You're probably familiar with the phrase, "paradox of choice." The notion comes from a theory by Barry Schwartz, a professor at Swarthmore College. Most people intuitively believe that having more choices will lead to greater happiness. After all, if you can choose between coffee and tea, aren't you more likely to end up with what you want than if you get coffee or tea but have no say in the matter?
Well, maybe. But then, maybe not. Schwartz argues that too many choices make it harder to decide—and decide well—and that the more options you have, the less happy you will be.
If we have choices, we tend to second-guess ourselves, whereas having only one potential course to take encourages us to make the best of it, whatever it is. In the age of internet dating, in which we tend to focus on widening the candidate pool, it seemed important to explore whether or not the paradox of choice is a factor in finding love. Does having more choices end up making us less happy in our relationships? Here's what I've come to believe.
Long before I was married, a friend and I joked that despite men being half of the world's population (around 2.5 billion at the time) there were only around 1,000 potential future husbands for me. We went online and did some research to get a more accurate estimate. Starting with that global population number, we narrowed it down to men living in the United States within a preferred age range who were single, didn't have kids or smoke, who'd reached a desirable level of education, were heterosexual, and were not currently incarcerated.
We hypothesized as we whittled further as to how many of these men would have a wicked sense of humor or kind eyes, which of them would laugh at my poorly constructed puns, tolerate my nocturnal teeth-grinding, watch chick flicks with me, not judge when I ate an entire package of Trader Joe's dark chocolate peanut butter cups in one sitting, and could stomach my off-key singing in the car.
When all was said and done, we figured there were probably only a handful guys in the United States that would be a match. Talk about a needle in a haystack!