Asking for a Friend//

I’ve Had No Luck on Dating Apps. Should I Give Up, or Do I Need to Lower My Expectations?

The search for the right match can feel stressful, but a Gottman therapist says you don’t need to adjust your standards just yet.

Sergey Causelov/ Shutterstock
Sergey Causelov/ Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships—with romantic partners, family members, coworkers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!

Q: I live in a big city, and I’ve had trouble meeting people in person. I’d love to start a new relationship, but I find that everyone I’ve met on a dating app has been disappointing. I have a good job and great friends, but I’m finding it hard to find someone I can really see myself settling down with and it’s becoming stressful to keep going on dates that don’t lead to anything real. Am I wasting my time on the apps, or are my expectations simply too high? Is there a way I can change my mindset and get better at keeping an open mind on dates?

A: It can be incredibly difficult to stay hopeful after meeting someone on an app and sitting through a not-so-stellar first date. The stress you’re experiencing is completely common — and as a single woman, I can definitely relate. Apps and dating sites can be a significant time commitment, and the level of interaction and messaging needed just to get to a first date can feel overwhelming. 

To start, I can understand why you would ask about lowering your expectations. It can be hard to find the energy to keep going on dates when you know that it can take many dates before you meet someone with whom you click and want to go on a second date. Somewhere in the middle is a good place to stay: Have some hope that you can find the right person, and know that finding the right match doesn’t typically happen right away.

It’s also important that you don’t spend too much time talking online before meeting — all of that back and forth can feel like a waste of time if you meet in person and discover that it’s not the right match. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a noted anthropologist and consultant for Match.com, has seen that in her research. She says the only way to know if you have a future with a person is to meet face to face, since “the brain is the best algorithm.” Laurie Davis, author of Love at First Click, recommends no more than six messages before meeting offline, since that gives you enough information to know if they are someone you’d want to date. It can also help to keep that first date shorter, like getting coffee. Then at most, you spend an hour together and if it’s not a match, you can walk away without having spent too much time. 

I would also try to diversify your dating options. Tell your friends you are willing to be set up on dates, or find someone with similar interests by joining a cooking club, or taking a dance class. Meetup.org, for example, allows you to search for a special interest area — like Spanish conversation, hiking, or kayaking — and then you can attend group outings based on that interest. When you broaden the ways that you meet potential dates, you increase your chances of success. And if you feel like you’ve reached dating app burnout, it’s OK to try something different. Think about how people met before the internet. They met people in their neighborhood, at work, in college, through mutual friends, and by volunteering. 

It may feel stressful right now, but keep trying and looking, and you will find someone. Love is worth the effort you are putting into the search.

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