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Apr 15, 2012

Choices #2: Corrosive Chain Choices

I can't count how many times I have heard that men have an overabundance and women a paucity of choices in shidduchim. And, of course, the implication is that men are better off. While I'm very willing to admit that as a man I realize that I have some important privilege, particularly when it comes to my age and expectations for marriage, I don't think the choices -both the many for men or the few for women -are particularly good for us as daters.

No matter how you date, there are often a series of choices we have to make -whether to pursue the other person or not, whether to accept and move forward or not, what to wear and how to dress, where to go, how to manage the many forks in the road of dating, be that between dates or as dating turns into a relationship and/or progresses towards marriage. 

Following my previous post, I found another interesting research article on choice-making, which I think is applicable, and actually follows a similar logic (see here and here for the research details). Basically, the research had participants making a chain of decisions in navigating a maze, where each choice either led to winning or losing money. By analyzing the choices made, the researchers found that any decision that having the immediate consequence of losing a large sum of money was avoided, even if/when it would lead to winning more money overall. Furthermore, the increased usage of this "pruning" decision making was correlated with increased symptoms of depression.

So lets take a process such as... hmmm let's say... dating in the shidduch world, where there are a series of decisions -a maze of sorts -to navigate. Each decision represents an investment, and potential loss of time, effort (and for men money) or potential benefits (connection, excitement, potential marriage). I can definitely see people using this same "pruning" process to avoid options/choices/decisions that they would expect to lead to loss (say, not being excited after the first date may be very discouraging in terms of choosing to go out again).

One thing that really bears out in the research is that people make poor choices based on the "pruning" decision-making process; furthermore, this type of avoidance in decision-making is actually related to greater symptoms of depression!

That is, of course, in addition to the pressures and stress and frustrations in dating. No wonder so many singles -especially those who have been navigating the shidduch dating scene for a while -are getting increasingly depressed!

Maybe it's time we find a different way of thinking about how we make choices in dating...