In Finding Your Soulmate: Should You Date More or Date Less?

Alone on Valentine’s Day? Getting sick of being questioned on when you’ll finally get married? You’re not alone. In fact, you might be one of many others who are still unsure of how you’ll finally meet ‘the one’. In Indonesia, a growing number of adolescents who grew tired of searching and waiting for their spouse prefer to skip dating and go straight into marriage (The Wall Street Journal, 2021). However, this choice might be too extreme for the large majority. As a result, singles are often faced with two choices: to look for their destined lifelong partner or to keep still and wait for one.

In this article, we will discuss whether single Indonesians should date more or date less in the context of finding their soulmate. We will cover the two sides from a psychological, societal norm, and technological advancement perspective. From there, we will be able to establish which lifestyle is best for Indonesians who are yet to find an everlasting romantic partner. On top of that, we will also discuss an alternative to this dilemma for those who are still holding the single card.

Going into romantic relationships is inevitably going to affect an individual’s psychological development, as these relationships occur from a mutual sense of emotion between two persons. Sullivan (1953) asserts that one of the important developmental tasks of adolescents is the formation of romantic relationships. By dating more, individuals gain more experience and learn from each one. From these relationships, people can get a better sense of the criteria that they look for in their partner. However, Finkel, et al.(2012) states that even with today’s increasing use of online dating as a tool for easier casual dating, it creates skepticism towards its users. Every time an individual ends a relationship with someone, they would set higher standards for their next partner, and this may cause them to become unnecessarily skeptical as well as having an impossible standard for their future spouse.

On the other hand, dating less may strengthen an individual’s independence. A study has shown that single women develop a stronger sense of security over their identity and have a better mental well-being than married women (Marks,1996). Research conducted on high school students also reveals that students who were not in romantic relationships had better social skills and lower depression compared to students who were dating (Douglas & Orpinas, 2019). However, people who have less experience in dating may become too naive and could experience a ‘shock’ when they finally get into a romantic relationship.

Apart from considering dating from an emotional context, cultural aspects also affect people’s decisions, especially in Indonesia. It has been widely known that Indonesians care for each other a lot which might be rooted in the society’s norm to care for those living in their neighborhood. The problem is that sometimes people take it the wrong way so they lose the limit to get involved in other people’s private life matters, including romantic life. Whatever the circumstances, some of these “caring” people tend to only see the dark side. Singles who are not actively dating, for instance, will be perceived negatively and badmouthed, discriminated as a pathetic old bachelor(ette) due for a lonely life as DePaulo (2007) mentions. More so, these singles will be drowned in questions of whether or not they have a partner or when they will get married. For some, these typical questions are quite bothersome that they simply smile politely as a response, trying to repress the fact that they haven’t found someone interesting to date or they have been busy in other aspects of life.

On the other side, when someone keeps changing his/her partner, they will be viewed as a non-committal player or promiscuous, an unequal view towards different genders since these labels are usually deemed shameful only for women. In fact, the reason why some people keep changing their dates is that they still haven’t found the one who matches their preferred criteria. It can be concluded that whatever approaches we use on finding the one, society may always see the downside. Therefore, it is better to not take others’ opinions seriously on our journey to find the one.

Some psychologists, including Fiore & Donath (2004), claim that the emergence of technology development in the dating world has increased the accessibility of people to find “the one” romantic partner in a greater dating pool compared to a face-to-face experience. It will help those who have limited amounts of acquaintances as their spouse candidates and also broaden their choices if they still hardly determine their preferred criteria. Also, the platforms shorten the process of selection by questionnaires and showing profile self-description which may depict the personality. The access to countless choices seems tempting at first. However, the side effect of this privilege may trigger another drawback to our main objective such as the paradox of choices to find “the one”.

With so many people we encountered, we may find that there are too many interesting candidates to be chosen as our final decision. Although we already have certain criteria, the technology itself will help and confuse us at the same time by recommending potential candidates from the algorithms based on the questions and swiping patterns. It may curate through our preference similarities and then we may find the same level of attractive people. It may, therefore, lead us to confusion rather than the happiness of finding the one as we may end up dating numerous appealing choices. Moreover, the arrival of dating apps, as suggested by Alexopoulos, et al. (2020), could promote people to commit infidelity rather than finding a soulmate.

As it happens, some mathematicians have offered an alternative approach on how to decide who is “the one”. The theory is originally called “optimal stopping theory” which can help people in determining when to stop for several problems such as choosing a house to live, selecting an assistant, gambling, and even settling down with your future spouse. We usually find people who we match within different times of our lives, and we’d have to go through breakups to build our preference. Imagine if everyone who is compatible with us in a romantic relationship can be laid out in front of us at the same time, it’d be easier to choose the best one as our true soulmate. That is, however, not how the dating game works. To address this issue, Fry suggests people use a magic number from a statistical theory to know when to stop searching for the best possible candidate out there, and the magic number is 37% (2015). She advises that you should reject 37% of candidates you’ve met whether it be time-based or headcount-based. After that, you should settle down with a candidate at the same level or better from the best candidate you’ve rejected during the rejecting period.

The time-based method is used when you have a certain time limit of what age you should settle down. You can do this by multiplying your time window by 37%. For instance, if you start dating when you are 15 years old and you want to end your bachelor(ette) at 30, you’ll have a 15 years time window which results in around 6 years of rejection. Therefore, you should not settle down between 15–21 years old no matter how good the candidates are and after that period you may begin finding a similar or better suitor for the rest of the period with settling down in mind.

Similarly, for the headcount-based method, we should initially calculate how many candidates will possibly become our lover during our lifetime. To solve this problem, Backus (2010) recommends us to use the Drake Equation which initially determines how many extraterrestrial civilizations could probably communicate with. The equation from which Backus calculated has considered several factors such as the population growth rate, the fraction of women in the country, proximity within the city, and many more. After some adjustment to his objectives, he also added some key features which the Drake equation did not address, which are how many candidates will also find him attractive, single, and may get along with him. Then, Backus multiplied the number of potential suitors by 37%. This mathematical method seems daunting at first, especially when you imagine the best possible suitors showing up within the rejecting period and you may find it hard to meet other suitors who match the criteria, even when you may end up with no one. However, the goal of this method is to get the optimal choice, it isn’t necessarily the best but it means you’ll win the game. As Parker says, if you choose something that is slightly below the best option, it may leave you only slightly less happy (2014).

In conclusion, finding a soulmate for singles is definitely a challenge. They are faced with having to decide whether they should date more people or date less people. In addition, Indonesia’s tight-knit culture contributes to the pressure that single individuals feel when they are questioned on their relationship status. Dating more provides the opportunity for individuals to learn from each experience, which helps in their emotional development and can also make their preferences clear. However, even though dating is now easier through the increasing popularity of dating apps, people who often change their partners are often viewed negatively in society. On the other hand, dating less may help people to become more independent and develop a higher sense of belonging in their identity. Although, those who extremely lack experience in dating may become too naive and could experience a ‘shock’ once they do get into a serious relationship.

A mathematical method has been developed by several mathematicians where singles could determine when they should start dating for experience and when they should start dating for settling down. This method may be beneficial for those looking to have a concrete limitation on their dating life. However, it may provide practical results, which doesn’t always mean the best result.

It seems that both sides have equal ups and downs in terms of psychological/emotional development, societal views as well as technological advancements. At the end of the day, the choice of whether people should date more or date less falls on the preference and personality of each person. For example, some people may tolerate the fact that they are continuously questioned on why they never or rarely date, while for others it becomes an emotional burden that motivates them to start dating more.

What about you? Which would you prefer?

by Anindya Paramitha & Nugraha Suryakomara

References

Alexopoulos, C., Timmermans, E., & McNallie, J. (2020). Swiping more, committing less: Unraveling the links among dating app use, dating app success, and intention to commit infidelity. Computers in Human Behavior, 102, 172–180.

Backus, Peter. ‘Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend.’ Warwick Economic Summit, 2010.

DePaulo, B. (2006). Singled out: How singles are stereotyped, stigmatized, and ignored, and still live happily ever after. Macmillan.

Douglas, B., & Orpinas, P. (2019). Social Misfit or Normal Development? Students Who Do Not Date. Journal of School Health, 89(10), 783–790.

Emont, Jon (2021). More Young Indonesians Skip Dating, Go Straight to Marriage. New York: The Wall Street Journal.

Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating: A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public interest, 13(1), 3–66.

Fiore, A. T., & Donath, J. S. (2004, April). Online personals: An overview. In CHI’04 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1395–1398).

Fry, H. (2015). The mathematics of love: Patterns, proofs, and the search for the ultimate equation. Simon and Schuster.

Marks, N. F. (1996). Flying solo at midlife: Gender, marital status, and psychological well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 917–932.

Parker, M. (2014). Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician’s Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More. Macmillan.

Sullivan, H.S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: W.W. Norton.

Thought-provoking conversations from Indonesian preferred candidates of the New Zealand Scholarship.