Do We Owe This Boyfriend an Apology?

We recently received the following e-mail from Yu Chen, a 29-year-old engineer supervisor in California who moved to the U.S. from China when she was 16.

I listened to the episode on diamonds and asked my boyfriend for a gold bar for engagement instead. Then I heard the episode on quitting, so I broke up with him. I’ve been very happy ever since! Thank you for the awesome podcasts!

Nice to see that we are getting results!

I followed up with Yu by e-mail and this is what she had to say:

Recently my family has been pressuring me to find someone. So I try to apply what I know to dating. I was ecstatic when I heard the episode on online dating. I used to meet my two previous boyfriends. I used a screening system where “candidates” must be able to produce meaningful conversations with me via email for two weeks prior to the “interview.” Then I staked the interviews. I met as much as three candidates a week. I realize it’s a two-way choice. We make our selections within the first three dates. This allowed me to meet the most qualifying candidates in a short amount of time.

I thank Freakonomics and TED Talks for my recent break up. Freakonomics told me that I would be less likely to regret if I were to quit. TED Talks said I should reject everyone within the first 37% of my dating window and marry the next best thing. So I shall reject everyone I meet before 28.7. I’m on the right track.


He should thank you! He dodged a bullet. Maybe you should do a podcast about deciding with the heart vs head that she could follow.


Indeed. I'm happily married, but if I were dating, I think I'd rather date a member of homo sapiens as opposed to homo economicus.


Thinking like an Econ?


You did him a favor!

Josh Emerth

There's nothing more romantic than spreadsheets.


Writing love letters in UML (unified modelling language), that's more romantic than spreadsheets :)


I have the feeling that she was teasing you, but I could be wrong.


I think he should be grateful for the lesson being taught about relationship authenticity, choice and honesty. That said, I don't blame her for reaching beyond emotion and attempting to apply a so called screening process, though I hope she is doing so with care and empathy.

I often remind my 20 yr old daughter not to get clamped down into a "serious" relationship because she hasn't learned enough about herself to even know what to ask of another. Therefore the match is more likely to be thin and superficial until she and her "match" is evolved enough to unlearn everything you've been saturated with socially and discover what truly matters to themselves independent of each other, then if they align they'll have a good starting point.


*lol* Stephen, I hope you guys aren't going to set up a dating site: "EconNerds Match". She should move on to Dan Kahneman's books. She'll go far. And die alone with 6 cats.


But shouldn't she also screen cats? That would make it less likely for her to have 6 cats...


Don't you guys think that, whatever the merits of the advice, Yu is probably basing her decisions on what she hears on podcasts a little bit too much?

Alex Jazayeri

The old internet expression goes... don't feed the troll! She's trolling. It's in the percentages.


Geez why no one sees her humor in the email...judging from the fact she changed her mind about diamonds after the episode says she is pretty rational. It's just dry humor about the math in my opinion.


I come from the land down under where we have a thing called sarcasm. I think this lady was being witty and a little sarcastic. I do like the idea of running a spread sheet and think she should employ force field analysis into the choice of a chocolate desert or just having a coffee after the date.


I think people took her remarks more seriously and literally because of her Asian name, especially because the name looks Chinese. Three possible reasons - (1) the stereotype of Asian women as hardnosed and calculating, (2) the stereotype of Asians being serious quants and "good at math", (3) the stereotype of Asians being better at following instructions.