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Are Singles Paralyzed By Too Many Choices?

Have you ever gone into an ice cream store that has dozens of flavors only to spend a ridiculously large amount of time deciding on … chocolate? Such a store can be overwhelming. According to one author, a similar phenomenon may be keeping singles from marriage.

In 2000, Drs. Sheena S. Iyengar and Mark R. Lepper set up a tasting booth at an upscale grocery store in California. On some days, they put out a selection of six types of jam; on other days they set out twenty-four. Although the wider selection attracted more shoppers, more people bought the jam when there were fewer options. It seemed the more choices people had, the harder it was to make a decision.

The Paradox of Choice explored this infamous dilemma, in which having more options tends to leave us paralyzed and increase our buyer’s remorse. But what does that mean when you’re not just shopping? What about when you’re doing much more important stuff…like picking a job, a house, or – gasp – a life partner?…

As part of a global community connected 24/7, sometimes it does feel like singles have infinite choices. I mean, our generation has far greater access to thousands of potential romantic matches compared, to say, our grandparents, who were limited to interactions with those living in their hometowns or possibly those with whom they went to school.

Today’s twenty- and thirty-somethings approach life and love very differently than past generations. The explosion of choices now available has impacted our desires and expectations, and led us to reconsider traditional decisions. Young men and women are increasingly reluctant to make the ultimate commitment and get married, and much of that is due to all the other glittery options out there competing for our attention – friends, professional success, 30 Rock, the people in the world you haven’t yet dated.

The author of this post advises singles to focus on what they are truly looking for and eliminate less promising options:

Does your ideal life involve a mud hut in Nicaragua with a partner equally thrilled by jungle monkeys? Then don’t go trolling for men on what’s left of Wall Street. If you’re a conservative Christian who’s into side hugs, don’t make eyes at the atheist hippie at the local coffee shop. Yes, opposites attract. Paula Abdul said so. But they aren’t a long-term win. Don’t fall into a relationship that checks none of your boxes.

Sound advice. Thomas Jeffries gave a biblical perspective on this topic in his series “Decisions, Decisions.” He writes:

I’ve become convinced that God does not want us paralyzed with fear and inaction as we seek His perfect will for every situation. While there indeed may be an ideal sandwich bread, I don’t think I need to fast and pray for weeks to discern what it is. It’s just not that important. And when I do face a decision with lasting consequences, I now have the ability to choose without fear of making a colossal blunder.

So while there may be many potential mates out there, you really only need one compatible person. In the end, when the right one presents him or herself, it might not even be a difficult choice.

Copyright 2010 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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