How Can You Choose A Soulmate In Six To Eight?

The average person sleeps with between six and eight people in their lifetime.

I wonder how much that number skews people’s relationships.

See, when it comes to dating, I have the enthusiasm of a golden retriever – if I want to date you, I’m gonna run in circles around your feet and lick your face if you’ll let me.  I’m not shy with my enthusiasms; I don’t know how to quash my affections.

I also get off on enthusiasm, which is a geek survival skill.  I don’t know much about anime – but if you’re sufficiently fired up about it and willing to explain things instead of just blathering on as if I know this stuff already, I’m there.  This stuff is interesting to me because you’re interested in it.  And if you’re willing to sit me down and show me stuff, well…

I’m also a neophile.  I am drawn to new experiences.  Sure, I don’t know anime, or rap, or bungie-jumping, or parakeets – but if you take me by the hand to bring me to them, I’ll be all like Wow, look at that.

Which, combined with a ridiculously overpowered sex drive, makes me a dating fucking machine.  The average is six to eight – and though I’ve lost track, I’m pretty sure I’m over 150 at this stage.  Which is a number many swingers exceed – but for me, the majority of those conjoinings were within small relationships.

As I used to say, “I don’t do one-night stands.  But I do three-day weekends.”  And I had a lot of torrid “Oh hi, we met, this is lovely, let’s fall in the sack, wait this isn’t working, well, nice to know you”s.  In and done in a week.  No real regrets, but no lasting romantic connections.  (Often friends.  Friends who’d put me in touch with other people to date.  But…)

It occurs to me I date riotously differently.

Because I enjoy dating.

…And at this point, I’ll cue in those who’d scoff “Sure, you’re a man, you can get away with being slutty in ways that women never could” – but the truth is, I know a lot of women who live their lives this way, and their lives are remarkably similar to mine.  Truth is, dating widely and deeply is a lifestyle choice.  The women I’m having these three-day weekends with have chosen pretty much to do as I do.

The net result is that for me, dating is a pretty trivial proposition.  I date a lot.  It doesn’t stress me out all that much to get out there, because I have this confluence of factors where, unbelievably, I enjoy the grind that so many sitcoms and movies tell me is a tedium.

And I try to imagine dating when it’s not fun.

I note that my most-loved pieces of relationship advice are usually the ones where I talk about “How to get someone different from you to love you.”  That essay is a hydra that takes on a thousand forms – how to speak someone’s love language! How to know when a relationship needs fixing! How to handle conflict so things don’t fly apart! – but always, the underlying context is “You have this precious precious thing, how do you fix it?”

And I wonder.  Because the average woman kisses fifteen people in her life, and I try to imagine finding your life’s partner in fifteen dates or under.  That’d be like choosing your life’s career in fifteen interviews total.

Viewed through that lens, it’s no wonder my popular essays are “How do I fix this?” and most of the advice I get asked for is “This partner is abusing me, how do I make them love me?”

My sneaking suspicion is that people are dating so few people that when they land someone who’s even vaguely compatible, they start hammering this bent piece into shape because Oh God I don’t want to be alone and oh God I DEFINITELY don’t want to be out sifting through the dating pool again. I suspect they find keeping up with various flirtations to be an annoyance, a drain on energy, why do I have to be texting these people when really I’d rather be watching Netflix?

I wonder.  Because in my lifelong experience, I’ve only had one person who legitimately changed styles for me – and I’m still married to her, thankfully.  Everyone else who worked out well made small changes – accommodations, really –

– but the people who needed to switch up love languages or drastically alter communication patterns or adjust lifestyles to be with me, well… they didn’t.

You may note that “didn’t” tally is well over a hundred people – and considering I had a few breakups last year, that number’s still ticking upwards.

I suspect what I’m often selling is a lot like diet advice: we call out the triumphs of “THIS PERSON LOST 200 POUNDS AND KEPT IT OFF FOR LIFE!” and quietly ignore the ugly fact that most diets don’t work because changing dietary and exercise habits for life is like kicking an addiction, which also has depressingly low success rates we don’t want to hear about.  Most diets fail – they work well for a while, but then we slip back up on the scale and try to murmur about what happened.

But the diets that do work?

God, everyone wants to hear about that.

Just like everyone wants to hear about how Gini and I managed to transition from “busted communication” to “happy marriage.”

And I do tell people: “Date more. Find people you’re naturally compatible with.  Don’t try to change a water Pokemon into a fire Pokemon.”  And those essays do okay, but they’re never as widely-shared as the ones where I tell you how to turn your snarling Beast into a handsome, library-stocked Prince.

I wonder whether that’s because for them, dating is something so pernicious that they’d rather stick with a marginally-successful relationship than go back out on the market.  I wonder whether that six to eight is because most people have a hard time connecting with one another.  I wonder how many folks would be happier if they dated wider, treating potential partners as something they didn’t have to work so hard to cling to because heck, there’s plenty of fish out there.  You don’t have to turn a flounder into a salmon, you can go catch yourself a goddamned salmon.

But I don’t know.  I dispense advice, but on some level I live in a different world than the people I’m giving advice to.  And I hope it’s helpful.

Still, most of the folks I’m talking to are that six-to-eight range.  Or they’re slightly sluttier, and in the eight-to-twelve range.

Regardless, to me, that’s a terrifyingly low number of people to pick your soulmate from.

I might date a little more, if I were you.

4 Comments

  1. Scyllacat
    Jan 2, 2016

    This is why I keep following you. I have a few intense and richly nuanced relationships because I tried on about 100 of them, and “that number’s still [slowly] ticking upward.” New, adaptive, learning experiences that bring joy to other people – 4 life.

  2. Mark
    Jan 4, 2016

    Interesting idea. I remember an article from about a year ago which noted that people who dated less before marriage tended to be happier in that marriage: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/21/more-sexual-partners-unhappy-marriage_n_5698440.html

    Then again, correlation is not causation (perhaps people that date more thend to be less happy when they settle down or something like that).

  3. eelsalad
    Jan 5, 2016

    “And I do tell people: “Date more. Find people you’re naturally compatible with. Don’t try to change a water Pokemon into a fire Pokemon.” And those essays do okay, but they’re never as widely-shared as the ones where I tell you how to turn your snarling Beast into a handsome, library-stocked Prince.
    I wonder whether that’s because for them, dating is something so pernicious that they’d rather stick with a marginally-successful relationship than go back out on the market. I wonder whether that six to eight is because most people have a hard time connecting with one another. I wonder how many folks would be happier if they dated wider, treating potential partners as something they didn’t have to work so hard to cling to because heck, there’s plenty of fish out there. You don’t have to turn a flounder into a salmon, you can go catch yourself a goddamned salmon.”

    I am the person you wonder about who finds dating pernicious. The answer is yep, for me and people like me, dating is so awful we’d rather stick with a partially-successful relationship and try to make it work .

    I’m uncomfortable meeting new people, I hate dating, and I hated internet dating sites even more. (And oh my gods I hate dating with the fire of a thousand suns. I think I would rather swim the Atlantic than dive back into the dating scene.) Most of the guys I was interested in were not even sufficiently interested in me to go on even a casual coffee date, so finding guys to date at all was difficult. Back in my twenties, I resigned myself to being single for the rest of my life – I’d dated a handful of guys, and each one had been a miserable experience in his very own special way. I did eventually meet someone who liked me and who I liked, AND we were pretty compatible, but it took a long time, and I didn’t meet him through dating. Same with my current (hopefully life-)partner.

    Sometimes I wish I’d done more dating around in my youth, but it’s just not my thing. It makes me anxious and miserable. Obviously, other folks who stick with not-always-perfect relationships will have other reasons, but this is my deal. I’m a rock pokemon rather than electric, and that’s okay. 🙂

  4. Camrin
    Jan 6, 2016

    I have dating. My husband was my second post high school relationship and the 3rd person that I had sex with. We divorced.

    I hate dating. I hate NRE. If I could land in a 3 year old relationship that would be awesome. However, my ex showed me what I don’t want. I have dated a lot of people since, but no where near Ferrets levels. However, I will get tired of the process and not do it for awhile.

    Sadly I have a sex drive, sometimes I will arrange an FWB . While it makes me less desperate it also kills a lot of motivation to date. I had an FWB that lasted for 5 years.

    So saying you need to date more to a person that would rather nail gun their foot to the floor explains why a lot of people end up with people that are not the perfect match.

    Now, unlike when I was in my 20s, I know what I want and can eliminate a lot of folks in the interview stage and don’t really get to the dating part.

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