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This US dating expert wants couples to fill out a 'relationship contract' and even a break-up one

"Date like a scientist!" says Logan Ury, the author of How to Not Die Alone.

This US dating expert wants couples to fill out a 'relationship contract' and even a break-up one

Logan Ury. (Photo: The New York Times/Marissa Leshnov)

In the backyard of a luxury commune, slouched on the stones between a wood-barrel sauna and a cobalt-blue ping pong table, Logan Ury flicked fragments of acorns off her dress while the woman across from her recited her attachment style. A hot tub burbled in the background, where a string of fairy lights drooped between trees.

The woman said she was “avoidant", which was why she was single, why she had sought Ury’s help.

Maybe the woman wasn’t anxious, Ury said; maybe she was getting in her own way, overthinking things. In Ury’s words, the woman was her own “blocker". Ury suggested that since the woman tended to meet her past romantic partners in person, she should spend some of her limited free time bouldering, chatting with fellow climbers and scanning for potential love interests, instead of thumbing through the dating apps.

Ury, 34, is part of a long lineage of love experts who have built a dating pundit industrial complex. Of late, they have been joined by TikTokers and podcasters and Instagram infographic makers who churn out random dating “rules” – wait three hours before responding to a text, tell men they make you feel safe, curb every impulse to fight with your partner.

Not all of them, though, have Ury’s credentials – a Harvard psychology degree and a book, How to Not Die Alone, that has gone into its eighth printing and has been translated into 14 languages.

Back at her desk an hour later, Ury led a Zoom session for 67 people who had paid nearly US$2,000 each for a six-week course, which gave them the chance to ask their most pressing questions about dating.

A man wanted to know why the woman he had just gone out with had turned down a second date, even though she had given him a long hug when they parted and her knees had been pointed at him for much of the date, he said.

“Yeah,” Ury said slowly. “I just want to validate that that’s confusing.”

This is Ury’s job: To validate, as much as to volley back what she claims are research-backed strategies for hacking modern romance. “Date like a scientist!” she said when a woman asked how young was too young for her to consider someone a viable romantic partner. (Translation: Go out with a few younger guys, see how you feel, recalibrate.)


Ury constantly speaks as if she were at a lectern. She is a generous interview subject, sometimes taking 25 minutes to answer a single question about her work. She uses data often and refers to behavioral economics experiments casually.

Her language makes a subset of her clients “feel safe”, she said. “If it’s an engineering-focused guy, I’ll say ‘loss aversion', ‘sunk cost fallacy'. I know, with certain people, that makes them want to work with me.”

Data defines Ury’s own life, too, whether her intermittent fasting routine or her life at Radish, the luxury commune, which she deems a scientifically designed utopia. In layman’s terms, it is a four-building compound that she and her husband, Scott, share with 12 engineers, behavioural scientists, venture capitalists and others, where the bathroom is stocked with goat milk soap and residents communicate using a Slack channel called “not_a_cult".

Research shows that people are happiest when they live in groups, Ury said.

Clients come to Ury with screenshots and screeds, their love languages and child traumas, and she talks about their romantic lives in easily digestible frameworks. She tells them to fill out her “postdate eight", a questionnaire that asks how stiff their bodies were on a date and if they felt “heard".

If a client decides to pursue a relationship, Ury might encourage that person to fill out a “relationship contract” with a partner, 17 pages that cover, among other things, the minimum number of times the couple will commit to having sex in a given period. Should the relationship end, Ury can whip out her breakup contract, which sets boundaries, such as whether exes want to stay connected on LinkedIn and how they plan to describe the breakup to “casual acquaintances".

There’s one mathematical principle Ury especially likes to use to assuage her most data-centric clients – a behavioural science riddle called the secretary problem: If you’re hiring a secretary (the principle became popular in the 1950s) and you have 100 candidates, when do you pick the right person? The mathematically optimal answer is that you should interview 37 per cent of the candidates, then figure out the person you liked best so far. That person becomes your “meaningful benchmark", and you should hire the next candidate who seems better than that standout.

Ury recites a version that goes like this: If you’re going to actively date from ages 18 to 40, by the time you’re 26.1, you’ve dated around 37 per cent of the people you will ever date. By that age, she says, your best ex is your benchmark. The next time you meet someone you like more than that person, commit.

This is not always what clients want to hear, and some readers of her book have bristled at what they see as a bleak portrayal of modern romance.

(Photo: The New York Times/Marissa Leshnov)

“If you want a book that tells you to forgo, not all standards exactly, but certainly the idea of organically falling in love, add this book to the library of titles that reiterates to you just how pathetic and desperate your own singlehood is or should be,” Shani Silver, a dating and relationships writer, wrote in her review.

That kind of feedback doesn’t faze Ury, who says that people have a huge fear of what she referred to as the s-word – settling.

“I’ve had conversations,” she said, “where I’ve talked to someone and I say, ‘Hey, I get that your parents have been married for 40 years and have this high school romance fairy tale and that’s what you grew up with and that’s what you want. But you know, you’re 37. If you go on a date every other month and the guys who you do like don’t like you back, the guys who like you, you don’t like – at this rate, you’re just not meeting people fast enough.’”


What started for Ury as a client here and a call there has swelled into a business she’s not sure she has the capacity for. In May, she ran Propel, a weeklong, application-only “boot camp” for 128 people that cost US$480 a person, and she is preparing to introduce another larger, longer dating class in the fall.

She consistently refers to her gift for “pattern recognition", the ability to see and synthesise the ruts in someone’s dating history. To that end, she asks her clients to complete “relationship audits” – itemising whom they’ve dated, how they met each person and why their relationships ended – for Ury to assess.

“I’m not presenting myself as a guru,” Ury said. “I tell people: I will create a system that helps you tackle your blind spots and change your decisions.”

We had been talking in the Blueberry, a purple building that houses Radish’s kitchen, and Ury was getting antsy. We went for a walk; she took me on a loop through city streets while cradling a mug emblazoned with the words “INTENTIONALLY EVER AFTER".

I asked if she was surprised by how much effort her clients spent shaping their stories and jokes, their jobs and their childhoods and their exes, into palatable packages. She laughed.

“Dating is an acute problem,” she said. “If you’re single and you want to find somebody, you’ll do a lot to fix it.”

By Dani Blum © 2022 The New York Times

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Source: New York Times/hs