In 2009, eHarmony opened an office in London to launch eHarmony UK. This article is the first in a series that looks at the differences in dating in Britain and The United States. The British side is written by London-based eHarmony Editor Julia Filsell, and the American side by Pasadena-based eHarmony Content Director, Grant Langston.
Dating Multiple people at once time. It seems to be an issue that neatly divides daters. For some it feels unnatural and creepy, for others it’s the only sensible way to proceed. We all know that the US and UK are a “peoples divided by a common language,” but how their tendencies when it comes to juggling more than one romantic interest at a time?
When it comes to dating multiple people at once, it seems that daters here can be broken into two broad groups. I’ll call them – Cool Logicians and Heartfelt Believers.
Cool Logicians have done the math. They have read the experts and considered the research. They know that meeting a great person often means you have to meet lots of people. Logically, this takes less time if you can date several people concurrently.
Is it easy to date several people at once? No, the scheduling can be a headache. Does it feel natural? Not really. You often forget what story you’ve told which person. But Cool Logicians push past these obstacles. They do the work expecting that they are going to meet the most compatible person because they are auditioning lots of potential partners.
Cool Logicians are also aware that dating more than one person at a time can raise your perceived value. It can make you seem more in demand and like a “catch.” Of course, it can also make you seem like a low-down dirty dog.
While it’s a total guess, Cool Logicians make up about 25-30% of the US dating public.
Heartfelt Believers may or may not know the facts of dating. If they do know, they don’t care. They aren’t interested in the logic of shopping around, meeting lots of people, and trying on many different kinds of potential partners. They want to find love with someone they like and the first person that seems to fit the bill is only person they want.
Here’s a typical Heartfelt Believer. Joins 3 online dating services, completes the profiles quickly, begins getting matches and communicates with them. He/She eventually goes on the first date with the first match to respond, likes him/her, goes home and turns off all 3 online dating accounts. Never considers another match and ventures forward dating this one person.
Now, when this new relationship runs aground in 3 weeks, it’s back to the online dating accounts. Does the Heartfelt Believer change his ways? Of course, not. He falls in love with the next, first match and the cycle repeats. Why? Because there’s something deep in him that feels wrong when date multiple people. It feels like cheating. He just wants love with one person, why should he have to juggle 3 or 4 women and deal with a complicated set of feelings for each?
Heartfelt Believers are the vast majority of American daters. 70-75%.
A recent Stanford University study showed that 30% of American couples now meet online. As that number continues to climb, it is likely that Cool Logicians will increase as a percentage of the total. Online dating does make it easier to meet more people and maintain several dating relationships at once. The question is – can people get over that feeling of doing something wrong, even when they aren’t.
I’ll see Grant’s dating groups with four of my own that I think apply pretty neatly to daters in the UK.
Let’s start with the Dating by Numbers group. They’re all about giving themselves the best possible chance to meet someone. They’ll date friends of friends, do online dating, go speed dating, and generally get out there. They’re totally ok with dating multiple people at the same time, after all, it’s all about notching those dates up.
I know what you’re thinking, this group sounds a lot like Grant’s Cool Logicians don’t they? But there’s one big difference: these guys probably only make up about 10% of the UK dating population and – especially if our Advice site is anything to go by – they’re not a popular group. The general feeling is that Mr or Ms Dating by Numbers is always on the lookout for something better, and no one wants to be on the receiving end of that behaviour.
But it’s important to remember that our definition of dating differs from the US. Dating in the UK can often imply the start of a relationship. Whereas, from what I know about US dating culture, it’s a more casual activity where a simple coffee date has very little agenda.
We’ll call group two Hoping for the Best. They’re single, many of them would love to meet someone (they’re romantics at heart), but they’re not the most proactive of people. Their approach is to go about their everyday lives, and hope they’ll bump into someone – hey, sometimes it works! Generally the dating life of someone Hoping for the Best goes something like:
1. Tell all their friends and family they want to meet someone new
2. Get set up intermittently by aforementioned friends and family, with mixed results
3. Open an internet dating account on January 1st, only to abandon it a few months later when their perfect man/woman doesn’t immediately drop into their inbox
4. Drink a bit too much at most social occasions and hope alcohol will make it easier to talk to the opposite sex
5. Keep fingers crossed at all times
6. Finally meet someone inappropriate, date for a while, realise they’re not at all compatible and return to step 1!
I estimate they make up about 60% of the UK population.
Next, we have The Realists. They know, just as the Dating by Numbers group do, that opening up your options is a good idea, and they’ll often be found online dating. But they can be so realistic that, in true British style, they get down on themselves and decide that they might as well just ‘settle’. A typical realist would like to believe in true love, but life’s hard knocks have chiseled them into a cynical dater. They’ve been on the scene for a while and have decided that as long as they meet someone, they might be ok. My very unscientific survey tells me they make up about 20% of the UK dating population.
And finally, we have The Strategists. They are the Special Ops force of dating. They plan their every move with a view to meeting someone. They decide which parties they go to based on the number of single people there, they choose their friends based on whether they’ll help them open up their single network and they join clubs and classes in order to meet more single people. They know what they want – they often have a very specific idea of the person they want to meet in mind – and they’re going out to get it. Unlike the Dating by Numbers group, they don’t date excessively, they just date smart. Unfortunately, this stealth approach is a bit off-putting when it comes to love. Thankfully, they’re a small portion of the dating population, around 10%