A Brave New Romance

By Noah Graff

Courtesy of Huffington Post

My search for a romantic life partner is a dramatically different process with different goals than those of my parents and grandparents. Today’s dating world revolves around online dating sites, text messaging and partner experimentation. It yields opportunities to go out with tons of diverse people but produces a lot of confusion as well.

I recently listened to the book, Modern Romance, written by the hilarious young comedian Aziz Ansari. The book analyzes the dating world of today’s current singles (like me), particularly those around my age of 35 and younger. Ansari, age 32, relates to my current search for a soulmate, giving some perspective that hopefully will help me eventually figure things out, and JUST SETTLE DOWN ALREADY! The following blog gives you a taste of the book’s insight and a little window into my own search to find THE ONE.

One distinction for my generation of daters is that we marry at a much older average age than our predecessors. In the United States, women today marry at an average age of 27, men age 29. For his research Ansari interviewed residents at a retirement home who had married at an average age of 20 for women and 23 for men. Most of the “older folks” he interviewed shared that they had married people with whom they lived in close proximity. They often had lived across the hall in the same building, were next door neighbors or went to same school growing up. Fifty years ago, it was harder to meet a lot of people, long distance travel and communication were more difficult as well. Also, people felt that it was important to find a spouse in their early 20s because marriage was the major step to adulthood. After high school or college it was assumed that a person got married and left the house. Hopefully he or she would settle down with someone compatible, and a companionable love would grow over time.

Society’s attitudes about marriage have changed over the decades. Women have more career choices, views about abstinence before marriage have changed—thank God, and our expectations are simply different. Now people of my generation have the opportunity to experience adulthood into their 20s and 30s without having to marry. We have the opportunity to focus on college, exploring various careers and pursuing side passions (such as making films and salsa dancing, in my case). We also have the opportunity date a lot of different people, hopefully learning from past relationships to better understand what we want when we finally settle down. Because we have such extensive time and opportunities, the majority of people today aren’t looking for just a decent life partner, they are searching for a soulmate.

Today people have more time and and a myriad of tools to meet new people, such as online dating sites, which can create overwhelming quantities of options for potential partners. Of Americans today who describe themselves as “single and looking,” 38 percent have used online dating. When a user signs up for an online dating site, usually the person is asked to select what type of relationship he or she is looking for. Often the choices include selections such as marriage, long-term relationship, short-term relationship, friendship, and sometimes even casual sex. The user then gets to sift through thousands of profiles, reading (often ignoring) self descriptions and pouring over endless photos. Users can systematically filter which types of people they want to look at, requesting specific body types, religions, drinking habits, smoking habits, sexual preferences, you name it. The dating sites also attempt to use algorithms to match people they believe will like one another.

According to  Ansari’s research, at the time Modern Romance was written, OkCupid, one of the largest Internet dating sites (which I recently signed up for), creates around 40,000 dates everyday. A study from a University of Chicago researcher found that between 2005 and 2012 more than 1/3 of couples who got married in the United States met through an online dating site. In that period, online dating led to more marriages than work, friends and school combined!

Match.com launched in 1995, which was the first online dating site that allowed users to select one another in real time, rather than solely using algorithms to automatically match users. When the site launched, Gary Kremen, the company’s founder and first CEO, proclaimed to the world that Match.com would “bring more love to the planet than anything since Jesus Christ.” No doubt it has created a lot of loving relationships—along with friendships, frustration and broken hearts, things which of course often go hand in hand.

So am I better off as a single in the age of a “Dating Super Highway,” in which I can meet thousands of singles from all over the world on my iPhone? Or would I be better off if I had three choices for a wife, say…choosing between my next door neighbor, my best friend’s sister and the Rabbi’s daughter? Studies show that when people are offered a huge selection of options on a menu, they are less likely to be satisfied than if they are presented with a small menu with just a few really good choices. I often feel like this when I go to restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory where the menu is actually a spiral notebook. I get overwhelmed by the vast number of choices. I obsess over which dish to select as though it’s my last meal. I suspect this could annoy impatient fellow diners at my table as I send the waitress away two or three times before I can decide.

Modern Romance brings up the theory that the same food menu phenomenon exists in today’s dating world. Daters wonder to themselves, “Is this guy or girl really the one, or can I find someone better?” “‘Does settling down actually mean ‘I’m settling’?” Is my menu indecision to blame for me being 35 years old and single? I hope not. Perhaps other people I was interested in chose a different option than me, thinking (wrongly of course) they could do better.

Maybe it’s a foolish quest to look for a soulmate? Personally, I think there are many good matches for a person out there, but there aren’t any PERFECT matches, so choosing one person to stay until death do you part can be stressful. A person can always go back to the Cheesecake factory for another meal—unless it’s truly a last meal.

So is choosing a wife, like choosing a last meal? Oye! What am I saying? I better choose carefully.

Questions: Is looking for a soulmate unrealistic?

Do you wish you had married later in life?

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25 thoughts on “A Brave New Romance

  1. AvatarJack

    I got married at 30 and divorced at 38. Thought that was it for me. My one and only shot. Tried on-line dating sites with mixed results. Met some nice gals but either they weren’t attracted to me or vise versa. Also met a lot of strange ones. I was just about ready to give up when it happened. I live in the east suburbs of Cleveland. I met a gal, on-line, from the westside, something not done here in Cleveland. No one crosses the Cuyhoga River. I was 48, she was 43. Long story short, we’ve been happily married for 14 years now. I don’t know how it happened. Can’t explain it. I’m just enjoying the ride. I found my soulmate. My advice is – don’t give up. You never know when the right one will come along. You soulmate might just be out there somewhere.

  2. AvatarTheNextBigThingInDating

    Maybe with the advent of Augmented Reality glasses, the ultimate marriage between the old ways and the new methods will converge. Imagine if you had today’s dating database info displayed, real-time, as you went about your normal work/life balance routines and the potential matches were tagged as you walked by. Would our grandparents not be proud that we met someone “local” whom we never would have known where there with either previous method (living + online shopping) alone? Would that not get the dating world back into the real world around them and away from the computer screen in the seclusion of their home or dorm or office.

    We have yet to see just how truly transformative these devices will be.

    Half of everything in life is timing…

    Our business relationships would THRIVE if we got pinged by buyers looking for what we were selling while sitting in an airport terminal,. or driving by on the street passed our front dock door.

      1. Avatarhmmmm

        How so Noah? I don’t understand how mass prejudgment would occur? What would be posted differently about people that they are not already posting online for someone to see if matched up. They would have the same info posted to the same people if the same matching algorithm was used.

        I would posit that one would have the opportunity to reduce pre-judgment bias because you have more contextual data and situational awareness to gain insight from. And you also have the opportunity to ask them questions that you would otherwise not be able to.

        Real-time, vision accessed, data might even allow for more up to date information, in turn allowing for better decision making. Personal dating or business “dating”, if you’ve got updated info from the last time you pulled your phone out, it might make for better relationship building. If done properly of course. As with any new technology, there will be some EPIC fails that will be fun for others to watch.

  3. AvatarRod Eckley

    Did you just actually thank God that women’s views on abstinence have changed?????

  4. AvatarJack

    Guess I was ahead of my time, I married at 27. Wasn’t ready until then.
    Choosing your wife? Sounds like you’re looking through the window at the pet store.
    Go to the restaurants website ahead of time and decide what you’ll have ahead of time.
    I know someone holding out for the perfect guy. She will die alone because he does not exist.
    Friend of mine married someone he meet on a dating site, seemed like a good match. She divorced him took him for everything thing he had.

  5. AvatarJim

    Finding a “soulmate” is not an unrealistic endeavor. The methods one can use in this process is only limited by the imagination as is apparent from all the online activity. I personally chose the prayer method and it was answered for me at age 27. The age of 27 happened to be right for me but certainly it is not right for everyone or is marriage in general. I have now been married for 34 years and each year is better than the one before.

    1. AvatarMarie

      Thank you, Jim. I still feel like I am the luckiest girl in the world. Regarding prayer: I didn’t use the prayer method (if you think of it as asking God for something), I used the “Listen to God” method. I met Jim, a person I could talk to endlessly even if we didn’t always agree, held him at arms length saying I just wanted to be friends, until one night I heard God say, “He is your other half.” I believed that and still believe it. What probably keeps us together is our values, which put simply, are faith, friendship, and family. Also, I might add “work” because I somehow understand a guy who seems to have an emotional attachment to his Acme-Gridleys! LOL.
      Regarding the perfect mate: Noah, People are unique, they are not perfect, they are not objects to be chosen. They are made in the image of God – made to be creative and to live in loving community. Unlike God, though, no one is perfect. I think that is the difficult story of mankind: love, sin and forgiveness.
      Regarding sex before marriage: One thing I have noticed regarding the “sexual revolution” and “women’s liberation movement” which I have witnessed first hand, is that while it started as a desire for women to be viewed as more than a sex object, it seems to have evolved into women desiring primarily to be a sex object. Weird.
      Regarding the multiplicity of choices concept: when I got out of college, I worked at the Limited stores for a few months. They taught us to NEVER let anyone take more than 3 things into a dressing room or they would be overwhelmed and end up buying nothing! Maybe you should take a second look at your Rabbi’s daughter or your best friend’s sister?

    2. AvatarVictor

      I used a prayer method, too. It took some years and I was patient but eventually we met. This month will be our 25th anniversary.

      I didn’t really date during the time I was practicing the method – not because I wasn’t “allowed” but because I just didn’t meet anyone I was interested in. But after some time I met her and we dated then married about 2 years later.

  6. AvatarDave Bradley

    I met my wife in the summer of 1968. We were both going to be seniors in high school (different schools). We have been married for almost 46 years. Can’t say we haven’t been down some crazy bumpy roads along the way. But we’re still together and all the time now realizing how either one of us can’t comprehend being without the other. (Don’t you die and leave me by myself!!!!) We just knew at 17, that this was who GOD wanted us to spend the rest of our life with. I’m fairly certain that GOD only made 1 woman that would put up with me. With the health problems that we have, we are soooo dependent on each other. Could not imagine being alone without her. I hope the rest of the world is able to find their soul mate as soon in life as possible.

  7. AvatarRod Eckley

    Married a girl I met in my senior school play after a year out of high school (19). Separated on our first anniversary (20). Just celebrated our 44 wedding anniversary (63). It is a God thing for sure.

  8. AvatarBrian

    Back in the sixties we met our future brides at dance halls. You asked a girl for a dance, then it was an evening at the pictures. You soon found if you were compatible. Simple enough.

  9. AvatarMichael Gore

    Got married at 18 almost 19, wife is just 6 months younger. That was 1980. Just celebrated our 35th. Blessed with 2 sons both over 30 now.
    Just wanted a life companion. Saw parents, uncles etc… married divorced, did not want that.
    While on paper or in real life we were NOT compatible. God does work wonders. If you both want it. Almost went to the path of divorce 10 years into it all but, The Lord entered our lives and gradually it all worked out.

    just because two people are Christians or committed to a Faith of some sort does not mean it will work. People of faith can be just as pig headed foolish etc… as every one else.

    We both wanted it to work or were to stubborn to not make it work, your call.
    Soul mates I guess so. but the word/phrase reminds me of another phrase ”quality time” Really? If you don’t invest the time in the relationship its not going to work.

    But if you do invest…. The odds get way better. Gods general out line as described in the Bible ( new testament ) does work if we submit to His authority. Not what is right for either, but what is right by and for God. Takes the ”ME” out of it.

    One thing is for sure, I would not want to have to find a wife today if something happened to the one I have.

    To address the proposed ”New Romance” to many dating people put superficial crap ahead of whats real important in life. Just watch any TV at all that involves a relationship between man and woman. Way more real than we care to admit.


    OK Buffalo Butt here’s the trick…..If your father is the head of the household and you keyed on him find a girl of a like experience. If your mother is the head of the family do that. Someone must be the boss…..sorry but that’s the way it is!
    Your job now is to find how you were programmed, and trust me you were, and make sure the girl is smart, which shouldn’t be much of a problem since you are going to or should find an Ashkenazi Jewish girl. Make sure she doesn’t have any genetic problems in her family then have a bunch of kids….I’ve had nine….and you will have a smooth life. If you pick wrong it will be nothing but great highs and crashing lows like with Bill and Hillary.
    I’ll send you the bill!

  11. AvatarEd Gnifkowski

    35 Noah? More like 15.
    Stop obsessing. Just be open to the people you meet and relax. Let it happen. i could almost gaurantee that you have already passed over “the one”.

  12. AvatarDan

    Do yourself a favor. Read the book “The Five Love Languages” written by Dr. Gary Chapman. Once you find your “life partner”, the knowledge contained in this book will definitely help you.

  13. AvatarSkip

    Ahhhh, God’s advice of abstinence before marriage. I married at 32 after many failed non-marriage, sexual relationships (that I thought I was learning from). After a number of years of marriage and some very rocky patches, I determined that all the previous relationships taught me nothing….or taught me the wrong things. Sex before marriage clouded those relationships and negatively affected my marriage. I regret those sexual relationships as they caused a lot of pain on both sides. You won’t hear that often from a guy, and it’s often hard for people to be honest with something that is considered the norm, a goal (for many) and expected in relationships today.
    We stuck it out and are happily married today, but wish I did not have the regrets and the pain I caused myself and others.
    There are reasons God advised not to have sex before marriage, and they are as true today as they were 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

  14. Avatarmike

    sorry but your definition of “perfect” . . . whatever that is – and your story has too much irony . . . you are a sad deprived twerp . . . good luck.

  15. AvatarKim

    My divorced thirty-something colleague tried out a few dating sites. Her assessment: OK Cupid is for people looking to hook up or date casually, Match.com for a little more serious relationships, but the “best” marriage material was found on eHarmony where people tended to be more genuinely focused on meeting a life partner. She also noted the people tended to come from a higher income/education level than other sites.

    I was lucky enough to meet my husband at work. Married at 29, we’re still happy together ten years later. I believe there isn’t just one perfect soulmate out there, but many who could fill the role, albeit some perhaps better than others. Finding that line of sticking to your standards without being unreasonably picky can be hard.


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