Zillow recently named Boston the top city for love, citing that 66 percent of the people who live here are single. While that stat might indicate that our dating pool has more prospects, it doesn't mean people are settling down anytime soon.
So why not? What is holding Bostonians back from leading successful love lives?
I spoke with Samantha Burns, a licensed relationship counselor and a dating consultant based here in the hub. She shared 10 dating obstacles afflicting singles in Boston, offering actionable suggestions to help surpass them:
We're a City of Cliques
Boston is not the most warm and welcoming city. Many Bostonians are born and raised, have tight knit cliques since childhood, and don’t go out of their way to meet and mingle with new people. The remainder of the population likely came to Boston to pursue education and professional opportunities. As transients, they are hoping to connect with others to create their own community. Successful dating requires you to break out of your comfort zone and extend your social circle. Say “Yes!” to social invitations, join an intramural sports team, sign up for a class, attend networking events, and most importantly be open to chatting with new people. Even if you’re not attracted to someone, you never know who they can introduce you to.
Bostonians Can Be Workaholics
Boston has a booming job market. For the many doctors, lawyers, professors, and tech entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get stuck in your high-demand work routine without maintaining a work-life balance. However, relationships don’t happen overnight. You need to make dating a priority, and put in effort to cultivate a happy long-term relationship. Aim to go on at least one date per week. When you’re doing dating right, it may feel like a part time job.
Long Winters Have Us in Hibernation Mode
There are few cities more beautiful than Boston in the summer time, with outdoor dining, festivals, and parks that make for great date activities. However, for half of the year it’s difficult to feel sexy in big bulky sweaters, when the thought of trekking through snow and freezing temperatures to a bar or even a gym class just doesn’t seem worth it when you can hibernate inside, eat comfort food and binge watch Netflix. Low energy, change in appetite, and lack of interest in things you typical enjoy are all symptoms of depression, and can have a very real impact on your motivation to date. If your dating mojo is zapped, the Boston weather and mild depression may be to blame. Remind yourself it’s possible to find love any time of year, and challenge yourself to get out of the house at least once each weekend to socialize with new people.
We Don't Always Know What We Want
Get clear on what you’re looking for in a perfect match. Ultimately, if you don't know what you want, and how you want to feel about it, you'll never know if and when you have it, no matter how many people you date. You can’t gain clarity in your love life without digging deeper to explore your core values, life goals, and love lessons from past relationships so that you can have a better sense of who will be a good match. With every date and relationship experience, you should become a smarter, more intentional dater.
We Can Be Harsh Critics
It’s easy to be super picky or judgmental about someone’s profile, harping on superficial things that shouldn’t be labeled as deal breakers. Rather than look for what’s “wrong” with a potential match, ask yourself what you like about him or her. Try the eighty percent rule: If you like eighty percent of someone’s profile, meet in person.
We Psych Ourselves Out
When you’re dating, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and question whether the guy in the photo or the woman sitting across from you could be your future significant other or even your spouse, but this puts a lot of pressure on it to work out. On the flip side, if you’re unsure whether there’s any potential or chemistry, the only way to know for certain is to spend time together in person. Try a mental reframe by questioning whether this person is just worth an hour of your time for a first date. Then, is this person worth a second date?
Dating FOMO Confuses Us
Be wary of the “grass is greener” mentality, which is basically FOMO, the fear of missing out on someone better. Dating apps have made it so easy to come into contact with thousands of people. Rather than committing to a casual relationship that has potential for a long-term relationship, people get back online. This prevents you from developing emotional intimacy.
We Chase That Sweet, Sweet Swiping High
The nature of swiping apps is really addicting. I compare Tinder to Candy Crush since people treat it as a game or ego boost. In fact, swiping apps activate the reward center in your brain, releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s like a hit of pleasure. You become “trained” to swipe over and over again, seeking that “high” every time you match. The more matches, the bigger the boost of feel-good chemicals, similar to the effects of drugs or gambling. You’re left craving more, which may explain why you can’t seem to put your phone down and get off those apps. To prevent treating apps like a game, commit to messaging everyone you match with online. That means only swipe right for people you’re actually interested in getting to know.
Common Courtesy Can Sometimes Go Out the Window
Practice respectful dating etiquette. In the early “getting to know you” stages, there’s no commitment or exclusivity, but there is still the hope and desire for a relationship to develop. If you go out with someone who expressed interest in getting together again, but you decide you’re no longer interested, you owe him or her a let down response. If neither person follows up, it’s OK to go your separate ways in silence. Send a text, such as, “It was great getting to know you, but I just didn’t feel a spark between us.” Easy peasy, move on. No ghosting allowed.
We Depend on Tech to Find Dates
Technology may not be the answer to your love story. Meeting someone in real life can be much more simple than you’d expect. It comes down to friendly non-verbal behaviors, such as eye contact and smiling, which gives someone the green light to come say hello. Instead of commuting on the T with your head down in your phone, or sitting at the coffee shop with your ear buds in, look up, greet people with a smile, and be more aware of who is in your surroundings.
Featured image via Johannes Müller, CC BY-SA 2.0.
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