The 'Sofa Theory' Strips Down The Pressures Of Dating. Here's How

Dating is a favorite leisure activity among many adults, but it can be immensely stressful and discouraging if your heart is set in the wrong place. A clash of core values, physical and emotional risks, and lack of chemistry are common dating hurdles that can make your courting life go horribly wrong. Adding to the pressure of modern dating is technology. Dating apps and social media are like Cinderella's stepmother, dumping a pile of beans into ashes and making us love seekers separate them before we can take the next step in our search for our one true love. They allow us more opportunities to screen potential partners and narrow the playing field, but they also expose us to serial heartbreakers and make the game of dating all hit-or-miss. And before we could make any progress, dating burnout strikes. 


If you're struggling with prolonged frustration from modern dating, psychologist Elinor Greenberg has a cure for your dating pressures and unwholesome dating habits. That is — the sofa theory. Here's how this dating philosophy can help you navigate the world of modern dating with confidence and good results. 

What is 'sofa theory' about?

According to Dr. Greenberg, the key to success in your love quest is treating it like a sofa hunt. "There are a lot of hoops for women to jump through in the dating game, and there's enormous pressure on women that isn't on men," Dr. Greenberg tells Well+Good. "The background of the sofa theory was to help with shame and comparisons, and to help them undo the coping mechanisms they're using that are actually counterproductive." In other words, the sofa theory is a pragmatic approach to dating that involves ditching the emotional baggage we often carry into our dating game. 


Dr. Greenberg explains that many of her patients feel pressured about appearing and behaving in a certain way while dating, such as displaying just the perfect amount of interest and warmth to avoid turning the other off and safeguard themselves from the risks of being hurt. Dr. Greenberg discovered that her patients' desperate attempts to stay in their lane made them less enthusiastic about dating and more discouraged during the process. So, what sofa-purchasing rules can be applied to dating?

Be clear about your expectations

A sofa hunt always starts with you having a clear picture of what your ideal sofa looks like in terms of types, sizes, and materials. You also have to ensure that it fits perfectly into the space where you want it to go. The same rule applies to the search for the one, says Dr. Greenberg. When it comes to dating, don't rush into it blindly. Instead, determine what you want in a relationship and a partner based on your core values. For example, find out what's important for you, what you can compromise on, and what's the deal breaker. When you meet people, measure them against your standards — not other people's standards. Only when you are sure of your intentions and expectations can you find a partner and a relationship that can measure up to them.


Dr. Greenberg said that when she was still in the market for a relationship, she was bent on seeking brilliant men because she wanted a partner who could be her intellectual equal. By the same token, you should pursue those suited to your specific interests and goals and refine your search. It's all about doing what you think is best for your love life in the long run instead of what others expect of you. 

Aim for the moon, but keep your feet on the ground

There's nothing wrong with setting some standards for your potential partner. But keep your expectations in check to make the most out of your search. Instead of waiting for a soulmate who meets your Everest-high standards, open your heart to the good options in front of you and focus on what you can improve from there, according to Dr. Greenberg. If you're fixated on finding the one that ticks all the boxes, you'll continue being footloose and fancy-free for a long time. 


"Ultimately, no one is perfect – or a perfect fit for a partner. It takes work, growth, and change to keep a relationship going and satisfying over time. When that happens, soul mate believers often become upset, disillusioned, and uncommitted," psychologist Dr. Jeremy Nicholson writes in Psychology Today. Unreasonable expectations might result in impossible tasks, which can cause problems in your love life from when you first start dating until you've committed to a partner. Yet, if you manage your expectations right from the get-go, it might save you from getting hurt and help you find love with the right person. 

Don't accept a lowball offer

You shouldn't waste your time looking at sofas that you don't like or those you can't afford. In other words, stop barking up the wrong tree and stick to what you really want. "You wouldn't shop in a store that carries sofas you wouldn't bring home," says Dr. Greenberg to Well+Good. The same rule applies to dating.  


No matter how tempting it may appear on the surface, do not waste your time with people who have very different values than you, aren't interested, or serious, advises Dr. Greenberg. Instead, emphasize creating a rapport with like-minded people and having in-depth interactions with them, whether online or personally. To do that, keep your searches in the right places. If you want to buy a sofa, do you go to a park? If you're a bookworm, scour book clubs and libraries until you find another bibliophile. If you're into fitness, and it's brawns over brains for you, you'll be more likely to run into your soulmate in a gym or a sports club. If you have any hobbies or interests, look for specific interest groups where you're more likely to meet and mingle with people interested in the same things. 


Get more exposure

If you want to buy a sofa, you must actively search for it, showing up at places that sell lots of sofas for you to choose from. By the same token, if you want to find a life partner, you must put yourself out there so you can fish from a pool of potential candidates, Dr. Greenberg says.


In an article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Greenberg also notes that you shouldn't be discouraged or ashamed if you can't find the right sofa at the first store. If the first sofas you see are not your cup of tea, relax and keep on looking. The same goes for dating. If a general dating site or app doesn't work, switch to a more niche site to boost your chance of finding matches with similar interests. To position fondly in the eyes and minds of others, attend workshops, go to church or synagogue, exercise outdoors, or learn to say hello to the people you barely know. The goal is to get seen and remembered more. 

It's okay to make learning mistakes

Dr. Greenberg says you should not worry about projecting desperateness on your journey to love, just as you shouldn't feel guilty about not having a sofa when looking for one. At the same time, do not be afraid to engage further with people who show a genuine interest in you. If nice people ask you out, do not play hard to get to avoid looking desperate. Adopting an aloof attitude or pretending you're not interested in a serious relationship isn't a tried-and-true method for increased attraction.


"Does it perhaps make you more desirable in the short term? Sure — to some people, both the people who only appreciate the thrill of the chase and the people who are a bit insecure already, so being aloof feeds on that insecurity," dating coach Erika Ettin tells Business Insider. Yet, if it's a long-term relationship you're questing after, you want to be with someone who values your capacity to express your emotions rather than suppress them, Ettin points out.