If you’re single and looking for love, you’ve probably had nights that played out like this: You’re sitting on the couch, chatting with your latest Tinder or Bumble match but contemplating what new excuse you’ll use for putting off an actual date.
Eventually the other person gives up, the conversation sputters out and you’re freed up to look for the next best thing. The only problem? You’re guilty of “serendipidating,” an all-too-common dating habit that experts say could cost you a worthwhile partner.
With serendipidating, you leave your love life up to chance, putting off first date after first date because you believe someone better might be around the corner or on the next swipe.
“It happens often because these days people want to feel an instant sense of excitement and chemistry,” said Samantha Burns, a counselor and author of Breaking Up and Bouncing Back: Moving On to Create the Love Life You Deserve. “If you’ve swiped right but are only getting mediocre or ‘good enough’ vibes, you may not be motivated to meet IRL. You keep the person around in your matches or make plans for a date that you can conveniently cancel if you match with someone better.”
But taking that approach to your love life might just leave you lonely, Burns told HuffPost.
“Creating a thriving love life requires active effort,” she said.
“It’s nothing new,” she said. “I did it, too. When my husband was single, he called it BBD: Waiting for a ‘bigger and better deal’ to come along.”
Luckily, Mead and her husband decided to slow down and invest in each other. The couple recognized that the grass is greener where you water it and that no experience in life, especially relationships, comes with certainties or guarantees.
“If your goal is to be in a long-term relationship, then serendipidating will not get you very far,” Mead said. “Life doesn’t work that way: If you put off every job interview or buying a house in hopes of something better coming along, you will weaken your decision-making muscle to the point where it doesn’t exist anymore.”
The trend might not be new, but dating apps have certainly made it easier for singles to bench people. Apps have given us almost endless choices of who we can date, and while that may not be a bad thing, the breadth of choices is making us pickier.
The resulting “paradox of choice,” as it’s been called, convinces us that a more well-suited match is out there. Some research has suggested that the act of rating and comparing people in advance actually makes them seem less attractive when you do meet.
Unfortunately, this pursuit of finding the perfect match often backfires, said Joshua Pompey, an online dating coach based in New York.
“When people are presented too many options, they ultimately wind up choosing nothing,” he told HuffPost. “The paradox of choice is the reason that some of the most successful companies in the world, such as Apple, only have a handful of products to choose from.”
“I always advise singles to not leave things up to fate in their love life, because it's essentially saying you're powerless.”
Dating fatigue related to limitless choices may be why so-called slow-dating apps are getting so much buzz: The apps say they prioritize quality over quantity by giving users one or just a handful of matches a day.
Minimalist dating apps might be the solution, but if you’re single, it wouldn’t hurt to reevaluate your approach to dating at the same time, said Neely Steinberg, a Boston-based dating coach and image consultant.
“I always advise singles to not leave things up to fate in their love life, because it’s essentially saying you’re powerless,” she said. “I’m not suggesting you become a desperate man or woman hunter, but you do need to put a conscious effort into your dating life.”
To that end, Steinberg suggested dating multiple people at once instead of leaving matches lingering in your inbox. After all, you’ll never know if you have legitimate fireworks chemistry unless you meet IRL.
Pompey, meanwhile, said he tells his busy, career-oriented clients that, just like anything worthwhile in life, finding love requires hard work.
“I often give them this scenario: ’If I were to tell you right now, let’s make a deal: I’ll find you the love of your life to spend the rest of your days with, but you have to spend the next six months exhausted and go on a whole lot of bad dates before you can spend the next 30 years with someone special, would you sign up for that?”
The answer is always an enthusiastic yes.
“Online daters have to keep their eyes on the prize, which is lasting happiness,” Pompey said. “Take a small break if you’re feeling burned out, but the keyword is ‘small.’ After two or three weeks, be sure to get back out there again. Leaving love to chance is the worst decision anybody can make.”