Q: I’ve been online dating for about three years after my divorce. My story is typical: I’ve met a lot of fine women, but nothing has stuck. After a few dates, or a few months at most, I can’t seem to transition into a longer-term relationship given that there are thousands of other singles still waiting in the pool that might be a better match. Currently I’m at the three-month mark with a new woman, whom I really like. My question is: When do I turn my profile off? Going a step further, when do I quit this online dating thing for good and just stick to meeting people in the real world? It’s how I found my first wife, and I didn’t have this dilemma when falling in love with her.
A: Pardon the transactional nature of the analogy I’m about to offer, but bear with me because I believe it’s both true and helpful. This is a simple matter of supply and demand. Back when you were first dating your wife, you did not perceive an endless supply of single women waiting in the wings. In fact, there was probably no one waiting in the wings, though you knew that if you tried hard enough, you might be able to rabble up a few. And of those few, perhaps one of them would be as fetching as your future wife, and then who knows what kinds of neuroses and habits she’d have that were worse than your future wife’? So, long story short, you stuck with your future wife not only because she was smart and sexy and funny but because she seemed rare. Even if you eventually divorced, the fact is that for quite a long time she seemed to you the kind of woman who comes around once in a lifetime. And that’s a big part of the reason you fell in love and let yourself stay in love.
The world is different now. Beyond our physical comings and goings lies a virtual field populated by increasing numbers of accomplished, well-traveled, cultured, strong, spiritual people. On a daily basis, online dating and other social networks reveal the beauty and complexity of human beings, to the extent that no one seems all that rare or precious anymore. Or, conversely, almost everyone does. Here is your choice: You can cling to your faith in the gleaming specialness of everyone and continue to shop, believing that one day the miracle of technology will deliver to you a nearly perfect woman. Or you can dive into the uniqueness of one woman like you did with your wife. Basically, you can go wide or you can go deep. You’ve been going wide for several years now, so my advice is to turn off your profile, quit online dating for six months, and explore this new woman with abandon. Pretend there aren’t a million like her. Because even though there are a million like her, the longer you know her the more you’ll forget that. And that’s what falling in love is: forgetting that your beloved is one of billions. Believing and investing in his or her uniqueness the way you do your own.