Tough Love

Five reasons it's difficult to date in Denver—and what you can do about it.

February 2009

No. 2: The Colorado Effect
Ever glance around to find a sea of sun-kissed faces that look like they don't have a care in the world except how to choose which breathtaking mountain resort to visit this weekend? Yeah. Welcome to Colorado—the twilight zone of perpetual soul fulfillment and inner happiness.

Think again, says Dr. Howard Markman, codirector of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, and cofounder of couples therapy organization Loveyourrelationship.com. Markman says Coloradans actually aren't so radiant in the relationship department. In fact, Colorado's divorce rate is 20 percent higher than the rest of the country's. What gives?

To begin with, says Markman, our standards are skewed because of what he's dubbed the Colorado Effect: "Generally, there are higher expectations for happiness here," he says, "because people think, 'I'm in a beautiful place, therefore I should be happy.'" In other words, if something's not perfect, we're less likely to work at it than those who live somewhere less inspiring. "We have a tendency in relationships to move on too quickly."

To relieve this pressure, Markman says, you've got to understand the dynamics of your relationship in the context of where we live. First, take advantage of Colorado rather than letting it hamper your relationship. "We have a tendency toward inertia," he says—and when we feel like we're missing out on what Colorado has to offer, it's easy to be disappointed or blame your partner. Make a point to plan dates that are inherently fun and let you experience Colorado together, like biking or cooking a farmers'-market meal. And second, embrace the differences that arise from such activities. "There's a whole set of findings that show pretty conclusively that it's not the differences between people that matter," Markman says, "but rather how those differences are handled."