As someone who was single for more than six years, I can relate to anyone who is finding it difficult to meet a decent guy in Dubai. Over the years I met them all: secretly married guy, only in town for a week guy, on to the next one within two dates guy, I’m so rich and therefore important guy, always on the lookout for the next pretty girl guy, religious only when it suits guy and commitment-phobic guy. It was enough to send me running for the nearest nunnery. Thankfully, I didn’t.
“It’s impossible to find a man who wants a long-term, committed relationship in Dubai,” says Anne Martin, a 32-year-old British personal trainer. “I’ve been here for eight years and I’m still waiting to meet someone who wants a serious relationship. I definitely feel it’s more difficult to settle down here than it is back home. I wonder if the easy expatriate lifestyle is what stops guys from wanting to commit – it can feel like one long holiday.”
The more I talked to other single ladies, the more I realised that this seems to be a belief that is echoed a lot among the female expatriate population. While I tend to put on a cynical front, the truth is I’m a romantic at heart. I like to believe that all of us can have our happy ending, but some of the horror stories I’ve heard from dating in Dubai are enough to put anyone off men for life.
One friend, I recall, was dating a guy for more than eight months. She believed that they were getting serious, only to find out that the ‘gentleman’ in question was not only married, but also had two children back in his home country. Nice!
Liana, a 33-year-old Australian accountant, shared a similar experience. After meeting a British man a few times through mutual friends and hitting it off, she didn’t see him for a few months. One day he sent her a text out of the blue and invited her to dinner, saying he’d always liked her. Liana accepted his invitation but then decided to check whether he was single. His response was, “Single as in my family is out of the country – I assume that’s what you meant.” Hmm, not quite.
This brings me to a term that I’ve only had the misfortune to hear in the UAE: ‘summer bachelor’. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. Men whose wives and families head home to escape the summer, making their ‘loving’ hubbies single for a few months. It’s hard not to lose hope when these are the type of men you come across on a regular basis in the city’s bars and nightclubs.
Meanwhile, Sharon, a 35-year-old British woman who has been living in Dubai for eight years, has had her fair share of dating nightmares. One date decided to invite two of his friends and a girl he fancied along for the evening, another guy stalked her for two months, while the man she was engaged to decided to join the army... without informing her. “I still have hope I’ll meet someone, but it fades every day,” she says.
Over the years I have formulated all kinds of theories as to why Dubai seems to have a lack of men who are willing to commit, so I decided to try to find a more definitive answer.
During my research I stumbled across the work of Satoshi Kanazawa, a controversial evolutionary psychologist who believes that dating in any large city is difficult. Kanazawa uses the example of a study by two mathematicians in 1966 to illustrate why this is so.
They came up with a theory that demonstrated if you have to pick the best candidate – whether that be a prospective partner or a potential employee – statistically speaking, the way that yields the best results is to reject the first 37 per cent of the people you see, and then choose the next person who is better than the people you’ve seen previously.
If you live in a small town, you may only get to date 10 people in your life, which means you will reject only four before getting serious about picking your life partner. However, in a city like Dubai where the pool is considerably larger, you would have to meet hundreds of potential candidates before you can be serious about settling down. The larger the pool, the more people you have to date and reject before you can get serious, which makes dating in a big city a lot more difficult.
Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Arabia in Dubai, says there is some truth behind the notion that dating in big cities is harder. She believes that there are several reasons for this. “For one, the qualities sought by those people who move to big cities can be different from those of people who live in the suburbs and small towns,” she says.
“Another factor is that cities tend to be transient places and the pool to select from changes so often, which keeps things new and interesting, making it hard to settle down and commit. Also, some people believe in playing the numbers game – dating as many people as possible in order to grow your database of information about yourself and your partners,” she says.
But it’s not just the women who are unlucky in love. Dubai-based Antreas Constandinou, a 27-year-old Greek insurance broker, says he’s had his fair share of disastrous dates, and thinks it’s unfair to point the finger only at men. “I hear a lot of my female friends complain about the men here, but to be fair I’ve found that many of the women are equally disinterested in something long term,” he says.
The more I looked into this, the more I got the feeling that the overwhelming amount of choice that’s at our disposal in bigger cities makes many reluctant to settle. “When people have too many choices they can end up feeling more overwhelmed and less likely to commit because they always have one foot out the door to meet someone better,” says Dr Afridi.
She also believes that there’s a larger contextual issue behind our inability to commit. We all have an underlying anxiety of wanting and needing more or better – we are in a culture where we are bombarded by the latest and greatest versions of the same phone. We’re taught by the media to never be happy with what we have and to always want more, whereas 25 to 30 years ago, people bought one television or one phone to last a lifetime.
“We cannot undermine the effects of this constant updating and ungrateful attitude towards material on our psyche and our relationships,” says Dr Afridi.
So, what is the answer for women who are looking to meet someone special? Dr Afridi says that the key to good decision-making and finding the right partner is to start from the inside out. “It might take more time, but you will save yourself a lot of drama. To find the right partner, instead of trying to learn the game, learn about yourself,” she recommends.
To do this, Dr Afridi suggests taking a step back to consolidate your learning. The good thing about living in a big city is you have the opportunity to meet a lot of men, which means you can use this to your advantage. She advises, “Ask yourself, what are the things I really like in a person? What are characteristics I don’t like? What are my non-negotiables and what are my preferences? What kind of person brings out the best in me?”
Once you’ve done this, Dr Afridi says you can be more diligent in your screening process when you go on dates. “Don’t waste your time with someone who isn’t fitting your profile,” she says. “Increase your exposure to people from all walks of life, but don’t date everyone who comes your way.”
And if all else fails, ladies, employ my tactic, which is testament to the effectiveness of the ‘you will find it when you least expect it,’ school of thought. Decide to leave the country – pack your belongings, sell your car and give up your apartment. Then, four nights before you’re due to fly, meet someone in a bar, fall in love and end up back within four months of leaving. It isn’t exactly scientifically proven, but it definitely worked for me.
Where to meet men other than in nightclubs and bars
Dr Afridi says that it’s best to stay away from clubs when looking for that special
someone, as people tend to go there with a certain mindset – and it probably
isn’t that of ‘I want to find my soulmate, person of my dreams, or future spouse.’
Instead, she says it’s easier to meet others in places such as the gym, a bookstore, coffee shop or a friend’s dinner, as people are there due to having similar interests to you. If you’re interested in meeting new like-minded people, log on to www.meetup.com – there are groups catering to all kinds of people, from bookworms to photography enthusiasts and artists.
Another great place to meet people is TribeFit – a gym in Dubai Marina that offers its members a packed social calendar (as well as fitness) with activities like brunches, coffee mornings, parties, movie nights, camping trips and other networking events. For more information, log on to www.tribefit.com.