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Online dating is revolutionizing all relationships — whether you’re dating or not.

For most of recorded history women did not have romantic options. You married the dude who your family deemed appropriate, and he likely lived within a quarter mile, and you stayed with him for life, like or not. 

When I interviewed Dan Slater, author of Love in the Time of Algorithms (excerpted in The Atlantic, in a piece called “A Million First Dates”) on my show on Sirius XM, he agreed that it’s changing the way we view commitment. He also said that those who are happy don’t have that much to worry about.

But for those of you in less-than-ideal situations, or relationships that have gone south, online dating–even if you don’t actually use it–creates this sense of options. That this doesn’t have to be it for you.

This is the best news ever. Because if the only way you think you can “keep” a man or woman is by eliminating his or her other options, that means you want an inmate, not a life mate.

The internet didn’t invent options–it just brought them a little closer–made it a little easier, yes. But if you were under the impression that disconnecting someone’s internet is all you need to do to keep someone from having options? Yeah, that’s not gonna work.

Look, I’ve struggled with this myself–I worried that the more options someone had, the less likely he was to choose me. That’s not a technology problem. That’s a self-esteem problem. Could someone decide to be with someone else instead of me? Of course! Always. That’s something you can’t ever protect yourself against–not you, not me, not anyone. But what I’m realizing is that what I’d rather have is someone who chooses me and continues to choose me, regardless of the other options.

Lest you think I’m not a romantic, I’ll remind you that there’s nothing romantic about being stuck in something going nowhere fast. You don’t get points for martyrdom. Just a sucky life. 

While everyone’s freaking out about online dating killing love, rarely do we realize those options can work in reverse. Competition–even the idea of it–works in everyone’s favor. The idea of options not only makes your partner hop to, but makes you bring it as well. Because throwing your relationship into park once you’ve “landed” him is a sure way to end the forward momentum. The whole “oh yeah where are you going to go” argument just doesn’t hold water anymore.

People will always gravitate toward coupling–and long-term coupling. Monogamy itself isn’t dying–but commitment for its own sake is. The idea that you’ll only ever want one person is not true for most people (and that’s being generous). So if having other options means you’re able to leave something that isn’t working anymore, then that alone is worth the price of posting a profile.

5 replies
  1. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    What if your concern is not that he’ll have other options and choose someone else, but that he’ll have other options, choose someone else while still in a relationship with you? And you won’t know? I think this is more the fear of currently-coupled women who have married, had children, and given up some of their life.

    Reply
  2. Isabelle
    Isabelle says:

    Hello Terri,

    While I agree that internet dating is not killing monogamy, I do feel that monogamy is on the decline for other reasons. You basically said why in this blog ‘I’d rather have is someone who chooses me and continues to choose me, regardless of the other options’… as people become more self-confident, and their self-esteem stops tripping them up, they become less scared of losing their partner. Having an ‘open relationship’ where they both openly communicate with each other, and share what they are doing and why, can really strengthen an already confident relationship. Knowing that the person I am seeing is constantly reviewing other options, and yet keeps choosing ME actually strengthens our relationship. And if they really do decide to break up, and move on, I will know it is because it is what they actually want to be doing, and NOT simply because they feel ‘trapped’.

    Ultimately I feel that relationships should be ‘additive’ and not ‘subtractive’ in nature… meaning that by finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, it should add to your life, and not take anything away. It is very difficult for someone to become complacent in an open relationship. There is always new data, and new experiences, to assimilate. It is dynamic the way the rest of our lives are dynamic when they are satisfying.

    Granted, open relationships are not for everyone. One has to have a strong sense of self-confidence and self-esteem, and to have grown past codependent relationships, have figured out that jealousy is always a self-fulfilling prophecy, and want to truly know your partner for who they want to be, not who you want them to be. If those criteria are met, then an open relationship can be far more satisfying than a monogamous one, for those who dare to try it.

    Anyone who is interested should consider reading ‘Opening Up’ http://www.amazon.com/Opening-Up-Creating-Sustaining-Relationships/dp/157344295X as his writing on the topis is very well done.

    Reply
    • terri
      terri says:

      Thanks for this very thoughtful response. I have heard of that book and will check it out. Yes–you’re preaching to the converted!! I get it, but I, like anyone else, struggles with jealousy. But I’d rather have a little jealousy than a whole lot of complacency–and unlike those who are truly “open” (polyamorous, sharing every detail), I would personally prefer NOT knowing. I’m thinking of doing a post about that, b/c I stand by it for the same reasons you do.

      Reply
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