There are lots of places where you can find a partner. Online, offline, next door, or at a bar, coffee shop, supermarket, etc.; the possibilities are endless. A lot of sites will try to give a "top ten list of where individuals meet." But really, it isn't the place that matters, rather it's the interpersonal dynamics that are important. So here are the top 3 basic principles at play during initial encounters. If you have these, you can meet someone anywhere.
(1) Physical closeness leads to psychological closeness. You have to interact with a person to have a relationship with him or her, and being around each other ups the chances of having an interaction. Potential partners are all around-- in your neighborhood, in one of your classes, in your church, or in a cubicle down the hall. Not only does physical proximity increase the odds of meeting and interacting with someone, but just seeing a person a lot can lead you to like them more (known as the “mere exposure effect”).1 The girl (or guy) next door will have an advantage in winning your heart because you see that person more often. Like a fungus, she (or he) is going to grow on you whether you realize it or not.
(2) We also tend to be similar to people who are nearby. You probably chose your particular college, job, or place to live for the same reason as others. “Birds of a feather flock together” and people tend to be attracted to similar others.2 So, to meet a partner you need to go to the places where those similar to you hang out. Clubs or groups that your are passionate about, as well as classes or other community organizations, are a good starting place.
(3) Don’t overlook the role of social networks in introducing you to others.3 Roughly half of all relationships begin when individuals are introduced to each other by a mutual acquaintance, and two out of three people know members of their partners’ social networks prior to meeting. Social networks also take an active role in selecting particularly suitable mates. The moral of this story is that if you don’t like your current pool of dating partners, it might be time to get some new friends.
This article was adapted from the book Science of Relationships: Experts Answer Your Questions about Dating, Marriage, & Family.
1Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 1-27.
2Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press.
3Parks, M. R. (2007). Personal Relationships and Personal Networks. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Dr. Benjamin Le - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Le's research focuses on commitment, including the factors associated with commitment and its role in promoting maintenance. He has published on the topics of breakup, geographic separation, infidelity, social networks, cognition, and need fulfillment and emotions in relationships.