The Paradox of Online Dating: Too Many Options Makes It Harder to Invest in a Relationship

March 18, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller


“When we are in a relationship but continuously with one foot out and continuously thinking about how the outside world is more tempting and more interesting and so on, it’s actually not a good recipe for investing in a relationship. It’s not a zero-sum game–it gets better when you invest in it.” – Dan Ariely

In any relationship, you’re bound to discover that your partner has one or two (or maybe ten or twenty) quirks that eventually come to annoy you. In these situations, it’s tempting to think that you might be happier with someone else—someone who doesn’t have the same set of peccadillos. However, according to behavioral economist Dr. Dan Ariely, this kind of thinking can set you up for a lifetime of disappointment.

According to Ariely, when you date someone but are always looking at your other options (as is the case with many people who enter the world of online dating), it discourages people from investing too much in any one relationship. We never truly give anyone a chance. Tinder and other online dating apps create this illusion that there’s always someone out there who’d be a better match—a more “perfect” partner.

However, when we idealize our romantic alternatives like this, we don’t allow ourselves to put forth the time and effort necessary to build the foundation for a successful relationship. 

To learn more about Ariely’s take on relationships, check out the video below.

Watch more videos on the science of sex and relationships here.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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