Why You Would Rather Date Three People Than Be Happy With One

The first video I’ve ever posted on my blog is appropriate in a number of ways.

First of all, the subject matter is dating related.

Second of all, it has to do with the Paradox of Choice – and, in three and a half minutes, logically explains why we date multiple people simultaneously.

Finally, it’s a video by Dan Ariely, a professor from Duke University – my alma mater.

Enjoy and don’t forget to post your thoughts below.

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  1. 1

    What an interesting peek into the human psyche. In my mind, a couple of things are going on: first, we live in a world where there are so many choices available to us that it’s difficult to make a decision about one and stick by our guns. Two, I think we live in an era where there is a mentality of “the grass is always greener elsewhere”. Commiting to one means we give up all the others and no one wants to pay that price. Well, the grass may be greener on the other side, but guess what? You’re gonna have to mow that grass too. Thanks for sharing that video,

  2. 2

    i think that’s so true…i’ve experienced it…when you feel a relationship is slowly dying , and inexplicably the person withdrawing makes these fleeting attempts to touch base again, just keep his foot in the door so to say, so that it wouldnt close on him.creates havoc for the person trying to come to terms with the reality

  3. 3

    Lucky, I think what we forget, too is that door is closing for a reason and we probably should let it close.

  4. 4

    I think this approach works in the beginning of a relationship, when people don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket in case things don’t work out. It’s called “keeping your options open”. At some point, though, if you want to have a more serious or committed relationship, you’re going to have to choose. Another question, if one person seems more evasive than another, does that make the more elusive person more desirable? Maybe that’s why playing hard to get works!

  5. 5

    The question is are we “dating” or looking for a relationship? If you are just looking for “dates” having several on the string can work fine. But, if it’s a relationship you are seeking, personally I don’t find I can give proper attention to 3 guys at one time, not to mention how “available” I am for dating any one of them on a Saturday night. When you are not available, people just move on, because someone else is.

  6. 6

    I’ve experienced this myself. I’m currently active one match & when I first joined back in February I started exchanging emails with one man in particular on a daily basis. We’ve never actually met and after a while he stopped emailing me regularly. I stopped emailing him but twice now he’s sent me emails out of the blue after not hearing from him for several weeks. The video explains why as far as I’m concerned. I have to agree with starthower.

  7. 7

    texasdarlin, had that same experience myself. If I someone stops contacting or interacting with me and then all of the sudden decides to start up again, I’m not sure I’m going to put a whole lot of faith in their motives. I’m likely to think, well, they were never really that interested. Granted, minds and hearts can change, but once you move on, it’s difficult to get that momentum back.

  8. 8

    startheower, I’ve emailed him back, but gone on about my business. I don’t hold out any hope of anything coming out of it. I had thought it odd as that had not been my experience before. Usually they “disappear” and never return.

  9. 9

    That disappearing or drifting in and out thing is precisely the reason why I refuse to get out there right now. I can see Evan now telling me I can’t change it, and he’s right, I can’t. But I can at least refuse to ride the roller coaster.

  10. 10

    This thread feeds off a reply to another post (by Jennifer perhaps?) that questioned whether online dating has furthered dating or just set us back as it undoubtedly feeds the “there’s a million people out there so why settle down with just one?” mentality. To texas, I agree with you regarding picking up on their motives… however, before you meet in person, it’s pretty tough make anything feel “real”. I would give it one more chance – you never know! It’s all about timing.

  11. 11

    I could be wrong, as you say it’s hard to say without actually meeting, what I left out was that early on, (either end of Feb or beginning of March) I had asked if he wanted to meet. He said yes. That was the first time I didn’t hear back from him. Knowing what he does and where he works could account for the lackof communication, but one of the the things that Evan has said repeatedly in various responses and blogs, that if a guy is really interested he’ll make an effort to contact whether via phone or, in this case email. It’s been at least a month since the last two contacts. I could be way way off base, but I see it is not really interested, but hanging onto an option on his part.
    After reading Evan’s books and this blog I’ve developed more realistic expectations.

  12. 12

    I agree with you, starthrower, about the grass always being greener elsewhere, and it’s a complicated dance. If I’m always looking for greener grass (as I sometimes do, I’ll admit), and if he’s always looking for greener grass, what are the chances that we both decide, at the same time, that the two of us are the greenest grass? Kind of discouraging….

  13. 13

    Not much motivation to keep trying, is it Jenn? At least it’s not unless you’re a person who is never wanting for dates. But for those of us who have some flaw and can’t work the numbers like others, it’s difficult to see the point in hanging in there rather than dropping out.

  14. 14

    I watched this vid again, and thought, wait a minute, these are college kids! Is that who the researcher used as test subjects? Would the results be the same with older folks (like most of us on this blog) with a lot of dating experience, who might not feel the need to experience lots of partners and are more ready to settle down with one person?

  15. 15

    Hey, Starthrower68,

    I’ve noticed that you’ve been a little down on yourself and a bit pessimistic about finding a relationship. You need a little inspiration. The motivation to hang in there is because a rich and full life is about making connections with people and a really important connection is with a romantic partner. Believe it or not, the new animated movie “Up” does a wonderful job of showing that it’s the various types of connections that we have that makes life wonderful and special. It shows that ordinary people (even slightly flawed one), can find extraordinary love. You should go see it. It will make you feel better.

  16. 16


    I love the new commitment to daily blog activity! Thank you!

    This was an interesting video, but I have to echo Ava’s question about whether or not this would apply to older daters. Also, the situation is premised on everyone having at least three available “doors,” which may not be the case, intentionally or not.

    I have recently let a couple of doors close when I realized I was in a relationship that had the potential to be what I said I wanted for a long time now. Only time will tell if that proves correct, but it felt empowering to let the other guys go. Keeping one foot in the door is, more often than not, agonizing and futile.

  17. 17

    It’s a valid question and one experience neither proves nor disprove the theory. In my case I’m 39 & he’s 40. It would be interesting to see or hear about other people’s experiences.

    Congrats, Cilla, I hope all works out for you

  18. 19

    Thanks Kenley. Star is just very tired, but still endeavors to persevere.

  19. 20

    Quality not quantity

    I think the online dating medium has also created this three door dilemma for a few reasons (many already mentioned in the above posts). I recently went out with two guys I met online and am due to meet one more from another site. The first guy I went out with twice, got a positive email from him the 2nd night we went out, and haven’t heard from him since. The second guy I went out with once, but he calls on a regular basis and we are due to go out again.[I’m not holding my breath] I am in email stage with the 3rd guy.

    What I’ve noticed from online (and probably offline) dating is that there seems to be inconsistency with follow-up from guys (some disappear suddenly and then “come out of the woodwork” weeks/months later) which leads many women to dating a few men at the same time. I’m looking for a relationship with one guy and my philosophy is to wait for the cream to rise to the top. I’ll let the other doors close naturally and will not look back when they do.

  20. 21

    Hey Delicia,
    I can’t take credit for the post you mentioned, but point well taken.

  21. 22

    But how do you know the person you really like is going to reciprocate and begin a relationship with you?

    Let’s say Person A is Awesome and you would have a relationship with the person. Let’s say that Person B is Pretty Good too, but for whatever reason is a second choice.

    When I am in this situation I talk to Person B not because I can’t bear to close my options, but because I want Person B as insurance in case Person A doesn’t work out. I’d commit to Person A, but I can tell she isn’t ready and she may just never want me. Since I don’t want to be stuck with no date at all next weekend and I genuinely see potential in B, I’m going to talk with her too.

  22. 23

    JM-You made a really good point. That has been my experience on occasion. I’ve also gone out on 2-3 first dates in one week. I don’t see the harm in that as you nevefr no how it’s going to go. I’ve had a great time on most of them and have gotten the “It was fun, let’s do this again sometime” speech and have not heard from those men again.

    Sam- Because of the above, I can see your point too. It makes sense. For me, if after several dates, things start to develop further with one man, I’ll close those other doors. But that’s my belief.

  23. 24

    Sam, if B will fall in love with you because of the attention you gave her and A is coming back to you? Will you leave B? And when after a while your relationship with A is not good anymore will you go knock on the door of B?
    What about your responsibility to be honest to B and tell her that she is your second choice, so she knows where she stands?

  24. 25

    Because we want to be able to have a backup in case our first choice does not work out.

  25. 26
    Karl R

    Sam said: (#22)
    “Let’s say Person A is Awesome and you would have a relationship with the person. […] I’d commit to Person A, but I can tell she isn’t ready and she may just never want me.”

    It sounds to me like you’re settling … for a mediocre relationship with an awesome person.

    She’s just not that into you. It doesn’t matter what the reason is … the best course of action is to pursue someone else, like Person B.

    “I want Person B as insurance in case Person A doesn’t work out.”

    If you truly want to keep someone in reserve, don’t date them. Tell them you’re seeing someone else. If you start to date Person A exclusively, you can’t keep Person B as insurance. If you try to string Person B along in the hopes that Person A will become interested in an exclusive relationship, Person B will get the impression that you’re not that into her and she won’t be insurance any longer.

    If Person B knows that you’re seeing someone else, she won’t expect you to pursue her. You come across as having integrity, instead of coming across as indecisive. If Person A falls through, then you can date Person B … provided she’s not dating someone else at that point.

    If she is dating someone else at that point, you still have an opportunity to date her in the future if that relationship doesn’t work out.

    “I don’t want to be stuck with no date at all next weekend …”

    Have a few attractive friends that aren’t candidates for long-term relationships. They make good backup dates, and you don’t need to worry whether you’re being sufficiently attentive.

    You can even tell them that you enjoy their company, but you don’t see the relationship going anywhere in the long run. That way they’re spending time with you for the exact same reason … they enjoy your company.

  26. 27

    @ Karl R #26

    Well said, regarding the “insurance policy.”

  27. 28

    LOL! I’d like to sit in on that conversation! “Well I enjoy your company, but there will never be anything between us. I just want you to be available in case I don’t have a date with someone I’m really into some weekend”. What? Disclaimer: be sure the other person has no deeper interest in you.

  28. 29

    I don’t want to be stuck with no date at all next weekend

    Not really sure how I missed that comment.but I have to agree with Karl. I personally would prefer to know up front that nothing’s going to come of anything and if put the way Karl put it’s not too bad. I say that because I never really want to hear rejection, but honesty is infinitely preferable to being left waiting. Starthrower, good point

  29. 30

    You date multiple people at the same time because you’re still evaluating. Some people might have a strong start but then piddle out. Others are slower to get going but then really roar. It’s hard to figure out in a date or two who might be the best fit for you. But once you figure out who the best fit is, then it’s time to cut bait with the others, generally letting them know that you’re seeing someone else.

    Though there are the moments when an almost-ran (Plan A or B) pops back into the picture, wondering if you’re now available, that does create a momentary question mark, I think it helps to strengthen the relationship you’ve chosen with that 1 person. Because when you think about all the positive things about your current relationship, and how likely it is that one of the other candidates could get to that stage with you (ie, not likely, at least in my dating history) then you become happier overall. It’s almost as though if you’re in the committed, fantastic relationship with Plan B, and then Plan A comes calling and you choose to stay with your Plan B, then the Plan B really becomes the Plan A and you feel correspondingly happier.

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