You can find lasting love online (you just have to be a bit less fussy!)

As far as love goes, the pandemic has proved paradoxical. On the one hand, lockdown has put huge stress on existing relationships. On the other, it has shown us what it is to be lonely and made us yearn for a significant other more than ever.

Whichever way you look at it, there are bound to be a lot of new people looking for a date this year — and all confined to online, of course.

The figures prove it already. Dating app Hinge reports that downloads are up 82 per cent year-on-year. And that’s especially significant because Hinge is the app for those seeking long-term relationships and not a casual fling.

Launched in 2013 as the antithesis of Tinder, the app that kick-started the swipe left or right hook-up culture, Hinge has now match-made thousands of long-term partnerships and marriages.

Who better to help you navigate this new landscape, bursting with potential dates, than Hinge’s own director of relationship science Logan Ury (pictured with her husband), a behavioural expert who studied psychology at Harvard University

Who better to help you navigate this new landscape, bursting with potential dates, than Hinge’s own director of relationship science Logan Ury (pictured with her husband), a behavioural expert who studied psychology at Harvard University

The fact that wholesome Hinge is setting up a date every three seconds means more people than ever are looking for lasting love. 

And who better to help you navigate this new landscape, bursting with potential dates, than Hinge’s own director of relationship science Logan Ury, a behavioural expert who studied psychology at Harvard University.

Ury is the perfect person to hold your hand as you step out of your comfort zone and into the world of online profiles, playful selfies and dates on Zoom. Her new book, based on years of experience and research in the field, is full of top tips to make online dating work for you — even in a pandemic.

Here is her guide to digital dating, 2021-style…

HOW SCIENCE CAN HELP YOU SUCCEED

Are you facing the first months of 2021 alone? Perhaps you are already dating but have only encountered people who haven’t brought out the best in you. Or maybe you’re newly single and back in the dating game after years away.

You know deep down that you want to find someone, but somehow you are stuck repeating the same bad patterns over and over.

Logan's (pictured) new book, based on years of experience and research in the field, is full of top tips to make online dating work for you — even in a pandemic

Logan’s (pictured) new book, based on years of experience and research in the field, is full of top tips to make online dating work for you — even in a pandemic

Here’s the thing. While love may be a natural instinct, dating isn’t. We are not born knowing how to choose the right partner.

Selecting a suitable mate is an incredibly daunting task, and it’s one that is weighed down with cultural baggage, bad advice and pressure from families and society.

The field of behavioural science — the study of how we make decisions — can help. Understanding why we behave the way we do, and what we can do to change, are the missing pieces that can help us take control of our love lives.

Yes, you can find love online. But first you will need to ask yourself some searching questions and challenge the assumptions you hold.

DON’T BE PUT OFF BY DATING APPS

We ARE experiencing a seismic shift in dating culture. Online dating started in 1994 with Kiss.com, shortly followed by Match.com a year later. And we have been swiping for love on our mobile phones for less than a decade.

The UK lockdown has proved paradoxical as it put huge stress on existing relationships but, on the other hand, made us yearn for a significant other more than ever (stock image)

The UK lockdown has proved paradoxical as it put huge stress on existing relationships but, on the other hand, made us yearn for a significant other more than ever (stock image)

If it feels as if we are in the middle of a gigantic cultural experiment, it’s because we are. Apps have introduced millions of happy couples who might not have met otherwise. And dating apps have been especially meaningful for singles in so-called thin markets, including daters over the age of 50.

We are no longer limited to the single people we know from work or our friends-of-friends. Now we can swipe through hundreds of potential partners in a single sitting.

So how on earth do we navigate this new dating landscape and make the apps work for us?

TRY ADJUSTING YOUR FILTERS

Decades of relationship science have revealed what matters for long-term relationship success — things such as emotional stability, kindness, loyalty and how that person makes us feel. Yet modern daters often focus on the wrong things, such as how much money someone makes, how tall they are or whether you and they have enough hobbies in common.

IS YOUR DATING STYLE THE PROBLEM?

Many of my clients suffer from dating blind spots — internal struggles holding them back from finding love, that they can’t identify on their own.

I’ve identified the Three Dating Tendencies, which sum up common problems plaguing modern daters — and this quiz is to help you understand what’s holding you back. Read each statement below, decide how much it describes you, then give yourself marks according to your answer:

1 = Very unlike me

2 = Somewhat like me

3 = That’s so me

1. I don’t want to go on a second date if I don’t feel the spark when we meet.

2. When I’m on a date, I might ask myself: ‘Is this person up to my standards?’

3. I’ll be ready to date when I improve myself (for example, lose weight or feel more financially stable).

4. I’d prefer it if my partner and I had a romantic ‘how we met’ story.

5. I usually read reviews before I make a significant purchase.

6. I don’t have time to date just now.

7. There’s someone out there who’s ideal for me, I just haven’t met them yet.

8. When making a decision I go back and forth, weighing all the possible options.

9. My friends tell me I need to put myself out there more.

10. I find online dating apps unromantic because I want to meet my person in a more natural way.

11. I pride myself on never settling.

12. I rarely go on dates.

13. I don’t believe the spark can grow over time. Either you feel it or you don’t.

14. I’ll know I’ve met the right person because I’ll feel totally sure about them.

15. If I want to attract the best possible person, first I need to become the best possible person.

16. Love is a gut feeling. you know it when you feel it.

17. My friends think I’m too picky.

18. I’m focusing on my career now and I’ll think about dating later.

Scoring Key

THE ROMANTICISER: Add up your scores for every third question, starting with Q1 (sum of answers to questions 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16).

THE MAXIMISER: Add up your scores for every third question, starting with Q2 (sum of answers to questions 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17).

THE HESITATER: Add up your scores for every third question, starting with Q3 (sum of answers to questions 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18).

On which one did you score the highest? That’s your dating tendency. Although they seem quite different, the Romanticiser, the Maximiser and the Hesitater have one thing in common: unrealistic expectations.

The Romanticiser has unrealistic expectations of relationships. The Maximiser has unrealistic expectations of their partner. The Hesitater has unrealistic expectations of themself.

THE ROMANTICISER: You want the soulmate, the happily ever after, the fairytale. You believe you are single because you haven’t met the right person yet. But if you think love is something that just happens to you, why would you bother to put any effort into finding it? Romanticisers wait for love instead of creating it. So stop passively yearning for a Disney prince and develop a more practical mindset.

THE MAXIMISER: You want to explore all the options until you’re sure you’ve found The One — but approaching love in this way leads to anxiety and missed opportunities.

Maximisers are afraid of settling and always wonder if they could be happier with someone else. But you can’t research your way into a relationship, and you can’t date everyone and then decide. Your challenge is to find someone special, invest in the relationship, and trust your brain.

THE HESITATER: You don’t think you’re ready for dating because you’re not the person you want to be yet. But if you’re not dating, you’re losing the chance to learn — about what kind of person you want to be with long-term and how to improve your dating skills. Don’t wait, date! Take new profile pictures, download the apps and understand that no one is perfect, including the person you’ll wind up with. 

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Daters also often make the mistake of arriving at dates with a checklist. Must be over 6ft tall. Must make a six-figure income. Must dress well.

But the truth is, most of us have no idea what kind of partner will fulfil us in the long term. The qualities we think we want are often not the qualities possessed by the person we actually fall in love with. And unlike in real life, where you meet all sorts of people, dating apps never give you the chance to be proved wrong — because you can weed out the people you think are not your ‘type’ before you ever meet anyone.

So my top tip to make those dating apps work? Adjust your filters. Right now.

Take out your phone and update your settings. Could you be more flexible on age, either way? And would you really not date a great person outside your stated required height range?

Also think about the non-numerical requirements you were asked to specify when you signed up, such as ‘must have a university degree’. Those simple yes/no switches probably represent preferences for deeper values — intellectual curiosity, say — that dating apps have difficulty capturing.

CHALLENGE YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

Once, I observed a client making her way through an app. We came across a guy who was good-looking and had a funny biography.

She rejected him. I asked her why and she said: ‘He was a consultant, and consultants are boring.’ What? All consultants? Every single one?

Instead of approaching dating apps as an exercise in discovering what is wrong with people, look for reasons to say yes. Go on dates with people you don’t necessarily think are a perfect fit.

That’s the only way you can find out what you actually like, rather than assuming that you already know.

BE SMART WITH YOUR PHOTOS

Hinge has done so much research on which photos get the most likes. So here are my top tips:

  • DON’T play guessing games. You don’t want to make someone wonder what you really look like or whether you are truly single. That means no sunglasses, no cute filters and no pictures with people who could be confused for significant others.
  • DO include photos of yourself doing things you love. This gives people a glimpse into who you are and what brings you joy.
  • DON’T post bathroom selfies, gym selfies or smoking selfies. You know what, just skip the selfies.
  • DO include at least one picture where you are with friends or family. This shows your date that you have a healthy social life.

NO MORE EMAILS, CUT TO THE CHASE

Get to the actual date as quickly as possible. The point of the apps is to meet people face-to-face — whether in person or on video chat — not to gain a pen pal.

I have seen time and again the negative consequences of messaging too much before a date. When people text or email each other non-stop beforehand, they end up creating a fantasy of each other in their minds. Even if they would otherwise have been a good match, they end up disappointed when they meet because the other person is inevitably different from the fantasy they built.

TRY TO DATE AND NOT ‘EVALUDATE’

Yes, dating requires work but it doesn’t have to mimic what you do at work. This is not a networking meeting or a job interview. If you go into a date with a preconceived agenda or a checklist, it is sure to quash any sexuality that might enter the equation.

The point of the first date is not to decide whether you want to marry someone. It’s to see if you want to go on a second date. And the best way to do that is to pay attention to how you feel around the person, what side of you they bring out, whether you are curious to learn more about them.

SKIP THE POLITE, DULL SMALL TALK

I advise clients to enter the date in medias res, Latin for ‘in the middle of things’. So instead of starting with ‘How’s your day going?’ or ‘Where do you live?’, jump right in: ‘You’ll never guess what happened to me today!’ or ‘I just got off the phone with my sister. She’s battling with her neighbour over the recycling bins . . .’

By skipping the getting-to-know-you small talk and diving directly into the type of conversation that friends (or lovers) might have, you take a short cut to intimacy.

Of course, you’ll eventually cover where you live and so on. But at least you’ll have dipped a toe into the waters of real conversation.

BE SURE TO END UP ON A HIGH NOTE

The psychological principle of ‘the peak-end rule’ says people tend to judge an experience based on how they felt at the most intense moment of it, and at the end. Their memory isn’t an average of their minute-by-minute experience. If you want someone to remember the date positively, give them a meaningful compliment before you part ways.

MAKE USE OF THE POST-DATE EIGHT

After your date, try asking yourself these questions:

1. What side of me did the other person bring out?

2. How did my body feel during the date? Stiff, relaxed or something in between?

3. Do I now feel more energised or de-energised than before?

4. Is there something about them that makes me curious?

5. Did they make me laugh?

6. Did I feel heard?

7. Did I feel attractive in their presence?

8. Did I feel captivated, bored or something in between?

Just knowing you’ll have to answer these questions makes you pay more attention on the date.

A SECOND DATE MUST BE THE DEFAULT

It’s a myth that when you meet the right person you will feel instant fireworks. In a survey of more than 400 people, only 11 per cent claimed they felt ‘love at first sight’ when asked how they fell in love with their romantic partners.

In fact, sometimes the presence of a spark is more an indication of how charming someone is, or how narcissistic, than a sign of a shared connection. Often the right person is more of a slow burn, someone who is not particularly charming on your first meeting but would make a great long-term partner.

Stop focusing only on that initial intoxication and look instead for traits such as loyalty and kindness. I advise clients to assume they will go on a second date as a default, unless something dramatic happens to dissuade them. Give that slow burn a chance to warm up. It’s worth the wait.

Adapted by Alison Roberts from How to Not Die Alone, by Logan Ury (£14.99, Piatkus), out on February 2 © Logan Ury 2021. To order a copy for £13.19 go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Delivery charges may apply. Offer price valid for a limited time only.

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