Is The City Making You Single?

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I’m just going to come out and say it: its easier to find a date in a small town.

That’s right. I’m willing to admit, I’m lousy at big city dating. I’m a self-identified small town enthusiast; a big city girl with provincial leanings. Having lived in both a small town, (population 2000), and also a city literally 10 thousand times bigger, (population 2.5 million), I have experienced single life first hand in both of these very different dating environments.

So lets do a little amateur qualitative analysis to compare:

Over the two and a half years that I lived in a small town, I had 2 boyfriends. One I dated for about a year and half, the other for about 6 months. I was in a relationship for approximately 80% of my time there. Both times I met the boyfriend within a month of moving to town.

Since living in the city for almost as long, I’ve had a boyfriend for roughly 10% of the time, (I think I’m stretching it to even call him a “boyfriend…”), and I met him after living in the city for almost a year. I’ve dated, but nothing has really stuck.

So what’s the deal?

At first glance, living in a big city might seem like the best option if you’re looking for love. There are lots of great things about urban life: there’s tons to do, tons of people to meet, and tons of late night take-out options. You can mix up your social circle and have a varied friend group with lots of chances to meet new people. There are so many options! It’s possible to meet someone cool in your summer softball league, when you’re taking advantage of that stand up paddle boarding Groupon, or at any one of the many outdoor music venues, right?

Wrong.

Time and time again, urban singles bemoan how hard it is to meet someone “real,” how they feel lonelier, and how they are missing a feeling of connection to those around them. Cities operate in the paradoxical way of bringing together a large amount of people in a relatively concentrated way, but also increasing feelings of distance between individuals on a personal level. It can be very hard to connect with others, let alone find your perfect match.

After some thorough pencil chewing and head scratching, I believe that my interesting conundrum of only being able to successfully form relationships in a small town comes down to a few characteristics that make all the difference. Here are the applicable differences between big cities and small towns:

1) There is less choice

This seems counter intuitive  but bear with me. Studies have shown that subjects who are given less choice in a variety of situations tend to perform better and are more satisfied with their selection than those who are offered greater choice overall. While this seems like it should be worse when it comes to dating, what it means is that sometimes having a huge pool of singles to choose from can actually lead to us feeling overwhelmed by all the options or constantly second guessing ourselves. Small towns with fewer available singles means less choice overall but could mean more successful relationships in the long run, (as my anecdotal evidence suggests.)

2) Everyone knows everyone

What’s the easiest way to break the ice ? Talk about something you have in common. Having common ground to chat about when you first meet someone is a great low-pressure way to start a conversation and see if there’s any chemistry. If you live in a small town, you probably know where the other person works, have mutual friends, or have seen them out playing pick up hockey on their unicycle, whatever. Perfect conversation starter.

The only downside of this? Everyone knows everything about everyone. That guy you’re chatting up has probably dated your friend’s sister, or got fired last year from the restaurant you just started working at. Its hard to keep things private when news travels fast and gossip is the local currency. No real way to get around it.

3) People smile at each other

How often do you smile at a complete stranger? Probably pretty infrequently. Cities have a bad reputation when it comes to strangers interacting with each other. This is not the case in small towns. When you pass someone on the street, you look them in the eye, smile, and nod, almost without fail. This might seem like common courtesy to some, but one that’s not so common in our urban every day.

Smiling has all kinds of positive effects on your body and brain. Keeping a smile on your face makes you feel good and makes others more attracted to you. Smiling at someone else encourages them to reciprocate and gives you both feelings of connection and happiness.

 So what’s a girl to do?

I encourage you all to join me in embracing your inner small town girl. Say hi to new people, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by choice, and keep your head up! I’ll be the nut job smiling at you when we pass on the street ;)




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