way: a message. This can be a little daunting because you want to say the right thing, avoid saying too much or too little, and do whatever you can to get a reply. OKCupid did a little analysis of which first messages receive the most replies and what they have in common. First, write well and avoid netspeak like "ur" and "wat." Second, avoid missing apostrophes and simple misspellings. Third, avoid physical compliments. They tend to receive lower reply rates, and those low reply rates plummet as the compliments become more extreme. What you want to do is bring up a person's specific interests and appear to be different from the average guy or girl. You also want to keep it to just a few sentences (and sometimes even shorter). While your messages will vary depending on the specifics of the individual you're contacting, here's an example:
How's it going? Maybe this is a weird question, but have you ever been to Din Tai Fung? Your profile said you love dumplings and that place has the best dumplings I've ever had. Anyway, you seem cool and I think we'd get along. Say hi if you're interested.
The information you pick should be something that stands out as something important to your prospective date and it should be a sincere common interest. If they say they're "obsessed with dumplings" that makes it a good choice. If they simply list it as something they like, it's probably not that important. The goal is to find something you're both excited about and make that the focus of your first contact.
It can also help to get the conversation moving on the first message, so you may want to add a question if it isn't already part of the message (like the example above). You can ask something based on what you've already said, or even something more generic (e.g. "How's your week going?"). In most cases, you won't win a person over in the first message so you want to keep the conversation going for a few messages to see if you both want to go out on a date.
Set Expectations for Yourself and Your Prospective Dates
In any situation, dating or otherwise, it helps to be realistic. When you're talking to someone new it's always helpful to uncover any potentially major problems so they're not a point of tension later. For example, if you're a devout Catholic you might want to share that information with a certain atheist who's got you hot and bothered. You don't want to share everything right at the start, of course, but if you're already anticipating friction because of a specific difference it'll help to know how you're going to handle it. If your wall is plastered with Obama posters, you don't want to find out your date has a wallet full of Sarah Palin photos in the middle of dinner. Even if you have opposing political views and interests, you may get along swimmingly. Rather than judge outright, you want to know your actual deal breakers and keep an open mind about everything else.
Discover Your Major Deal Breakers
We all have a list of major deal breakers, and it's a good thing to figure out if any of those deal breakers are present in a guy or girl you like before you go out on a date. But—and this is a very important but—you need to be reasonable. As sex advice columnist Dan Savage puts it, if you've got a list of deal breakers that has more than five things on it you are the problem. Your deal breaker list should look something like this:
- Heavy drug use
- Has no ambition
- Still in love with ex-boy or girlfriend from a decade ago
- Says "I love you" on the first date
- Owns more than two cats (you know, if you hate cats and have a pet hair allergy)
It should not look like this:
- Chews with mouth open
- Leaves mayonnaise out on the counter
- Has opposing political views
- Is shorter/taller than me
- Doesn't think Titanic is the best movie, like, ever!!
You might be surprised by how easy it can be to get over the things that you think make a person completely unappealing. You have to make sure you don't rule anyone out because they occasionally forget to turn of the oven or have been known to enjoy pornography. That said, you don't want to waste your time going out with someone who isn't compatible. One of the benefits of online dating is that you can exchange a few messages and ask these sorts of questions. You don't want to ask "So I was wondering…are you a heavy drug user?" but rather bring up the topic so it can be discussed. Perhaps you're talking about your weekend and you went to a party where you had to leave early because you hate the smell of marijuana. Or perhaps you stayed for hours because of the same reason. Whatever the case may be, try to slip into these topics naturally. Not only will you find deal breakers, but you'll also learn a lot more about a person than you would from just asking "hey, what's up?"
According to OKCupid's statistics, people lie. This is probably not a shock to anyone, even if you're pretty honest yourself, but it's good to know what most people lie about so you're not too offended when you learn the truth.
Both men and women commonly lie about height, reporting to be around two inches taller on average about 10-15% of the time. Both sexes also inflate their income. As a general practice you can assume they make 20% less than what they boast, and the likelihood of an inflating income grows with age. Finally, when you see a particularly attractive picture, chances are it's fairly old. Most of the photos OKCupid users considered "hot" were from a year in the past (or more). While lying is definitely off-putting, and not recommended, these are the kinds of little things you can forgive. Everyone is trying to put their best foot forward, and some people will want to appear as though that foot walks in an expensive shoe and is attached to a slightly longer leg. If you expect these little lies, finding out the truth won't be unsettling and the deception will be easier to forgive.