This always fascinated me. He quickly deduced that she was the appropriate height finally! They decided it would work.
A week later, they were married. And they still are, 35 years later. Happily so—and probably more so than most people I know who had nonarranged marriages. First I texted four friends who travel and eat out a lot and whose judgment I trust. I checked the website Eater for its Heat Map, which includes new, tasty restaurants in the city. Then I checked Yelp. Finally I made my selection: Il Corvo, an Italian place that sounded amazing.
Unfortunately, it was closed. It only served lunch. At that point I had run out of time because I had a show to do, so I ended up making a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich on the bus. The stunning fact remained: This kind of rigor goes into a lot of my decisionmaking.
The question nagged at me—not least because of my own experiences watching promising relationships peter out over text message—so I set out on a mission. I quizzed the crowds at my stand-up comedy shows about their own love lives.
People even let me into the private world of their phones to read their romantic texts aloud onstage. Throw in the fact that people now get married later in life than ever before, turning their early 20s into a relentless hunt for more romantic options than previous generations could have ever imagined, and you have a recipe for romance gone haywire.
In the course of our research, I also discovered something surprising: Our phones and texts and apps might just be bringing us full circle, back to an old-fashioned version of courting that is closer to what my own parents experienced than you might guess. Almost a quarter of online daters find a spouse or long-term partner that way.
It provides you with a seemingly endless supply of people who are single and looking to date. Before online dating, this would have been a fruitless quest, but now, at any time of the day, no matter where you are, you are just a few screens away from sending a message to your very specific dream man. There are downsides with online dating, of course. Throughout all our interviews—and in research on the subject—this is a consistent finding: Even a guy at the highest end of attractiveness barely receives the number of messages almost all women get.
On the Internet, there are no lonely corners. Medium height, thinning brown hair, nicely dressed and personable, but not immediately magnetic or charming. The first woman he clicked on was very beautiful, with a witty profile page, a good job and lots of shared interests, including a love of sports. Imagine the Derek of 20 years ago, finding out that this beautiful, charming woman was a real possibility for a date.
If she were at a bar and smiled at him, Derek of would have melted. But Derek of simply clicked an X on a web-browser tab and deleted her without thinking twice. Watching him comb through those profiles, it became clear that online, every bozo could now be a stud. But dealing with this new digital romantic world can be a lot of work. Even the technological advances of the past few years are pretty absurd.
In the history of our species, no group has ever had as many romantic options as we have now. Laundry Detergent In theory, more options are better, right? Psychology professor Barry Schwartz, famous for his book The Paradox of Choice , divided us into two types of people: We have all become maximizers.
When I think back to that sad peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich I had in Seattle, this idea resonates with me. If you only knew how good the candles in my house smell. When you watched their actual browsing habits—who they looked at and contacted—they went way outside of what they said they wanted. When I was writing stand-up about online dating, I filled out the forms for dummy accounts on several dating sites just to get a sense of the questions and what the process was like.
The person I described was a little younger than me, small, with dark hair. My girlfriend now, whom I met through friends, is two years older, about my height—O. A big part of online dating is spent on this process, though—setting your filters, sorting through profiles and going through a mandatory checklist of what you think you are looking for.
People take these parameters very seriously. But does all the effort put into sorting profiles help? Despite the nuanced information that people put up on their profiles, the factor that they rely on most when preselecting a date is looks. Now, of course, we have mobile dating apps like Tinder. As soon as you sign in, Tinder uses your GPS location to find nearby users and starts showing you pictures.
Maybe it sounds shallow. In the case of my girlfriend, I initially saw her face somewhere and approached her. I just had her face, and we started talking and it worked out. Is that experience so different from swiping on Tinder?
Nor is it all that different from what one friend of mine did, using online dating to find someone Jewish who lived nearby. Americans are also joining the international trend of marrying later; for the first time in history, the typical American now spends more years single than married. So what are we doing instead? As Eric wrote in his own book, Going Solo , we experiment. Long-term cohabitation is on the rise. Living alone has skyrocketed almost everywhere, and in many major cities, nearly half of all households have just one resident.
But marriage is not an altogether undesirable institution. And there are many great things about being in a committed relationship. Look at my parents: I looked into it, and this is not uncommon. People in arranged marriages start off lukewarm, but over time they really invest in each other and in general have successful relationships.
This may be because they bypassed the most dangerous part of a relationship. In the first stage of a relationship, you have passionate love. This is where you and your partner are just going crazy for each other. Every smile makes your heart flutter. Every night is more magical than the last. During this phase, your brain floods your neural synapses with dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that gets released when you do cocaine. Like all drugs, though, this high wears off after 12 to 18 months.
At a certain point, the brain rebalances itself. In good relationships, as passionate love fades, companionate love arises to take its place. If passionate love is the cocaine of love, companionate love is like having a glass of wine. One is at the apex of the passionate-love phase. People get all excited and dive in headfirst. A new couple, weeks or months into a relationship, high off passionate love, goes bonkers and moves in together and gets married way too quickly.
Sometimes these couples are able to transition from the passionate stage to the companionate one. The second danger point is when passionate love starts wearing off. This is when you start coming down off that initial high and start worrying about whether this is really the right person for you. Your texts used to be so loving: Now your texts are like: Hey, that dog you made us buy took a dump in my shoe.
But Haidt argues that when you hit this stage, you should be patient. With luck, if you allow yourself to invest more in the other person, you will find a beautiful life companion. I had a rather weird firsthand experience with this. I was alone, because my friend did me a huge solid and declined to give me a plus one. Which, of course, is the best. You get to sit by yourself and be a third wheel.
The vows in this wedding were powerful. They were saying the most remarkable, loving things about each other. Without you, my soul has eczema. Did they call it off too early, at their danger point?
Did I have what those people had? At that point, no.