Finding a mate is a logic game

By | September 22, 2016

A friend of mine — his name is Dan and he is not imaginary — explained to me his theory on finding a mate recently. He approached it as a logic game more than luck. Everyone, including yourself, carries a number from 1 to 100. The goal of the game is to get together with the highest number possible. There are basically three ways to do this.

How to play/win the mate logic game

  1. Raise your own number.
  2. Go out and meet a bunch of people to maximize the numbers you see.
  3. Settle for a lower number.
Weird statue in Bucharest

Weird statue in Bucharest

1. Raise your own number.

I love this piece because what’s not to love about it? Okay, there’s the obvious way of working out to look better, but I think it’s much bigger than that. Judge Judy told me in her book that I should “create an interesting person….A substantial person will seek out a substantial mate. If you have nothing to offer, chances are you will attract a whole lot of nothing.”

We see this a great deal on her show.

But I do agree with her advice. Define yourself. Don’t let other people define you. Understand yourself. Know your worth. Learning what you enjoy, figuring out what you’re good at, testing ideas and limits — that’s the entire point of it all. When you look back on your life, will you be entertained by the story? Make yourself interesting to yourself. 

As an added bonus, it will make you more appealing to potential suitors.

I’ve been slowly increasing my number over the years. I still have a way to go, but that’s okay. It’s the journey. As long as life is getting better, I’m not bothered with the pace.

2. Go out and meet a bunch of people to maximize the numbers you see.

This piece rocks too. It’s basically Operation Enjoy the Crap Out of Life. Go out and do things! Interact with the world and the people that exist in the world. You won’t find your significant other sitting in your living room. Unless you’re already married and they’re hanging out in the living room with you. Quit bragging.

This ties in with number one. Explore what you think you may like. While you’re doing those things, talk to people. Make friends. Make close friends. Maybe you’ll find someone you want to date.

I’m actually pretty good at this one too. The problem, for me, has never been meeting people.

Weird bathroom in Vienna

3. Settle for a lower number.

Number one and two are how you play the mating logic game. Number three is how you win it. Realize that nobody is perfect and finding that magical 100 number is a myth.

Dan suggested thinking of attraction as a 10-point scale. Anything below five will never work. Anything above eight will probably work without any effort. If the number you assign is between a five and an eight, the potential for growth is there. A good personality can bump someone up a couple of points just like a rotten personality can yank someone down a couple of points.

The appeal, to me, of Dan’s logic game is that I can maybe control every part of it. Here’s a list I made of why I trust Dan’s advice.

Why I trust Dan’s advice

  1. He’s been in one of the happiest relationships I’ve seen for as long as I’ve known him (nearly seven years) culminating in a fun wedding recently.
  2. Dan retired three years ago, at the age of 29 to travel the world with his honey, hike the Appalachian trail, and just generally enjoy life.
  3. He doesn’t drink (much) alcohol, but still seems to have fun. I want to be a teetotaler one day.
  4. I agree with him on pretty much everything. Especially when it comes to marveling at people’s money habits.
weird house in Cluj-Napoca

Weird house in Sibiu. It’s watching you and is unimpressed with your life choices.

One more piece of Dan’s advice leapt out to me. Consider what needs you can meet outside of the relationship. What are you looking for in a partner that a close friend couldn’t give you? You can’t expect one person to be everything for you. That’s really dangerous if you lose that person and that’s really exhausting if you are that person.

Find someone who you don’t get tired of hanging out with, who falls within the appropriate numbers range and who fulfills the relationship reasons you’re seeking and you’re golden. Sounds easy enough. After that I’ll fix climate change and open that salsa jar.


The relationship advice you guys email me makes me giddy. I love hearing from people who are happily coupled. It’s comforting to know it’s possible even if it often feels unattainable. There is so much knowledge in my inbox and I feel close! That’s a lie. But at least it’s a happy lie.

I still think I’m doing pretty well on “Operation Don’t Die Alone” despite the fact that I haven’t actually been doing any real dating or replying to inquiries. The smiley faces on my resolutions chart placate me. Hey, research is a fun and necessary step – talking to friends who seem content in their relationships, reading a lot of books, writing about and parsing the information; I even did some quizzes. I don’t mean to taunt the universe, but I’m optimistic.

In the meantime, I’m happy and I’m busy. I’m writing a nonfiction book and plotting a fiction novel for NaNoWriMo. Mom is teaching me to cook when I see her. My travel bug is chubby. Operation Enjoy the Crap Out of Life takes up a lot of time. Much of the day, I’m engrossed in reading something. And, of course, the research continues.

Do you think this article is too long to print and hand out to all my aunt’s friends who ask me why I’m not married at my cousin’s wedding next month?

35 thoughts on “Finding a mate is a logic game

  1. Joe

    Dan’s advice is great as is your article. I feel there is one key point that to add but I’m afraid to mention because it is not politically correct and may get me banned from your blog.

    While your number can go up over time as you accumulate things that increase your attractiveness, confidence, financial resources, maturity, new skills, knowledge, hobbies. However, after a point the number plateaus and then comes down as you get older, lose your looks, physical vigor and may start to have health issues.

    There is one difference between the sexes, the age at which your number peaks and then starts to fall.
    Men can continue to accumulate financial resources, maturity and have children in to their 50’s/60’s/70’s but women can’t (except for some very rare instances). This means men might peak in their late thirties or even their mid to late forties. A stunning 35 year old woman might happily marry a kind, good looking and wealthy 50 year old man and start a family, but how many good looking 35 year old men would marry a 50 year old woman. Those good looking 35 year old men are unlikely to date anyone more than 2-3 years older, they will often date someone the same age or younger.

    Now this might be the truth that no one wants to talk about, or it might be me trying to create fear. Fear of dying alone so that you settle for me, someone far below your relative number.

  2. Rajen

    what about “matches are made in heaven,” destiny and so on.
    aren’t your parents offering any marches.
    just try not to worry or fret about it.
    just go about enjoying life, being you and let nature take its course…

  3. Jerri Jones

    I want to understand. So I rate myself and potential mates on a scale of 1 to 100? What are the specific things we rate on? Is there a list of qualities you have and each one gets a certain number of points?

    1. Jack NYC

      I dated too many girls. When it was time to narrow the choices. I used a weighted scorecard and only kept dating the top 5. After a month, down to the top two. Another month, down to one. Six months later I proposed. Our 17th anniversary is Oct 9. Very nappy.

  4. steve poling

    The entire Asian subcontinent is filled with people who married each other as strangers and then accommodated themselves to living with someone they were getting to know along the way. I am an American chauvinist, but I can see where other ways of doing things can work. Giving the guy or gal a numeric score is probably bad because it is so reductionist. People are not one-dimensional and if you bring a utility theory to marriage/relationships you risk bringing a flawed model into a mercenary enterprise. Not that anyone intends that, but it only establishes the pairing of two mutually attractive beings. The real success of “not dying alone” is accommodating oneself to the other’s quirks, and realizing you’re going to be the person the other is accommodating to as well. And happily, for me, my significant other still wants me around after three and a half decades.

  5. Daniel Manfre

    Great article, I’ve been happily married 20 years and counting, don’t sweat the small stuff and have fun has been our motto.

  6. tt

    altho you are experiencing the world from your own perspective, your ‘act’ seems together. work on your number? sure. no regrets @ the end, 60 minutes in every hour lived, etc., etc.

    from a logical/statistical POV tho, you are essentially non-existent. Very few folks occupy your space.

    Soul mate search while nomadic? uh oh.

    Two alternatives spring to mind:

    travel industry to find like minds? air travel, cruise ships, part time consulting with few tails, roving reporter? in other words, hang with the very few folks living like you do.


    semi-nomad status… 8 countries over 4 years vice months; enhanced exposure= enhanced temptations!

    Apropos of previous comment, don’t underestimate the ‘co-incidental’ timing of the biological clock. the nesting instinct gets strong at appropriate times.

    PS: Network! Mr. MM & Dan… many others?


  7. ks

    What does this topic have to do with living a frugal lifestyle? Lately, there’s been a lot of mate-pining themes on this blog. I’m about to unsubscribe. Are blogs like TV shows – writers can only sustain the initial appeal for 3-4 years, then they ‘jump the shark?’

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I’m not sure what other financial stuff I have to say and I understand if you want to unsubscribe. I’m getting a little bored of this blog myself!

      1. rudi schmidt

        Maybe you ought to take a break, go climb the Matterhorn and write about doing fun stuff in Europe, or South America….travel articles. Change your focus…take us all along for the ride.

      2. Jeff L

        Your blog is anything but boring! Please keep writing about what’s on your mind. I look forward to reading your posts now more than ever because they make you seem more human and I can totally relate.

    2. Maria

      Blogs are kind of like TV shows, in that there’s always another one out there if you’ve lost interest in the one you’re currently watching/reading.

      The big difference between blogs and TV shows is that with TV shows, viewers don’t feel entitled to come onto the show and announce that they’ve lost interest. I find it amazingly rude when people do that in blog comments.

      I myself think that this blog has only gotten better as the subject matter has evolved. That’s why I’m still reading it, instead of quietly and politely finding something else to read. Keep up the good work, Anita! 🙂

  8. Mike

    Control. A sense a theme running throughout, that you are trying to find a formula in which to control the process. Totally understandable and logic has served you well and even, perhaps, created a little bit of your identity. At least on this public blog. My two cents on Dan’s theory? Well sure, since you asked 🙂 – it’s another feeble attempt by humans to create objectivity (and thus control of the variables) for something that is inherently, and always will be, subjective. What I mean is, if you “raise” YOUR number does it necessarily raise in the eyes of others? If I had another million in the bank those who value in their OWN number system people who have over a “million in the bank” will give me a higher number. But there are those who think having a million in the bank is less important than having compassion in the heart. Subjective. Then there is the matter of chemistry. You’ve probably seen (or been victim to) blind dates set up (however subtle) by friends because you both look like a perfect (numbers) match on paper and you meet them and….nothing. No chemistry. That is something we can not control with a numbering system. The Universe will determine that one for you. Can not be forced or manipulated numerically prior to meeting (in my humble opinion). Then there are the statistics people. Shotgun approach to dating. I need to meet more people to increase the statistical likelihood that you will be exposed to someone whose numbers match yours. Very logical. But since you can not control for one variable you also increase the likelihood of meeting non-matches as well. And, due to the volume, you can quickly dismiss a “match” due to logical efficiency methods that encourage you to not waste time because you have to meet more people. I have seen people who have used the meet lots of people approach and watched them become jaded or feel like a failure because their system is not working and they are meeting “everyone” they can. Finally (though I don’t you are still reading) the “lower your number” factor, aka settling. Umm, no. SImply put, don’t do that. That is a factor born of fear and despair and not deserving of your awesomeness. My wife (check out our website has said, she was done looking and trying so hard to find the perfect match. She basically threw her hands up and just said if it is meant to happen it will….in short, she gave up the idea that she controls the whole process from start to finish. She felt good about her decision and felt like a weight was lifted – and then we met. On paper we do not match. using the factoring numerical test we probably do not match. Happily married, baby on the way, very much in love. There is no magic formula for all, its as complex and as simple as “when you know you know”.

  9. Angelle Conant

    On my 21st birthday, I got this advice about finding a mate:
    “It takes 3 things for a relationship to work:
    1. The spicy taco might look nice but it’ll give you heartburn. Go for the baked potato.
    2. The man has to love the woman more than the woman loves the man.
    3. You have to be friends. Somedays you won’t like each other, but you’ll still have to get along.”

    I started dating my future husband a few months later and we just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.
    It might be controversial (especially number 2 – not sure how that fits for same sex couples) but I especially like and agree with #3.

  10. Rudi Schmidt

    TG, You might add to your reading list: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK” by Mark Manson. Not conventional advice but something about “not looking for something” and then finding it rang true for me….job, money, love.
    I’m a retired financial exec and the concept of not planning or having a strategy, or chasing a passion or happiness is an entirely new experience for me–to be continued.
    Best, Rudi

  11. Mother Fussbudget

    You’re writing your own version of the “ThriftyGal Planet Guide” – a travel guide for the thrifty ‘Complete Tightwad Gazette’ readers among us. Surely there are contacts to be made among the travel writing crowd. Keep on networking, and traveling, and spreading your smile around the planet, and I’m sure something good will come of it.

  12. Michael

    Good article as always.

    It seems to me if you can be genuinely happy without a partner, you are much more likely to have sustained happiness with a partner. Too many people jump into relationships expecting that it will give them the happiness they seek. Or they compromise far too much of themselves out of fear of being alone. Relationships are like any other source of external happiness – temporary and to a large extent out of our control.

    Being whole and true to yourself is also very attractive to others. So ironically being happier to be by oneself means you are more likely to end up attracting a partner.

  13. walter

    science and logic eh? how about an experiment Anita? after reading this article, how about having all those interested Men out there ship you a week old unlaundered T-shirt for a thorough olfactory test performed by you? unfortunately this is nothing you can farm out. only YOUR nose knows, ya know? hey, it could be a lot worse. at least i didn’t suggest sending you briefs or boxers. i’ll await your results. post it or somehow chart it, if you like.

  14. Susan Turner

    Hi my travelling friend,
    I enjoyed reading about Dan’s list. Makes good common sense. Fill your own life basket first. It can include a variety of endeavours. I filled mine with travel, becoming bilingual (English and French), being a ski instructor, living 10 years in Europe, needling my way into journalism and communications as a career, running my own consulting company for a decade, working in PR, then communications for the federal government (Canada), retiring … Oops reframe … going on sabbatical, always having music in my life – a violin and multiple instructors here and there over 25 years, moving back home to Calgary, Alberta, getting to spend the last four precious years of Sydney’s life with her – meaning hanging out with my Mother aka best friend – sophisticated classy superbly funny.

    To wrap it all up, when I wasn’t really looking for a mate and was going to a fair amount of live music concerts and venues, I met a German blues singer songwriter, a really wonderful, serious musician and jumped in, head over heels in love with him. In my 71st year, eg last month, we married. It’s a precious third marriage for both of us. Somehow the universe conspired to have us meet and that was that. Soul mates for as long as possible. Infinity? 😄💖

    It’s never too late!

  15. Laszlo

    Dan was diving deep with the logic game metaphor, and the metaphor really sticks, not just in relation to dating but in other contexts too, such as job interviews and such. One of my fave sites, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight started offering logic puzzles in addition to the usual poll crunching, and I love them. When I was in my twenties, I had been an extremely driven person like you, and I had not prioritized sexuality or even participated in the dating game. ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ would have seemed like good advice then, as it does now. One thing I would add to Dan’s excellent principles is that whenever the opportunity for sexual expression arises, it should be taken, either as part of #2, but definitely in #3. Love is the most serious thing there is, and to fall responsibly in love requires logic and lots of hugs.

  16. Palindrome

    Just ignore the person who said they want to unsubscribe, Anita. I love this blog, and your range of topics! Which one-dimensional human being doesn’t understand that you’re allow to have feelings and want to find lasting love? It’s hard enough when you’re busy working, but it’s even harder when you don’t have a fixed schedule or location. Being FI means you have fewer things to worry about, but it doesn’t remove your need for human connection. Most of the FIRE bloggers seem to be married men, so it’s refreshing to hear your journey in FI as a single woman like myself. I’m not FI yet, but dating is work for me as well. It’s nice to know you can relate!

  17. Lulu Anderson

    I am joining you on “Operation Don’t Die Alone” 😀 or we can end up Golden Girls style and hop the globe together? LOL
    Seriously though, I love this post. Great way to view dating. Tony Robbins gave me a tip too, write a list of the traits the person you are looking for has. Then write a list of the woman who would attract that man. Is it you?

  18. tomas

    Honestly, Dan’s theory is the most ridiculous and banal thing I have read in a while. Some people suggest that if you like someone, you find promise in their worst traits. YMMV


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