I’m currently without a functioning ATM card. Six weeks ago, I forgot my PIN and locked myself out of my account. I haven’t not needed cash during this period. I’ve borrowed cash from my mom. I’ve been forced to Venmo friends while dining out. I even had to tell a guy on a second date that he’d need to front all the money for our trip to a local county fair. (Smooth.) I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid calling my bank to remedy the situation. Why? I’ve told myself it’s because I don’t have time (not true) and it’s not that inconvenient and I’ll get to it when I need to (very not true).
All this is to say that we love to make excuses for our problems, especially by way of blaming circumstances supposedly outside of our control. Case in point: dating in NYC. It’s practically a motto for single New Yorkers that this is “the worst city in the world for dating.” (To clarify, this usually refers to dating with the purpose of finding a serious relationship; those in the market for more casual interactions don’t seem to have too many complaints.) But if you peel back the layers a little, I find the stereotypes about dating in New York are less based on reality and are more reflective of our beliefs. Below, I examine four common claims people make and show how, if we dig a little deeper, these so-called truths are not what they seem.
1. Myth: New Yorkers don’t want to settle down
While we’re quick to pin this trait solely on hetero men, this city is definitely conducive to a Peter Pan vibe for anyone who wants it. People flock from all over to pursue their dreams and live life exactly how they see fit (within the confines of an absurd cost of living, that is). For many, there’s a sense that this lifestyle isn’t forever, so why slow down? If that’s your vibe, you do you, but New York is home to 8.5 million people—and many of the single adults in that mix are pursuing a meaningful partnership and aren’t thriving on hookup culture. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously put it, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Take the energy you’ve devoted to clinging to the worry that New Yorkers don’t want to settle down, and instead direct it toward surrounding yourself with people (platonic or otherwise) who share your values. Yes, you might meet some romantic prospects in the process, but either way, it’s a good reminder that there are like-minded people out there.
2. Myth: People have too much choice here
Look, we all have too much choice in general these days. (Just visit the nut butter section at Trader Joe’s.) But it’s become too frequent of a cop-out in dating. When someone says to me “People here have too much choice,” the nugget I really hear is “I don’t believe I’m worthy of being chosen.” If that feels like a hard pill to swallow, take it out of the context of dating: When we really want to make something happen—running a marathon, securing a promotion or snagging an apartment with a dishwasher—it may not be a linear path, but if it matters enough to us (and if we believe we’re worthy of it), we make it happen. We don’t settle. We maintain emotional resilience and keep going.
We rarely apply the same mind-set to our pursuit of partnership. I’m not suggesting we treat dating like a job (another mind-set I’d like to abolish). Rather, it’s about acknowledging the comfort we find in our excuses—that way we can sit back and blame forces outside our control for why we’re watching Netflix solo. And that surfeit of choice? It goes both ways. Instead of saying “thank u, next” preemptively because you assume your matches will do the same, remind yourself that you don’t have to buy into the decision paralysis and short attention spans we’re all supposedly plagued with—and that there are other people who are also making conscious choices.
3. Myth: New Yorkers are too focused on their careers
The psychological theory of projection (coined by Sigmund Freud, naturally) holds that when we’re unable to deal with uncomfortable feelings within ourselves, we project those unwanted feelings onto others. Nine times out of ten, I find this to be the case with New Yorkers and their careers. We love to peg others as being too invested in their careers and not making time for their personal lives. Meanwhile, we’re constantly pulling 12-hour days and feverishly checking our Slack channels when our date goes to the bathroom.
The next time you find yourself shoveling takeout pad thai into your mouth as you “catch up on email,” instead of blaming your job for robbing you of meeting your S.O., put the emails aside (because they can definitely wait) and ask yourself, Why do I feel so stuck in my dating life? Be honest. Repeat that practice every night for a week and see what patterns surface. You’ll find a lot more clarity on how you can move forward than if you were to spend the evening clearing out your inbox.
4. Myth: The apps suck (in New York especially)
Pull out your notebook again, because now we need to touch on confirmation bias, or the tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Let’s say the apps have always left you feeling hopeless. You know of multiple couples who met through Bumble or Hinge, but for you that hasn’t happened. In your experience, they’re terrible. People ghost. They either don’t respond or send weird messages. You don’t match with the right people. Again—terrible. In order to continue to be “right,” your mind immediately latches on to any evidence that shows the apps to be inherently flawed when used within the five boroughs and discards all evidence that disproves that theory.
But for a second, put all that aside and think about the mildly good experiences you’ve had. People who were pleasant enough but that you didn’t quite click with, the ones who’ve started nice conversations that you haven’t followed up with, etcetera. Then count the folks you know who met their significant other through an app. Note: This is not a BS exercise to get you to look on the bright side—it’s to ground you in reality. Still think the apps are hopeless? If yes, get off them and focus on meeting people in person or take a break from dating entirely. But if not, think about what you can learn from those previous experiences that didn’t end in your making up an excuse to leave the bar.