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Amy Alkon


Mr. Throng I'm a 35-year-old woman, and I've been involved with a guy around my age for almost two years. It's been "open." Well, that is, he's had the freedom to sleep with other people. I haven't wanted to. I finally realized that I am not happy with this …Read more. Ben Hurry I'm a woman in my 40s, and I've been happily married for 22 years. Unfortunately, my husband and I have never been very compatible sexually. I had read so much Cosmo in college that I believed sex was something we could work on. Well, he is quick in …Read more. Shove Hurts I've spent hundreds of dollars on a relationship coach, who instructed me to cut off all sex and even all contact with the guy I was dating until he agreed to marry me. I knew he loved me and wanted to marry me; I just wanted him to do it faster. …Read more. Livid And Let Livid You responded to a woman who was very proud of herself for leaving the room to compose herself when she got really angry with her boyfriend. It is very unhealthy to stuff your anger. Why would you give this terrible advice — encouraging her …Read more.
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Mr. Swipe Right


I'm a woman who's both loving and seriously hating Tinder. Guys on this app mostly want to hook up, and even those who say they want a relationship are flaky, often disappearing after a single date. Sure, this sometimes happens with guys I meet in real life, but not at the rate of my Tinder dates. — Annoyed

Welcome to the Hookupatorium!

Tinder takes all the wait and effort out of speed dating. No need to put on pants — or pull them up, if you're on the john. You just "swipe right" on your phone to match with somebody — and maybe even swipe 'em right into your bed 20 minutes later. Plus it's fun — less like a dating site than a video game. "Call of Booty," anyone?

However, for anyone seeking "happily ever after" instead of "hookupily," Tinder can pose a problem, and that problem is too much choice. But...choice is a good thing, right? The more the better! It's the principle behind those "endless options!" deli menus — you know, the ones with a page count that makes you forget whether you're supposed to decide what to have for lunch or whether Ayn Rand was a bad writer.

Unfortunately, our psychological operating system evolved in an environment where the level of choice was more like "Sir, can I bring you the grubs or the grubs?" So research finds that we're easily overwhelmed by a slew of options — often choosing poorly and being bummed about it afterward or feeling too snowed to choose at all. Social psychologist Barry Schwartz explains that these problems with choosing are about protecting ourselves from regret — the pain of blaming ourselves for making the wrong choice. But having a lot of options isn't necessarily unmanageable — if we have enough information to differentiate between them and narrow the field. However, on Tinder, there's minimal info — only age, location, pics, and a few lines about a person — making it an endless swipestream of "she's hot" and "she's hot in a slightly different way."

Also consider that Tinder is not designed to help you find love (that lasts for more than a few sweaty hours); Tinder is designed to keep you Tindering. The psychological hook is "intermittent reinforcement." Predictable "rewards" — like if you swiped and always got a match — quickly give us the yawnies. But Tinder's unpredictable rewards — the random ding! "It's a match!" — turn you into a coke-seeking lab rat, relentlessly swiping for your next high.

You may decide to keep nibbling at Tinder's mobile-global man buffet, but dates that come out of real-life meetings are probably more likely to lead to second dates, and maybe more. At a party, you're, say, one of eight single women, five of whom a guy isn't that attracted to and one of whom he broke up with last year.

And finally, there's how face-to-face meetings come with behavioral constraints that Tinder convos lack. You should find it's the rare guy at the coffee shop who immediately follows up "That a soy latte?" by pointing to his zipper: "Ready for showtime?"


My girlfriend has been feeling neglected and keeps worrying that I'm mad at her. I love her, but I have big business problems now, and I don't want to burden her with them. Also, since we have a good thing, doesn't it make sense to focus on the stuff that's a mess? — Startup Guy

Unfortunately, it isn't possible to outsource your relationship to some guy in the Philippines: "Please stay on the line. Your feelings are very important to us..."

Men and women tend to deal with crisis in different ways. Women manage their emotions by expressing them; men just hope theirs will go away. Evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby explain that men evolved to be the defenders of the species, and in battle, it would have put them at a disadvantage to show their feelings — especially those reflecting vulnerability, like "Yikes, I'm totally out of my league!"

Being predisposed to bury your feelings in the backyard doesn't mean you should — assuming you don't want your next startup to be a new relationship. This isn't to say you need to blather on about everything, Oprah's-couch style. You just need to share the bad as well as the good, even just by texting, "tough day, babe." You might even put reminders on your phone to send brief sweet messages a few times daily. Maybe that seems dumb and unromantic. What's dumber and more unromantic is adding breakup problems to your business problems because you didn't put in 46 seconds a day telling a woman that she matters. Sure, misery reportedly "loves company," but let's not be hasty in filling the flower vases and putting out the good towels.

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email ( Her latest book is "Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck."



It's Amy Alkon's "HumanLab — The Science Between Us." Amy brings in the luminaries of behavioral science to solve our problems in love, work, and life. Listen live every Sunday — — from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Pacific time; or listen or download at the link, at iTunes, or on Stitcher. This week, Amy and Dr. Jennifer Verdolin on why heartbreak is adaptive and how science can help you heal.


4 Comments | Post Comment
LW1: You seem to be very confused over the purpose of Tinder. Also, desperation is not attractive and only serves to repel others.

LW2: Burden? Okay. Listen, you clearly have no intention of thinking of this girl as your partner in life. You also probably don't know what a healthy relationship is. You might want to look it up.

Comment: #1
Posted by: Diana
Tue Feb 9, 2016 1:08 PM
LW1--Honey, what the hell did you expect from Tinder?!? Really!?!? If you want to find a meaningful relationship and date quality men who want the same things that you do then cruising Tinder is exactly the WRONG way to go about it!! For god's sake, are you really this clueless? Even gay men know better than that! My suggestion is to fork over some dollars and create an account on E-Harmony or any number of legitimate dating sites where people are actually interested in more than sex and where they're actually willing to jump though some hoops in order to get into meaningful relationships. While you're at it, I recommend that you reach around and yank your head out of your posterior. Are you sure you're old enough or mature enough to be dating? It sure doesn't seem like it to me.

LW2--Look, if you're so wrapped up in your business that it presents a problem in your relationship every time the books show a little red then you need to do some serious soul searching. Either you open and available to date up to and including the logical conclusion that includes marriage or you're a workaholic whose moods and demeanor change along with Wall Street. If it's the latter, then please let your current girlfriend go and stay single for awhile. You seem like a walking emotional roller coaster.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Chris
Tue Feb 9, 2016 2:49 PM
LW1: Or better yet than Chris' suggestions (they're very good, BTW), I'd say how about focusing and putting some actual effort (that's E-F-F-O-R-T) into your relationships and letting things fall where they may? That is, actually GET TO KNOW the potential "happily ever after" guy, rather than be champing at the bit for a night of white hot sex in the sack?

I'd say forget Tinder, forget any sort of on-line dating and hookup sites and get out there and actually meet someone. Even if it's at the college bar.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Bobaloo
Wed Feb 10, 2016 8:51 AM
LW1 -
You don't like the trash you end up with with Tinder? Perhaps you should look up the Webster definition of "tinder". Move on to another tool already. Oh, but I see, you would want the app to CHANGE to your specifications. You're probably doing that with men too.

I recommend you forget about Tinder and about dating sites in general, and try to learn to live in REAL LIFE. You seem to be missing experience there.

LW2 -
Well, for openers, real relationships are not just a bag of sweets, they involve all of the real stuff, and some of it is not so nice. What you gonna do when you're married, hide to your wife that you've been diagnosed with cancer or fired from your job, because it's not nice and you "don't want to burden her"? Would you be one of those men who dress up and pretend to leave for a job they no longer have, and then spend the whole day in some Internet cafe?

If your girfriend sees you unusally somber and silent, she has every reason to wonder what's the matter with you and if you're mad at her. You're not sparing her from a burden, you're inflicting undue anxiety on her. And this is not because you want to spare her (that's nothing but rationalisation), it's because you're too prideful and don't want to appear like you're weak or a failure. Get over it, because right now you're not being fair to her, and your clamming up is not serving your relationship. Tell her what's the matter already, for Pete's sake.

For all you know, she might bring a fresh perspective and see solutions you wouldn't have thought of. It's not just out of babes that the truth comes, sometimes it's out of laymen's. At the very least, she will stop agonising and wondering if she did anything wrong, and can offer precious emotional support that will make you closer.

If you can't see that, perhaps you arent't ready for a real relationship, and should let this woman go, because she isn't only there to serve you as an escape.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:50 AM
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