Loveonomics, or the economics of love?

If you tried to meet someone with incredible humor and expertise in economics who has researched the science of love, you would probably end up meeting Rebekka Grun – the inventor of the term Loveonomics. She delivered a TEDx Talk in November 2019 giving advice on dating and how to maximize chances of getting where you want to be in your personal life. You can also find some interesting content on her popular personal blog ‘Dateconomics’ (link).

As a Zurich city single in the beginning of my 30’s I was particularly interested in her view on strategizing the dating life rather than relying on serendipity. 

It is accepted and encouraged to plan your career, define next steps and find the job that suits you best. But when it comes to dating and finding love, we still expect that things will  just happen. People struggle with the idea of setting goals in romance. As if something was wrong with us, if we made an effort. 

And I can relate, I mean I am a strong and independent woman and I also want to get married and have children. How come the idea of strategizing a bit dating-wise makes me feel uncomfortable? 

Rebekka’s experience was similar, she started writing in the romantic mindset, -it will happen by itself- until the light went on. She realized she wanted to make choices in order to end up in a happy relationship. 

There are a lot of people who are drifting into relationships and are not very happy. Why then not be strategic ahead of time and take the steps needed in order to meet people that we share values and interests with? Romance will happen – human nature – but one could certainly gain from thinking and planning. 

Traditional dating advice is very much centered on the individual – “you need to fix yourself” – and there is a whole array of books catering to that. While self-development is important, these books often fail to address the fact that circumstances also matter and that you need to choose your landscape. For example, where you live and the places you seek out, as well as the people you mix with. If where you are does not match your goals, you need to change something. 

There is a dominant idea that this is unromantic and desperate, but this is actually smart and brave, as it requires breaking the status quo.

The economics Nobel prize winners of 2010: Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides explored the difficulty of matching the supply of workers to available jobs. They found similarities with the world of love and the dating market. If there is unemployment insurance, people are happier in their jobs. If you can afford to wait, then you are more likely to find a job that suits your needs. The same applies to relationships: you need to find a way of having some mental unemployment insurance. For example, try to make being single fun and rewarding so that you are patient and choosy enough to find your best match. 

The matching techniques are transferable between choosing a company and a partner. In a way your company is your partner; you have to be excited to go to work. You can also try to work against the trend and strategically choose employment at locations where people are not rushing to be hired. Let’s say you’re a doctor: Why not consider the countryside? Few people rush to rural areas and there’s often a lack of highly qualified professionals such as doctors, teachers, and pharmacists. The advantage will then be twofold: high demand for employees and higher real income, as costs are usually lower in the countryside. 

Applying this to the dating life in Switzerland, one might consider choosing central Switzerland: in Zurich 39% of the population are single, followed by Graubunden at 38%. For all our French-speaking readers, you have nothing to worry about as Geneva is in the leading spot with 41%! While Eastern Switzerland only has 25% of single people in the population (statistics from link).

For Rebekka the turning point was when she confidently said “I’m dating to find a life partner and a husband” It felt like a switch into serious mode, shortly after which she met the guy who she ended up marrying.

I was also allowed to have a sneak peak into her forthcoming book. In the first stages of dating, you want to use your time productively, such as identifying five binary non-negotiable criteria that you want to see in your life partner – and then assessing them on the first date. For instance, if you want children and you learn that your date does not, then do not spend time on additional dates. You can also meet with a couple of people for coffee in parallel at the getting-to-know-only stage, in order to use your time efficiently. We have a natural instinct; be confident about it and be ready to let go of the ones you know are not right for you. 

There is nothing desperate about it, it is a very confident choice. It will get you to the place you want to be. “Traditionally the dating market was not very empowering to women and today it is still not. One of my goals is to give women the power to be able to get where they want to be.”

As we ended our conversation Rebekka offered me one final piece of advice: 

“Whether it is in your professional or personal life, it is important to remember that you can’t control the results, but you can set the odds in your favor.”

Photo by Marin Mikelin

Sarah Ebling

          Sarah Ebling holds a professorship in Accessibility Studies at Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and is a senior researcher at the University of Zurich. Her research focuses on natural language processing in the context of disabilities and special needs, specifically, sign language technology and automatic text simplification. Her groups’ contributions involve artificial intelligence techniques with a strong emphasis on user involvement. She is involved in various international and national projects and leads a large-scale Swiss innovation initiative entitled „Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies“ (2022-2026;