Logan Ury Says You’re Dating All Wrong – The New York Times


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From her Oakland commune, a dating coach has made a big business out of her data-driven approach to modern romance.
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OAKLAND, Calif. — 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 Ms. Ury’s help.
Maybe the woman wasn’t anxious, necessarily, Ms. Ury said; maybe she was getting in her own way, overthinking things. In Ms. Ury’s words, the woman was her own “blocker.” Ms. 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.
Ms. 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 have Ms. Ury’s credentials, though — a Harvard psychology degree and a book that’s gone into its eighth printing and has been translated into 14 languages. To stand out amid those who love to explain love, Ms. Ury packages her coaching as precise and prestigious, applying the language of Silicon Valley C.E.O.s to a throng of anxious daters.
Back at her desk an hour later, Ms. Ury led a Zoom session for 67 people who had paid nearly $2,000 each for a six-week course, which gave them the chance to ask their most pressing questions about dating. She coiled an enormous scrunchie around her fingers, twisting the fabric into smaller and smaller knots while talking about knees.
A man wanted to know why the woman he’d 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,” Ms. Ury said slowly. “I just want to validate that that’s confusing.”
This is Ms. 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.)
Another woman refused to match with men on dating apps who labeled themselves “sapiosexuals,” claiming they were sexually attracted to intelligence; Ms. Ury deemed that word a “pet peeve, not a deal breaker.” Outside her window, a BART train rattled past the vividly colored tiles of the children’s hospital across the street. She glanced over, then beamed back at the camera. “Remember,” she said, “A.B.F. — Always Be Flirting.”
Ms. Ury constantly speaks as if she’s at a podium. She is a generous interview subject, sometimes taking 25 minutes to answer a single question about her work. She uses data often, quotes Adam Grant and refers to behavioral economics experiments casually.
Her language makes a subset of her clients — especially men from Silicon Valley — “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 Ms. Ury’s own life too, from her intermittent fasting routine to 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 share with 12 engineers, behavioral 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, Ms. Ury said. At Radish, members eat dinner together nearly every night and guests are welcome. When I visited, a private chef was “auditioning” for a regular catering gig by serving vegan lox she had concocted out of carrots.
On Zoom calls, Ms. Ury’s carefully curated background includes succulent stubs sticking out of terra cotta pots and a color-coded bookshelf. She could fill the self-help aisle of a bookstore with her collection of dating and relationships titles — “Attached,” “Come As You Are,” “Marry Him” — which sit next to 18 copies of her own, “How to Not Die Alone,” a synthesis of psychological literature filled with cutesy takeaways on modern dating.
Since its release in February 2021, Ms. Ury has been a staple on podcasts, a go-to source in articles and a morning-show guest, often speaking about pandemic-delayed dating.
She also works at the dating app Hinge as the director of relationship science, where she conducts surveys on behalf of the company. A recent one found that 88 percent of the app’s users would prefer to date someone who’s in therapy.
What distinguishes Ms. Ury is her distillation of different strains of research on relationships, said Eli Finkel, a psychology professor at Northwestern University and the author of “The All-or-Nothing Marriage,” one of the books on Ms. Ury’s shelf. She doesn’t have the clinical experience that Esther Perel has, Dr. Finkel said, and “she has less research experience than John Gottman. But there’s nobody that’s scanned this much terrain and has the same level of range of expertise as her.”
Clients come to Ms. 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 “post-date 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, Ms. Ury might encourage that person to fill out a “relationship contract” with a partner, seventeen 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, Ms. 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 Ms. Ury especially likes to use to assuage her most data-centric clients — a behavioral science riddle called the secretary problem: If you’re hiring a secretary (the principle became popular in the 50s), and you have 100 candidates, when do you pick the right person? The mathematically optimal answer is that you should interview 37 percent 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.
Ms. 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 percent 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 them, 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.
“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 Ms. 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.’”
Ms. Ury grew up in Boca Raton, Fla., driving to the beach after school and churning through the requisite extracurricular activities for a high-achieving kid — the school newspaper, the debate team. Her parents divorced when she was in high school, and after their split, she scrutinized the relationships around her. “It marks you as a kid to be like, ‘OK, what went wrong, what can I do differently?’” she said. “I wanted to get this right.”
During her sophomore year at Harvard, she wrote a paper on students’ porn consumption habits. After graduating, she worked at Google as part of what she called the “Porn Pod,” managing advertisement accounts for sex toy makers and porn sites. She then worked at a behavioral science lab within Google, where she could game out experiments on user decision-making, and hosted talks on dating and romance on Google’s campus.
Around that time, Ms. Ury said, she was pining over a guy whom she referred to in her book as Brian. She’d made out with him during one of her six trips to Burning Man and had glommed onto him; he rebuffed her. He sent her occasional texts, and she sobbed about his dismissiveness. It was the kind of dynamic she sees her clients repeat again and again, clinging to the illusion of a connection.
Ms. Ury knows that when people seek her out, they often search for proof that she’s actually done it — clawed her way out of what she calls “the trenches,” and ended up with a husband. “I’ve done online dating. I’ve ghosted, I’ve been ghosted, I’ve gone on 8.5 dates in one week,” she said. “I feel like I’m the perfect level of attractiveness — it’s not like I’m so beautiful where it’s like, ‘Oh, dating was so easy.’ You have to be someone people can relate to.”
Despondent over “Burning Man Brian,” Ms. Ury hired her own dating coach, years before she considered becoming one. The coach prompted her to make a list of the traits that mattered to her, and to consider the way she wanted to feel during a relationship — and she realized that a friend at work, a guy named Scott, had many of those qualities.
They had gone to Harvard together; she could remember exactly one lunch with him in college. He had popped up on a dating app in the past, but she’d never shown interest. “I wouldn’t have said, ‘5-foot-8, vegan engineer, whatever,’” she said, talking about her image for her ideal partner.
Scott and Ms. Ury have now been together for seven years and married for almost two.
In the fall of 2019, Scott felt a stabbing pain in his ankle and thought it was an injury from rock climbing. By May 2020, he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and needed to have a below-the-knee amputation. He and Ms. Ury were already engaged, and had planned to marry later that summer. But in the wake of the diagnosis, they were eager to speed up the timeline and get married before his treatments began.
On a Saturday in June, their friends threw Scott a “foot roast” to jokingly send off the foot; the next day, the couple got married in Golden Gate Park. That Monday, Scott had the surgery.
On a spring day at Radish, I asked Scott what it felt like to have people pay for his wife’s advice, to have his marriage held up as a beacon for disappointed daters.
“Logan’s a dating expert,” he said slowly. “She’s not a seven-year-relationship expert.” We were playing Ping-Pong in the manicured backyard, and he had just stepped outside, wincing at the sun from under a green Stetson hat. “That’s fair!” Ms. Ury called from the other end of the table.
What started for Ms. Ury as a client here, a call there, has swelled into a business she’s not sure she has the capacity for.
She offers one-on-one coaching in packages of six sessions, and often delivers a Google Slides deck to the client, complete with photos that person should add to dating profiles. She also sends a doc filled with suggested edits to their various dating app prompts.
In May, she ran Propel, a weeklong, application-only “boot camp” for 128 people that cost $480 a person, and she is preparing to launch another larger, longer dating class in the fall. Sometimes, she does quicker hits; in 2021, she offered one-on-one, 90-minute “decision-making conversations.” People called her to ask if they should propose, if a boyfriend’s sex drive would ever come back, if there was an acceptable way to end a relationship over a partner’s mental health issues. She also does some pro bono coaching, usually on a weekly basis.
Kimberly Baudhuin, 26, who left a consulting job at Bain to become Ms. Ury’s full-time assistant, said in a phone interview that before she met Ms. Ury, she felt frustrated by the swarm of podcasters and influencers and TikTokers claiming to hold the secret to modern dating. With Ms. Ury, she said, “It’s tactical. It’s step by step.”
Ms. Ury told me about a client who went on a deluge of first dates without making it to a second date. His sense of humor wasn’t coming across to the women he went out with, so she helped him rehearse a story about the summer he spent in college working in a hot dog truck. “It’s not like I’m telling him to lie about his height, lie about his age,” she said.
She consistently refers to her gift for “pattern recognition,” the ability to see and synthesize the ruts in someone’s dating history. To that end, she asks her clients to complete “relationship audits,” itemizing whom they’ve dated, how they met each person and why their relationships ended, for Ms. Ury to assess. One 35-year-old woman who took Ms. Ury’s class last year said that the exercise took her six hours. Ms. Ury’s comments pointed out that she tended to date people with “big personalities.”
“I’m not presenting myself as a guru,” Ms. 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 Ms. Ury was getting antsy. We went for a walk; she took me on a loop through Oakland streets studded with crop-share signs, while cradling a mug of black coffee emblazoned with the words “INTENTIONALLY EVER AFTER.” Her Crocs spat out little squelching sounds against the sidewalk.
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.”
Audio produced by Kate Winslett.


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