Logan Ury: “While Love May Be a Natural Instinct, Dating Isn’t.”

Logan Ury: “While Love May Be a Natural Instinct, Dating Isn’t.”

Interview: Logan Ury

Logan Ury is a Harvard-educated behavioral scientist turned dating coach, and the author of How to Not Die Alone: The Surprising Science That Will Help You Find Love (Amazon, Bookshop). As the Director of Relationship Science at the dating app Hinge, Logan leads a research team dedicated to helping people find love.

How to Not Die Alone is a guide to modern dating, designed to help the reader overcome their bad habits and find the relationship of their dreams, using lessons from behavioral science. Each chapter focuses on a different decision along the dating journey, from "Am I ready to date?" to "Should we get married?"

I met Logan Ury years ago, when I visited Google to talk about my book about habit change, Better Than Before, and we had a conversation about habits and happiness.

I couldn't wait to talk to Logan about happiness, human nature, and relationships.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

Logan: Taking control of my calendar. I am a morning person by nature. A few years ago I recognized that my creativity and productivity peak in the morning and decrease slowly over the course of the day. Empowered by this realization, I now block off 7:30 - 9:30 a.m. on my calendar to do my most important work, especially writing. I am fiercely protective of this time slot. 

I am less productive in the afternoons, so I schedule workouts and one-on-one meetings during that block. I prefer phone meetings to Zoom so that I can get fresh air and walk around during the chat.

I also know that Fridays are lower energy days for me. Since I’m an extrovert, I get energy from being around others. Therefore I plan upbeat, brainstorming-type meetings on Fridays, instead of trying to force myself to eek out solo work that I will have trouble focusing on. 

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Happiness is a plant. My current model of happiness is influenced by the great Jonathan Haidt, who writes: “Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait.” He sees happiness as a plant that you can water with love, work, community, etc. 

I love this analogy because it means that even if I’m cursed by some biological predilection to be anxious, or maybe I’ve developed a bad pattern along the way, I can foster more happiness in my life by getting the basics right. For me that means sleeping, exercising, spending time with energizing people, limiting my social media intake, and doing meaningful work.   

You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers – most?

The Three Dating Tendencies: As a dating coach, I discovered that while all of my clients are unique, many of them suffer from dating blind spots—patterns of behavior that hold them back from finding love, but which they can’t identify on their own.

Inspired by Gretchen (who was inspired by Freud!), I’ve categorized the most common blind spots into a framework called The Three Dating Tendencies. Each group struggles with unrealistic expectations. 

"The Romanticizer" has unrealistic expectations of relationships. "The Maximizer" has unrealistic expectations of their partner. "The Hesitater" has unrealistic expectations of themselves.

The Romanticizer: You want the soul mate, the happily ever after—the whole fairy tale. You love love. You believe you are single because you haven’t met the right person yet. Your motto: It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.

The Maximizer: You love doing research, exploring all of your options, turning over every stone until you’re confident you’ve found the right one. You make decisions carefully. And you want to be 100 percent certain about something before you make your choice. Your motto: Why settle?

The Hesitater: You don’t think you’re ready for dating because you’re not the person you want to be yet. You hold yourself to a high standard. You want to feel completely ready before you start a new project; the same goes for dating. Your motto: I’ll wait until I’m a catch.

On my website you can take a quiz to determine your dating tendency. It will help identify what’s holding you back, so you can break your bad habits and develop new ones. Your tendency impacts your behavior at every stage of the relationship, so it’s crucial to learn yours as the first step along your journey to finding love.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

The quintessential Obliger. I honestly don't think I could have written my  book without understanding my Obliger tendency. I used this knowledge to create accountability structures along the way. My best hack was accountability dinners: every three weeks a different friend would host me and nine other people for a dinner in which we'd discuss two chapters of my book. This helped me write consistently throughout the year, and because 10 other people were involved, I never missed a deadline. 

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

Behavioral science: Discovering the field of how we make decisions felt like being hit by a lightning bolt.

I remember this very specific incident at the Fort Lauderdale airport about ten years ago. When I checked in at the Delta counter, the machine said: “Your flight is overbooked. Would you be willing to take a later flight in exchange for money?” I pressed “yes” because I could easily return home to my parents. Then it said “How much would you be willing to accept? $50? $100? $200?” This fascinated me. I was so curious about how others would respond. Would most people press $200 for the biggest possible payout? Or would the majority select “$50” thinking that some money was better than not being selected? 

When I came upon the work of Dan Ariely, I realized there was an entire academic field dedicated to studying questions like this. I feel so lucky that I got to partner with Dan running Google’s behavioral science team, thinking about how other people think and decide. And best of all, I get to study that in the context of dating and relationships. 

 Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”)

“Meaning heals all wounds." Psychologists refer to “meaning-making,” the process through which people come to understand a life event, a relationship, or themselves. In his landmark book Man’s Search for Meaning (Amazon, Bookshop), Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust, explained that meaning-making allows us to move from suffering to growth: “In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.”  [Gretchen: I also love this quotation, and if you want to hear a "Little Happier" where I talk about it, you can listen to the one-minute audio-clip here: "Finding Meaning, Such as Sacrifice, Can Transform Suffering."]

Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

Better Than Before. In 2015 I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Gretchen for a Talks at Google event for Better Than Before. Learning about the Four Tendencies changed my life. As I mentioned before, I truly don’t think I could have written my book without this self-knowledge. It helped me develop better habits, create accountability systems, and most importantly — stop blaming myself for not being as disciplined as my Upholder husband!  [Awwww, that's so nice to hear!]

In your field, is there a common misconception that you’d like to correct?

Dating is a skill. Some people think they shouldn’t have to buy a book on love. Love is something effortless, natural, organic. You fall in love, you don’t think your way into it. It’s a spontaneous chemical reaction, not a calculated decision.

But here’s the truth: While love may be a natural instinct, dating isn’t. We’re not born knowing how to choose the right partner.

And if we were, I wouldn’t have a job.

Great relationships are built, not discovered. A lasting relationship doesn’t just happen. It is the culmination of a series of decisions, including when to get out there, whom to date, how to end it with the wrong person, when to settle down with the right one, and everything in between. Make good decisions, and you propel yourself toward a great love story. Make bad ones, and you veer off course, doomed to repeat the same harmful patterns over and over.

But often we don’t understand why we make certain decisions, and that leads to mistakes. And those mistakes thwart our quest to find love. Behavioral science can help.

Behavioral science is the study of how we make decisions. It offers a way to peel back the layers of our mind, peek inside, and see why we tend to make certain choices. Spoiler alert: We’re irrational. We often make decisions that are not in our own best interest.

This happens in all realms of life. It’s why we say we want to save for retirement and then max out our credit cards on decorating our apartments. Or tell ourselves we’ll exercise more, then use our treadmill as a clothing rack. No matter how often and or how earnestly we set goals, we get in our own way. 

We can apply insights from behavioral science to understand our own faulty decision making, and then use tools from the field to help us overcome our bad habits. 

Yes, dating is a skill, and yes, it can be taught. 

icon emailNewsletterLight

One Last Thing

Interested in happiness, habits, and human nature?

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. I share ideas for being happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative.

icon schooled

Find out if you’re an Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, or a Rebel.

The Four Tendencies explain why we act and why we don’t actOur Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so understanding your Tendency lets us make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress and burnout, and engage more effectively.

Take the quiz

Get My Weekly Newsletter

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. It highlights the best material from here, my Facebook Page, and new original work.