Why Are You Single? Perhaps It's The Choice Effect

“It’s impossible not to constantly wonder if there’s something better, someone better.”

My good female friend picked up her third glass of Syrah-Merlot and continued: “If I could only choose between three decent guys, it’d be a done deal. I’d be married already.”

I nodded. Having options–perceived infinite choice–isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. How, then, do you tame indecision, particularly in relationships?

The following guest post, written by Claire Williams, explores some of the more successful approaches… and realizations.

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In 2000, Drs. Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper set up a tasting booth at an upscale grocery store in California. On some days, they put out a selection of six types of jam; on other days they set out twenty-four. Although the wider selection attracted more shoppers, more people bought the jam when there were fewer options. It seemed

the more choices people had, the harder it was to make a decision.

The Paradox of Choice explored this infamous dilemma, in which having more options tends to leave us paralyzed and increase our buyer’s remorse. But what does that mean when you’re not just shopping? What about when you’re doing much more important stuff…like picking a job, a house, or – gasp – a life partner?…

If you ever listened to your teachers, talked to your parents, or watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, you learned that you were a special snowflake and the world was yours for the taking. But for a generation with more options than ever before, how do you choose when you’ve been taught you can have it all?

Choister?

Today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings approach life and love very differently than past generations. The explosion of choices now available has impacted our desires and expectations, and led us to reconsider traditional decisions. Young men and women are increasingly reluctant to make the ultimate commitment and get married, and much of

that is due to all the other glittery options out there competing for our attention – friends, professional success, 30 Rock, the people in the world you haven’t yet dated.

If you love choices and think the world is your oyster, you’re a choister.

In a world where you might have twenty careers by your 31st birthday, you just might want to cultivate some more stability in your relationships.

The “choice effect” is that pit in your stomach as soon as the waiter walks away with your food order and you realize you wanted what she’s having. It’s a reality, and one that impacts our love

lives.

So how do you overcome this paradox in relationships? For your mother’s sake, take notes.

5 Ways to Tame the Choice Effect:

Use the following “C”-words to make the other “C”-word–commitment–less daunting.

1. Criteria:

Before I decided to settled down with “J”, my now fiancé from Argentina, there were several key moments where I questioned the very basis of our relationship. As foreigners in each other’s lands, cultural and language barriers have been an ongoing theme. It’s taken him years to accept that in my country we eat omelets for breakfast – not lunch – and my visible upset at the break-up of Tipper and Al made him more than pause (okay, maybe that’s not cultural). But one day while I related a particularly hysterical Jon Stewart shtick, the worst happened. He told me it didn’t sound very funny. And that’s when I asked myself: could I really spend a lifetime single-handedly explaining the nuances of The Daily Show to a newbie?

My non-negotiables had been there from the start: internationalism, spirituality, and ambition. Although J matched me well on these fronts, we weren’t carbon copies of one another by any stretch of the imagination. He spends hundreds of hours a year on photography, and I traveled around the world for an entire year without bringing my own camera. I still don’t understand if a bass and a bass guitar are the same thing, but there are apparently three of them displayed in our foyer. I had never heard of Maradona.

We make trade offs in our love lives – J’s cultural “shortcomings” are made up for by key compatibilities. As I’ve come to believe, a man who has never tasted peanut butter can still make an excellent father. So think about what you need. Not a never-ending wish list about how the perfect partner will want to attend Lilith Fair and share your love of Neti pots. Pick the stuff that matters and find someone with those qualities.

2. Concentration:

Like Stephen Stills once sung: “Love the one you’re with.”

When J and I had been dating less than a year, I moved half-way around the world for an MBA program. Suddenly

my wonderful, intelligent, handsome boyfriend was a pixelated photo to Skype with. Meanwhile, real, warm-blooded men played lacrosse around me. This world will pull us in lots of directions, and you need to decide what your prize is and keep your eye on it. Don’t get distracted by every boy or girl that musters the energy for a “how YOU doin’?” Don’t forget your fiance’s cello concert because you’re wall-flirting with your middle school crush on Facebook. I’m all for canvassing your options, but beware the shiny ball syndrome.

3. Common Sense:

Does your ideal life involve a mud hut in Nicaragua with a partner equally thrilled by jungle monkies? Then don’t go trolling for men on what’s left of Wall Street. If you’re a conservative Christian who’s into side hugs, don’t make eyes at the atheist hippie at the local coffee shop. Yes, opposites attract. Paula Abdul said so. But they aren’t a long-term win. Don’t fall into a relationship that checks none of your boxes. Although you may think this is destiny slapping you on the face, this is actually just adrenaline. Probably heightened from the fog of patchouli.

4. Calculation:

Keep an eye on the clock. Not in the Marisa-Tomei-stomping-your-foot kind of way. But there’s being picky and then there’s being paralyzed. So ask yourself – whether you’re choosing a pair of shoes, a healthcare plan, or a spouse – “How long SHOULD this take?” For example – would you agree with the following: you should spend no longer than an hour of your life at GAP deciding between unremarkable fragrances, and no longer than 5 years to decide on a partner? Like my best friend who, after dating her boyfriend for seven years, suddenly thought, “How much more data can I expect to gather?” and suggested they elope to Vegas. You don’t have to adhere perfectly, but it’s good to step back, pick a number (I just might recommend two years), and buy a watch.

5. Choose Already:

If you went into an ice-cream store and saw a child ordering an ice cream cone with 7 different scoops, you’d tell him he was idiot (or not, because that is mean and he is small). Don’t be that kid. You don’t get to have everything.

And, to be fair, you don’t want to. College buffet lines were fun at the beginning, but a plate full of pasta-pizza-ranch-dressing-Fruit Loops loses its appeal after a while. So choose.

What stops so many of us from making a commitment is our fear that once we make a choice we have to close the door on all the other options. If we marry Andy, we will never date Charles. True. If we become an architect, we will never be a ferret trainer. Also true. However, if we do sack up and choose to become an architect, then we have a whole host of new and shiny choices to think about! Should we make a doghouse or a people house? Should the house be blue or red? Should the building be small, medium, or big?

Choosing doesn’t limit choices—it just changes them. So feel free to pick that city, that career, that partner, knowing that even commitment brings a whole new set of options – children/pets/red and blue houses – to be excited (and angsty) about.

By the way, I picked me an architect. (See how I tied that up?)

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Claire Williams is co-author of The Choice Effect, which explores overcoming the Paradox of Choice in decisions–big and small–that affect your life. Her previous writing on navigating choices can be found here.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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335 Replies to “Why Are You Single? Perhaps It's The Choice Effect”

  1. I agree that choices can be paralyzing, and we have to avoid that paralysis in order to make decisions. Having said that, I think part of the problem here is the institution of marriage. I believe in ethical polyamory; we shouldn’t have to choose just one person to love, and we shouldn’t assume that the standard two-person relationship is best.

  2. Interesting article. I don’t really think I fall into the choister category. I just set a handful of baseline requirements and it has narrowed the field dramatically. At least, its sure doing a good job of keeping me away from the toxic relationships I used to be so good at finding. I’ve now hit a point where i figure that as long as I stick to my baseline criteria (filters really), the mate will come when the time is right.

  3. Making choices is about moving forward in your life no matter what the subject. Your health, wealth, spirit and relationships are shaped by your choices. The greater sin is to not choosing. That is the worst option.

  4. Tim-

    Great post, I think I have been called confused or gay over the past 6 at least a dozen times by girls, as I am still traveling alone, with a cameraman.

    I have to agree 100 percent with the “choice” idea and still think Hugh Hefner has it all figured out, although society may disagree.

    Side note-Watching “Real Superhumans” on Discovery HD, I am sure you have tackled the features they have on here, but in case not, its great stuff…

    Looking forward to case studing the next book and hosting you at the first annual travel hacking convention, waiting to hear from Amy on that. Hows that for an invite as the closing speaker?

    Aaron

  5. You have to go out into the real world and meet lots of people via your hobbies, birds of a feather….

    btw, having reading the 4 hour work week ( amazingly awesome book, so, do go out and buy it, if your reading this but not got the book yet ) I unsubscribe to auto blog post updates, to keep me focused, on other things

    E is for eliminate 🙂

  6. Great post! I found myself devouring the authors website during the following days and reading the blog comments is really insightfull, thanks to all!

    Personnaly, being only 26 and having dated a few mean, I don’t think this post would have been valuable to me 5 years or even 6 months ago. Life experiences and the knowledge that I have gained from them are ultimately what helps me define what I want in my life. Saying that, I am sure that one would agree that life changes everyday and everyday is a potential new experience that will change oneself… Therefore, how can we expect to want the same thing in the future?

    I had been single for 2 years before I recently went on 5 weeks vacation in Australasia and met several new potential ”dating options”. One of them turned out to be someone I could truly see myself getting attached to. But, he lives on the other side of the world and who knows if he could care as much for me as I would for him. My point is, having the choice to buy rasberry jam is not the same thing as having to chose a partner, I may chose Johnny Depp tomorrow but I doubt he will chose me. Chance, faith and ”the other poeple” come into the equation and make it impossible to rationalize it all… and let’s face it, not everyone can chose anyone… I’m very lucky to be an attractive female and a lot of people tell me that I can have any guy I want, yet I don’t want any of them most of the time! Too many choices may be raising my expectations and maybe if I set my standards lower I would find someone ideal for me.

    But should we lower our expectations?

  7. Totally offtopic, but i had to ask! Did you went this week to the Django Reinhardt festival in Samois (France) ? If not, you really have an identical twin brother ;). Friendly Greetings from Demi. The Netherlands.

  8. Damn good post Claire/Tim.

    I’ve definitely dealt with the problem of too much choice. I like how you tie the choices to not just relationships. I’m 3.5 years into my couchsurfing adventures, and relationships have been just a few of the choices I’ve had to deal with. I am a firm believer that we learn from every decision, every action, or at least the result…. I recently had a relationship that I Thought WAS going to last. She’s an ENTP like me, and was able to keep my attention… but as you said in the article, if you want a mud hut….. I travel a lot, she wants a home base, and only likes to travel occasionally.

    So, from that, I’ve learned a few more things that I have to add to the check list. I’ve now actually been following the advice given in this post, and have actually been turning down some people that while the sex and time spent would be fun, I did not see that there was a future… and at my old age (33), I’d like to start heading in the direction of a relationhip that lasts.

    Thanks for the wonderful insights!

  9. To all the questioners of the world if they made the right decision,

    And specifically to your single female friend (funny eh, that we have to a word so as to not infer “girlfriend” as in a partner – drives me mad),

    If you made the choice to not be with any of the former men, then you didn’t make any mistakes. If you were meant to be with one of them ~ you would be. Simple as that. Guess what? That’s the easy part. Just knowing that you made a choice that feels good then and NOW (which is really most important), guess what could be around the corner?

    The man you choose to be with. Because when it feels right, it will be right and it will happen!

    Now go out there and have the best relationship ever with yourself and watch who rounds the next corner…

    Ah Choices,

    Can’t live with ’em, Can’t live without ‘ em,

    Best wishes only,

    Lux Ladywriter,

  10. Choices! The holy grail of failure.

    I know what it’s like having choices. I’d love to talk about my college days having so many ***** to choose from. (but I won’t expose myself on the internet). Sometimes, I feel it was just an excuse to stay single and not make a decision.

    Early when I started out in business there were so many businesses to choose from, jumping from business to business seemed to be my thing and anything new caught my attention. It was just exciting to start something new (forget about finishing them).

    But eventually it all boils down to mindset. And, yes that word again “Decision”

    If you make a decision to stick to one business at a time. The decision to stick to one woman, the decision to complete every task you start. The way you look at the world will change.

  11. From what I see, as well as teaching lots of single guys how to dance and socialize with women, most people find that they don’t have a lot of choices and settle with whatever comes their way.

    I recommend an abundance (rather than scarcity) mentality. Dating suddenly becomes really interesting.

  12. I would recommend reading some books from the personal MBA list. I have read these and found the concepts very useful:

    Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

    Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

    Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

    The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

    Getting Things Done by David

    (of course Tim’s book, too)

  13. TIM!

    This is a GREAT article. Is it a sign that I am going through this exact same thing at this very moment? My boyfriend and I have gone through this argument many times. Me being the decisive one and him, not so much. He’s always changing his mind about where he wants to live in the future, what he wants to do with his life,even his hobbies change on a weekly basis. He wants to have it all and cant seem to ever CHOOSE. Is there anyway I can get him to read this without telling him that hes suffering from the “choice effect?”

    You’re great! We both worship you!

  14. It’s only really a problem if you WANT to be in a relationship. Otherwise, the wide array of choice isn’t a bad thing.

    There’s also the flip side: what if you have too FEW choices? You might have only 3 people to pick from, but if you don’t want either of those three, you’re also in a pickle.

  15. Love the post. I think we’ve all been caught in indecision at some point and all agree (at least for those who have escaped) that it stinks. Great article to refer to another who is caught up in it.

  16. Interesting take on the choice effect. Life is all about sorting through the options and then fully committing to the final decision. Thank you for your insight.

  17. The title of this post resonated with me, but the content didn’t as much. I don’t suffer from a paradox of choice, but rather a lack of options, I suppose.

    How does a 29 year old woman meet a (straight, available) man in this city? (San Francisco) I’m beginning to think that the answer is…she does not.

    Tim, after reading your book about 1.5 years ago, I started my own business on the side and made major strides in my career. I started to delegate more and reduce stress in my daily life. I also started distance running and ran my first half marathon, lost 15 pounds…etc. So pretty much all good stuff. The one thing that hasn’t changed at all and has maybe gotten worse is meeting someone and/or making a connection.

    So having the problem to have to choose between multiple people would be great at this point.

    If you figure it out – maybe that can be your third book.

  18. Lisa-

    You sound like an awesome catch!

    Most women I run across who have their life in order, and are looking for a man can improve their chances in 2 big ways.

    1. Put yourself out there more- put yourself in more situations where you can meet guys. It doesn’t have to be the bars, but lounges, book stores, or online dating sites all help, and when you do learn to recognize when a guy IS trying to flirt with you. Many women can’t.

    2. Don’t wait for the guy to approach you- because of work and how anti personal life is becoming, many guys are pretty shy. Feel free to step up and let a guy know CLEARLY when you are interested.

    A friend just told me a story how he was out eating at Subway and a girl next to him asked him to open her drink, the cap was on too tight. He did and said it was easy, her friend them commented “are you blind”. It still didn’t click till he left, that she was trying to initiate a conversation. I asked him why he didnt go back in and he said he was too embarrassed to.

  19. So true…Liz Gilbert explored the same in one of her books. (I forget which one-I’ve read all of them) . Anyway, when it comes to relationships, I don’t think it should be about “choosing” the way you choose a pair of pants. In the beginning it is, of course. But, if you love the person you’re with and the relationship is healthy, I can’t imagine what is difficult about “choosing” to marry that person. I met my husband when I was 17. We were just friends for 2 1/2 years and one day we told each other we were in love w/ each other. And the rest is history. We’ve been together for 10 years now. I didn’t seek out certain criteria. The man I fell in love with just happened to be perfect. Yes, I was lucky. But I’m not sure love is about “choosing”. I think it just happens. Love of course is not the only factor when choosing a spouse, but it is the most difficult part to find and also the most important.

  20. I think that men should give up on marriage and face the fact that 95% of women are prostitutes at heart. The rest are lesbians. Marriage is a “stable,” government sanctioned, legally binding form of prostitution.

    And it is more expensive than the most beautiful hooker in Thailand.

    Men, give up the illusion of affection, care and tenderness from a women and grow a pair. You will never find another mother. Women do not want to mother you, they want to mother small children. And they want you to support them while they do.

    Live your life, focus on making money and having fun. Get a vasectomy. Women will come and go as long as you stay healthy and have money, even if you are honest with them and tell them your plans to stay legally single. Most will leave when they finally accept that they are unable to change you despite the power they wield through their sexuality.

    Maybe someday some woman will love you enough that she will stay with you despite your unwillingness to give her your hand in marriage – that is, your money. At that point you can finally wonder if this woman who is willing to give up the ultimate payday of marriage to be with you isn’t interested in something besides money – namely, you.

  21. I found this blog, as well as many of the comments, very interesting.

    I feel a bit of a need to chime in. I find it curious how many people look at “true love” as something that just comes and is meant to be.

    When I met my now husband (G), I was very much emotionally hung up on an ex-boyfriend who was writing and calling me. When G proposed that we begin courting (yes, old fashioned, I know), I had a choice to make. I liked what I knew of G but was honestly not googly eyed over him. I had been hopelessly “in-love” with my ex for years.

    So I, being a rather logic oriented person, actually wrote out lists of what I knew of both of them. The two biggest factors were honesty and commitment.

    After 10 happy years of marriage, I can honestly say that I have never regretted my choice, while many of my friends who subscribed to the “fall in love”/”can’t help who you love” mentalities have married and divorced in a shorter time frame or are in “loveless” marriages.

    My husband and I are more than “roomates or companions,” as one commented… we are lovers and best friends. He treats me like the queen of his world and I love and respect him as the king of mine! But it started with an objective look at what I wanted in a life-long mate.

    Like attitude, ultimately LOVE IS A CHOICE. Great in-sight, Claire!

  22. To Adam:

    Your view is very understandable(maybe from your past bad experiences), but not true at all.

    If you are one of the few men who can live by themselves happily. Great for you!

    But if you see 95% of women as prostitutes and the rest as lesbians, it is most likely you don’t understand women, don’t even have good “having fun” life let alone relationship or marriage.

    From what I can tell,

    Men are who need to marry. Well, women, we don’t really need to marry and actually live happier, more fulfilling lives without being married. -Maybe except Joy above.

    Keeping choices open is not worth just for its sake (for hanging out with random prostitutes) with no hope of enjoying moments of meeting other beautiful human beings. That is too sad and pessimistic.

  23. To Adam (July 20),

    First of all, if a woman is independent and successful, how can you consider her a “hooker”? Do you just assume that no women work and look for a man to support them? I’m not sure how old you are, but it’s pretty obvious you’ve never been in love. Being in a relationship is not just about getting regular sex at will. Sure that’s a nice part of it….not having to search for it when you want it, but there is a lot more to a relationship, particularly marriage. It’s an equal partnership. At least it is in my house.And, It’s what you put into it, not what you get out of it. It’s about being able to be selfless without it feeling like

    a sacrifice, and getting the same in return. A good marriage shows you what life is about. It’s a beautiful thing if it’s done right.

  24. I once heard that love is not about what you can get, but about what you can give. Being “in love” is wonderful, however eventually the initial gloss of a person wears off. It is then time to walk in love. I can guarantee that you will continually come across more “qualified” persons than your spouse. Love will stretch and test you, however it will also be one of the greatest blessings in your life. It is a blessing to see older couples who, after many years of laughter and tears, are still loving on one another and enjoying their lives.

  25. I agree with the debunking comment. I believe they had a discussion of this study in The Long Tail (not that I’m reading that now – low info you know) that gets into greater detail that most people have misquoted or taken things out of context from original study.

  26. I was married for 16 years, 14 great years. Now that I am single I have much more of the 3T’s. Time, Travel and Tail. 🙂

  27. I’m well aware of the Paradox of Choice when it comes to the sales world but I’ve never seen it put into a relationship perspective.

    I think you could have reduce most of what you wrote down to: what do I want and when I find it I need to make a commitment too it and stop screwing around.

    Now, what about the “I’m too damn busy to get out and meet anyone” problem.

  28. “you’d tell him he was idiot”..

    All people suffer craving, I wouldn’t of told him he was AN idiot though. Compassion for said people goes further…

    All in all, you talk about people like toys, or something to consume and use up. Good day.

  29. Here is the funny part. My name starts with “J” and I’m from Argentina. Not an architect though, a designer. However, a small conundrum, that you as world traveler, are surprised that he never tasted peanut butter? Its strictly an American thing! Like I’m sure, you never knew about Alfajores. No, they are not moon pies.

    But on the other hand, I remember living in Italy and people thinking Americans only ate Hamburgers and French Fries.

    Not knowing Maradona is pretty bad.

    Great article. Will surely follow more of your stuff.

  30. Interesting how this article uses gender neutral terms (e.g. “the more choices *people* had, the harder it was to make a decision”) but the reviews on the Amazon page repeated refer to “young women” as the focus of this problem.

    So which is it? Does “having more options tends to leave us paralyzed” or does having more options tend to leave women paralyzed? Has the modern world seduced men and women equally into believing they are each “a special snowflake and the world [is theirs] for the taking”, or is that a particular problem more among today’s young women?

  31. If I follow the logic of this article, it is advocating choosing a shiny body more carefully than the Wal Mart 2-for-1 bin approach. For the egomaniac on the go this really is sage advice.

    Wouldn’t it be more productive in the long run to correct the misconceptions that lead to the “grab bag” mentality? People aren’t new pairs of shoes regardless of what TV and movies would have us believe. Making a list and clinging to it like a blanket is merely the opposite extreme. Applying our consumerism to relationships in any form is recipe for disaster. Do you really want to avoid unfulfilling relationships? Try taking a year off and discover who you REALLY are and what you REALLY want in a partner. If you need a checklist you are out of touch with both of those things.

    Another damaging factor is the “ACT NOW!” concept. After all, wandering aimlessly from one relationship to another has worked out so well, right? If you can’t be happy single adding another body to the mix won’t help. Improve your self control and patience and you will avoid many bad relationships from ever forming in the first place.

    Ultimately to take control of your love life you need to understand yourself, bad tendencies and all. Once you have achieved that not only will you choose partners that better suit you, you will find that you are compatible with more types of people.

  32. I think there’s an interesting distinction between these kinds of “safe problems” vs. challenges, where people create issues like “He’s not tall enough for me,” or “If I get into a committed relationship I won’t have the sexual variety that I want” just to avoid the real challenge of being in an intimate relationship. It’s a kind of self-sabotage that sub-consciously protects us from being vulnerable.

  33. I’m glad I bumped into your beautifully written article, what an eye opener! I’m definitely a “choister”, your statement “It’s impossible not to constantly wonder if there’s something better, someone better.” is exactly who I feel when in a relationship, after reading your article for the first time I can clearly see why I’m still single.

    PS, is it an extract from a novel? I want to order a copy please. Thank ypu

  34. Tim, I can’t thank you enough for posting this article. I’m a habitual, chronic, hopeless “choister.” (Love that word so much more than “commitment phobe.”) I completely understand the paralysis that comes with being afraid to lock in on a single person for fear of missing out on other options/people. This was exactly the kick in the pants I needed. My new mantra is, “Choosing doesn’t limit choices—it just changes them.”

    Also, I just finished your book, and my goal for the winter is to kick off my little cash-flow endeavor. Love ya!

  35. “choice paralysis” i wish this is the reason why i am still single but sad to say its not 🙁 as i have no choices to choose from…

    my case is more like waiting for someone to choose me 😛

  36. Yes, I am a choister! Such a good feeling when you know you have a wide selection of things. But sometimes having all these choices makes us more unsatisfied. Why? Once you choose something, you feel like you’re still incomplete so you ended up choosing another one again. It’s a never-ending cyle…a problem i guess.

  37. Hi Tim and community. I love this post and all the comments. In fact, it inspired me to write a little quiz on what it would take for Tim to choose a girlfriend. (It’s on my blog, Aesthetically) The quiz is also for the women out there who believe they might want to literally Tim Ferriss their lovelife.

    All my <3

  38. Hi All!

    Sorry, ..am I the only one giggling?

    I hope I don’t come off as rude for saying this but, part of me can’t help but laugh at the article, because if that’s where our minds are that we’ve defined the reason we’re so many singles (i.e. “not getting laid”), instead of doing something about it (i.e. “getting out there to get laid”), we’re accepting ourselves as choisters as a consolation, for.. let’s just say it, “not getting laid on a regular basis like normal people!’

    I just thought it was funny that we as a society have come to talk about why we’re single and accepting the trade offs for single-hood. Very well written article by the way.

    I think it’s funny, gotta laugh.

    Gloria

  39. I think this article was a great one. I meet women all the time but never really feel a connection. As a single guy in NY, it seems everyone has an agenda. I wish I can find a spot where I could meet a woman who has a like mind.

  40. I am going to respond as if we were having a conversation, and I just listened to what you had to say , and acknowledged you , took a sip of coffee and responded with : My observation after working with hundreds of clients, is that there is yes, no and maybe. And the power of choice is a senior ability that we possess. But doubt can enter into a decision and we can get stuck in a maybe.

    A maybe has a timelessness to it, so unless time is addressed as to the urgency of the decision, then the decision can be put off indefinitely. So in romance, if your partner does not ask you to choose, either partner or both, then he or she is doing you both a disservice. Love the one that wants to be with you.

  41. If you are a man, before you decide to marry or commit for life, do yourself the biggest favor of your whole life and live and date in Asia for at least 4 months. You will look at our world of relationships completely different and you will be set free.

  42. OMG, Jesus-Luizuz. Relationships aren’t that hard.

    How sad that we – mostly in this country – see relationships as a choice rather than what it really is – a basic human need – regardless of whether it’s long or short term. As human beings we were built for being in relationships period. There’s no right/wrong answer. It’s not a mind thing. It’s a heart thing. If you let your mind get in the way, you’ll be single forever. The last thing the mind wants is to be vulnerable emotionally. The mind only seeks certainty.

    This country’s weakness is relationships. This country’s identity is built on progress and advancement economically, not nurturing of the heart thru relationships/family. Hence why this country is the sickest, fattest and most depressed. It’s not a downer, it’s just the current state of things until we choose to change it. In this country we have so many choices, and our head gets in the way.

    We need to just follow our hearts and let in some love.. you know?.. get back to that primal nature,.. you know, where the guy wants to pounce the girl, and the girl wants to be pounced?

    Our indecision is a ridiculous excuse for not asking that female out, or not accepting that man’s invitation to practice connecting, being seen/desired, desiring, etc.. let alone love.

    Forget about rejection, grow up! Go out and date, etc.. MAKE LEMONADE!

  43. I agree with Gloria C., above. Many of my brilliant 30-something peers seem to think of relationships (including family… especially family) in a self-absorbed, optional kind of way. As if these things weren’t necessary. I’ve traveled extensively, lived with families for extended periods all over the world. It was in living with families in Poland and Mexico that I learned the real value of family. In Poland it is normal for extended families (parents, children, grandparents) to live together happily in 2-bedroom apartments. In Mexico, I saw magnificent celebrations in the midst of absolute poverty. These miracles happen because families (and by extension, communities) unite in solidarity. I rarely see that kind of connection here in the U.S. Ironically, I don’t have a family of my own yet…

  44. hmmm… i love the line of Aimee ” magnificent celebrations in the midst of absolute poverty.” As i widely open my consciousness, it’s a normal scenario living in large family inspite of scarcity in my country Philippines. What matters most is that every member of the family is happy. I just can’t see the definition of happiness when they’re all starving to death. Actually, the government does something to alleviate the poverty issue. But it always starts on our self. That is why i choose to be single this time. I need to prepare myself in building a family with stability( emotion, financial, and spiritual)

  45. Today I posed a question on the 5-4hb-buyer conference about Tim’s insights from “hacking” women (that sounds bad 😉 / relationships. Missed out on an answer and decided to go looking on the blog, for anything I’d missed.

    Had missed this, and yep. We are sooo deeply driven by cultural conditioning, and today’s world is pretty wacked when it comes to relationships. Too much information, too many choices, too much me and me and me and my boundaries and my priorities and my want-list. the machine at large is currently geared to influence us this way, intentionally or not. it’s hard to pull yourself out of those traps when all around you are urgings to the contrary.

    Plus, many claim that long term monogamy is defunct, but I have yet to see workable, emotionally rich alternatives.

    Reading this post made me remember someone else’s essential 4hww muse, “Project Everlasting”, which I ran into a long while back. I just dug out the the site’s free opt-in “gift” videos from my email box and watched them.

    Highly recommended for those wishing to dig deep and long with a beloved of choice 😉

    http://projecteverlasting.com/

    Would still love to know any other Tim-style heart insights into the romantic natures’ of women and men, and the meeting of the two.

  46. a suddenly irritated ps.:

    hmmm…. on second thought. I think Clarie’s example of her and her partner for this aritcle is actually a bit…nauseating!

    Hot, talented, caring Latin artist-boyfriend vs. Warm-blooded lacrosse players lusted over while receiving an MBA in some far-flung locale???? Not forgetting your lover’s “cello concert”! Really, how many of Tim’s readers truly have handfuls of cultured, successful, hot-bodied model-esque potential mates to choose from and fight off? Who is the target market??? Seems there’s lots of luxury imagery and smart sex selling to us. I am as sucked in as the rest, but still, here we are, background-tantalized with yet more images that the average bear and bearette cannot hope to achieve.

    Not that this readership is average. But to be frank, I bet this readership is far more wannabe than be. Obviously, this is part of 4hww marketing, and this shouldn’t be news to me at all, but it suddenly just struck me as ….not totally nice when I think of the lovelorn and unrealistic. I know this article has depth and great points, but the subtle out-of-reach glamour of it suddenly rubbed me the wrong way.

    oh jeez: just scrolled back to re-read a bit, and saw the side bar ad for “Date the Rich” by elitedating.com. Right on target.

    Wow, this is my first grrrrrrr about this blog.

    Guess I just prefer meditating on the more wrinkled and earthy loves described in the projecteverlasting.com videos.

  47. How can someone who in 15 paragraphs on a topic offers only common sense advice – without data or original insight – have written an entire book about it?

    I agree with everyone that the topic itself is very actual, but the advice belongs in Cosmo.

    Claire could explore the phenomenon in game theory terms for example; that, backed by data, would make for some compelling reading on it, rather than Starbucks banter.

    The readers’ comments are actually more interesting.

  48. The article is cute. I can relate to it! You see at my see right now, I’m 21 by the way I haven’t experienced having a boyfriend not because I’m choosy but because no one dares.haha I always ask my friends of what was wrong with me and i still don’t have a boyfriend. You know what they told me? No one dares because no one qualifies my standards. I mean there are things that I over power men. I can easily sense if someone is just making fun. i believe they are all making fun. And I’m not the type of person who would play with them. I am not a man hater but i think I’m getting there. This is maybe because I haven’t seen even with my dad the qualities of a future husband. I’m not closing my doors anyway. I always believe that things will happen in it’s perfect time. all i have to do is wait..

  49. Funny and intriguing post, Claire. My wife and I have been together for over ten years. We’re in our late thirties and have many single friends often seeking out our advice. Reading your post reminds me of some of their dialogue with us; which makes me cringe at the dialogue that must be going on in their heads. Our advice is often the same: if you want to settle down or be in a committed relationship, then get clear on what you want and be committed. By continuously flip-flopping on our choices, our poor little internal genies must think we’re schizophrenic!

  50. Single is not a problem!! the problem is that if you choose to be married earlier and you became single again after years of living with your partner and just recognize that both can’t really make it till end.Ouchh!!!

    From the first day of your date with opposite sex that time you should know your date first before you show your interest with your date everything should be in process so that the seconds,minutes,hours,days,weeks, months, years you spend together will not just end to nothing!!!

  51. We are all so clever here! 🙂

    Claire and Tim thanx for post. Good food for thinking. Especially for those like me who is still chasing career, self-improvement and a lot of “self”…)

    If to analyze the marital problen in my country I came to conclusion that more young people who were married at the age of 19-25 are divorcing after two-three years of living.

    In my parents time it was very important to keep a family at any reasons, to find any compromises. But now we are too SELF-oriented and we want evrything in a “FASTFOOD” manner. Ready baked husband with a million dollar in bank account no matter did we helped him to reach this Million or will we stay with him in case he will loose his Million in a day.

    Or wife who have to be multifunctional and all the time has a tanned sexy body and bed-room eyes even if she was working the whole day than have to help children to prepare a school lessons.

    Thanx for tips but I VOTE for main GPS in this type of cases – Your HEART!

    🙂

    Rumiya.

  52. This was an interesting read and made me think about my own relationship. I have been married to the same woman for over 40 years so this entitles me to consider myself a bit of an expert on great relationships. When you are young, you don’t always know what you want. Love can mask a lot of potential problems and overlook a lot of other factors. Often, you don’t know what you are getting in the long run. I didn’t realize that my wife would develop into a great cook, an amazing mother, an understanding soul mate, a great listener, a person I can be with 24/7 without feeling I have to “get away”. I am one lucky guy to have someone that is so in tune with me that I think about it almost every day. One thing that stands out is the fact that a great marriage is a give and take thing. Sacrifices are sometimes made but the reward is much greater than the act of getting just what you want all the time. If you find that person that seems to have the qualities you want, grab on if they are willing.

  53. Claire, Tim,

    A few years back before I met the lady of my life I read a book by Barbara De Angelis. In the book she offered a huge chuck of information about how to decide if someone is the right person for you. For example, when you are looking for a long term relationship you will want to consider the other person in how they demonstrate the following in their lives:

    Commitment to personal growth

    Emotional openness

    Integrity

    Maturity and responsibility

    High self-esteem

    Positive attitude towards life

    There is a ton of more invaluable tips on how to find out who is the right person for you.

    Barbara’s book is called ‘Are you the one for me?’ It was published in 1992 and it was a best seller then and it is one of my life time favourite books I recommend to people.

    Check it out if you wish,

    All the best,

    David

    By the way Claire excellent article!

  54. Interesting – and well written fun article. I enjoyed it and it made me think – no wait I dont need to think I am definitely a choice challenged person!

    Unforntunately I have met (obviously slightly thick) people who read this sort of thing in an exaggerated form in magazines, and now literally religiously impose 6 month deadlines on relationships!. For example if he doesn’t propose after 6 months its finished. This makes me cringe at the complete and utter misunderstanding of the a males mind works, and the complete and utter disregard for the other persons feelings. A relationship is a two way street after all, not a selfish my way of the highway experiment.

    One would assume honesty, communication and equality to be better criteria for commitment than an arbitrary imaginary deadline. Im not arguing the validity of the suggestion being included in this article however as its entertaining and has relevance in the right situation when not taken literally – much like the bible!.

    The point was I wonder how many people have switched to the other extreme. How many people and now still single, or worse, in the wrong relationship, because they one day they woke up and chose the be non choicest ?

  55. Sort of along the same lines as this post, I learned that in the matters of love, I must really block out other people’s opinions and listen to myself. Of course, I learned this after doing the opposite and finding out how crappy it feels to go against my own judgement.

    Lesson learned, and I feel much better because of it.

  56. Choice makes things harder. That devil’s advocate always asking if this is the best you could do. It’s all simple really.

    Make a list of 5 things that needs to be in a partner of your choosing.

    Then tolerate the rest (if it’s within reason of course).

    I mean if someone is going to try to stab me everyday, yeah that doesn’t work.

    I think an interesting issue is that there’s so much variety out there. But if you make that list, I don’t think it’s that difficult anymore.

  57. I have to say that until I stopped thinking there was someone else and just buckled down – dating was HELL. This article is spot on. I’m married now and I think one of the secrets to marriage is to just acknowledge that you have no more choices – especially if you have a good wife like mine (she just takes care of everything).

  58. Thanks so much for this, I never could get any proper advice for this “condition” of mine, because I’d start explaining what was plaguing me (the yummy potential ‘other-choices’ and all that) and everyone would just look at me as though I was mad! This article really helped 🙂 think I’ll be picking up that book as well!

  59. I’ve had more partners, jobs and homes than I’ve ever wanted at 24. I have been looking and working to find stability since I was super young but the right choices have been there to choose. I suppose I’m a choister because none of the choices I’ve had have been right for me. I can’t date someone who doesn’t want to date and I’m way to loving to not get a little something but it’s not right, just like the jobs and the homes. It’s driving me crazy!

  60. Hey Tim,

    I know this post dates back a bit but I’ve been rummaging through some of your older posts and it’s so true about the abundance of choices. It reminds me of Chandler from Friends. He just couldn’t commit. I get like that. So many choices. But then you think, 2nd best doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re not limited to villages lol. We got a whole world filled with people. And we live longer too. A lot choices with an extended period of time makes a whole lot of choisters.

  61. I have way to many choices. Women throw themselves at me and it is actually bad because I enjoy it and they are attractive and I like it. Problem is I don’t just commit. In ice cream terms I have a lot of quality flavors to choose from and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, nor is my lust level. It is something I am genuinely working on — as funny as this post must sound to some readers out there I really think I want a committed relationship. People always say you just haven’t met the one but I kind of don’t buy the idea. I think I am a luster more than anything. I am envious of the settling down type in some ways.

  62. If you cannot get to the core of why you cannot be loyal to one person, please please do not settle down or get married (man or woman), it won’t end up good, guranteed. At least be with someone who like you also wants to endlessly have choices; you will be a better match & no one gets hurt (man or woman).

    But if you have had your choices and flavours as a man or woman & you are ready to actually really, truly get to know yourself to the core (I don’t mean in an outer world, physical, success/business kind of way), but to rise to another dimension internally, where the next time you meet a gorgeous, smart person, you are attracted to & get to know him or her, ask yourself, when you quit & leave him or her, if you are running from the relationship, the man/wman, or actually from things within yourself you are running from, that resurface in the next relationship. Once a person is ready with all their soul to not give up on the growth happening within themselves & after they have had enough of the flavours that they want to stick & learn to appreciate the flavour that will show them all they are, without running from it, then they are ready to actually possibly consider to grow individually & together in something long-term together. These days giving up on the vision of what you imagined with another is the issue when relationship fall apart, yes mainly because of the illusion of unlimited choice; choice is good but a lifetime is not an unlimited, infinite time, so once you have enough data, choose & stick with your choice. I have seen couples that did that with no regrets & happy after 30 years, not in a ok I am used to you, or I am scared to star all over, or needy kind of way, but in a crazy passionate I still want you, crave you kind of way, yes after 30 years of marriage that started with love. why? the vision for commitment to being love yourself was never lost & when you are love, you don’t have those demands from the other, and really they love being with you, more likely for a long time. I had to learn these lessons with experience, but now as a single woman in my 30s with passions for many things in life & still a love for freedom & choices & growth, I think I finally get that sticking with one person, actually means I am not giving up on the beautiful vision of what 2 people can build.

  63. Tim,

    I just came across this post and let me tell you, it was awesome! I made the choice to marry (almost) the girl of my dreams, my girlfriend for the past 4 years. No matter what choice you make, you need to “love the one your with”.

    Thanks!

  64. Maybe you’re single because you still want to be single? What’s wrong with not choosing? If you still want to explore, then by all means do it. You should do what makes you happy. When you feel like you WANT to make a choice, then make a choice. It’s your life, do what you want. You need no deadline to make that kind of decision.

  65. Starting to wonder if I’m a “choicter” or if I’m growing PAST love interests. CANEI. Constant And Never Ending Improvement.

    Great article

  66. Great writing clair. Great sense of humor and it was fun to read. And so true. My last relationship was definitely a choister. He always told me the grass could be greener I could be missing out. When really if he had just watered the grass in front of him it would probably be just as good 🙂 but he moved on to someone not sure that he’s really happy with her either and I’m sure he will choose someone else eventually, commitment-phobic as he is. At least I know I’m a committed person. I’m a long term person. I know I’m older and I probably am from a different generation. It is sad today that people have a hard time being in a committed relationship. Even men and women at my age are looking elsewhere when they are in a current relationship. I find that sad. I’m trying hard to not lose my faith in man or in men… I know there’s a good one out there for me and I’m going to be patiently waiting. Thank you for your insightful words 🙂

  67. “It’s a mistake to think that in hard choices, one alternative really is better than the other, and we’re too stupid to know which. Hard choices are hard, not because of us, or our ignorance. They’re hard because there is no best option. (…) It’s in the space of hard choices, we get to exercise our normative power, the power to create reasons for yourself, to make yourself into the person for whom option A is preferable to option B”. This was an eye-opener for me. (Full talk: http://www.ted.com/…/ruth_chang_how_to_make_hard…)

  68. Loved the post and so funny that I was thinking for the past few days about the exact same thing. I’ve been single for 18 months now by choice having more options than I will ever need. I don’t settle for anything/anyone because I know exactly what I need and want (I’m not looking for perfection or ideal, I just know what’s important for me) in my partner, what I can work with and what I can’t accept no matter what. There are “shiny balls” everywhere and sometimes my mind does want to settle for the one in front of me but like with other choices in life, be that career, food, a hobby, piece of clothing – settling for less, for what’s available instead of waiting for what you truly want, doesn’t bring long term deep heart/soul/mind/body satisfaction, it just distracts you with new experiences for a while. And sometimes waiting and not making a choice helps you to realize what’s truly important and what you truly need and want in life and relationship.

  69. And why for most people it’s hard to settle? My opinion: most people don’t know what they really want, hence it’s hard to choose with many choices available AND other type just realizing that they don’t have to follow a standard model like before, they can but don’t have to settle and have a family, it’s not for everyone and that’s ok, people are more liberated to choose lifestyle that suits them, instead of the one offered by default by society.

  70. Hi Tim, I accidentally came across this article and I have to react. Your experiment, honesty and openness are stunning! But please think about what sort of think you publish, since you are opinion leader and you have such a big impact with your blog. It’s a pitty to be some girl love-dating forum.

    Good luck!