How This New Yorker Went On 28 Dates In 28 Days

Marin Haugo was tired of prioritizing everything above her love life — so she turned dating into a challenge.

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Many singles dread the month of February thanks to Valentine’s Day, but instead of sulking in her singledom, Marin Haugo decided to put herself on the market in a big way. In honor of the month of love, the self-described “very single” Haugo challenged herself to go on 28 dates in the month of February and documented the process on Instagram for all to see. At first, the experiment was a way for the 31-year-old to “prioritize love,” but over the span of just a few weeks, Haugo, who works in sales, has found herself sharing her dating advice with thousands of followers all over the world and providing matchmaking services to New York City-based singles via her Instagram stories. “When I started this, I had 80 Instagram followers,” Haugo tells Bustle. Now, she’s up to 36,000 and counting.

Haugo, whom you can find at @LifeofMarinNYC, was inspired to take on the ambitious experiment because, despite being a “hopeless romantic,” she often put her love life on the back burner. “I’m just so used to prioritizing everything above [love], like my fitness, my family, my friends, my dog. I would maybe be on the apps, but then I would be like, ‘Oh, I don’t have the energy.’ So instead [of going on dates], I’d go walk on the treadmill and watch a Netflix show,” says Haugo.

She felt documenting this experience online would be the perfect excuse to “reprogram” her brain to “get back out there,” and after a month’s worth of dates, including a handful of follow-ups with her most successful matches, it appears to have worked. As the experiment has gained more attention online, she’s had plenty of guys shoot their shots with her via Instagram DMs, but Haugo explains it’s the initial matches she made on Hinge and Bumble that she’s gotten the most serious with.

“These men are really showing up and communicating,” says Haugo. “If I forget to message someone back, they’ll double-text me and be like, ‘Hey, just to confirm, we’re on for this time.’ These men are really raising the bar.”

She’s quick to spill all the deets in her vlogs from where they met up and what they did, to her date’s age and profession. She’s not afraid to reveal her true feelings about a guy, either, and she even shares screenshots of their text conversations. The one thing she doesn’t share? Their real names.

Though she doesn’t fill her dates in on the experiment at first, it’s certainly not a secret, either. After all, she posts about it every night, which means at least some of her dates were bound to find out about the challenge eventually. That’s actually what happened with “Advertising Guy,” who found out about the challenge after looking her up on Instagram. After seeing her content, he “doubled down” on her. “I feel like men are competitive. There’s this competitive spirit around ‘Oh, I can take you on a better date’ or ‘I can get the girl’ type of thing,” she says.

Scheduling a month full of dates might seem like a big undertaking to some, but Haugo took it in stride. She likens it to “doing a new exercise routine.” Although she admits the experiment could feel “very all-encompassing” and “time-consuming,” she makes it work by “putting it at the top of [her] priority list.” She had a rocky start to the month when her first date canceled on her; later, she started to fall behind on her date count. She took up virtual speed-dating and scheduled two dates on Feb. 28 to accomplish her goal.

Haugo is aware that her current dating life sounds like the premise of a rom-com, but even after meeting so many “high-quality people on the apps,” she hasn’t quite found her leading man just yet. That said, she has made three connections that stand out among the rest and is “excited to get to that next phase of a relationship.”

She’s also started to get into informal matchmaking, posting profiles for single New Yorkers seeking love connections on her Instagram story. “It was actually a few of my followers who were like ‘Can you introduce us to the guys that don't work out with you? Because you're finding these legit guys who we would like,’” Haugo says.

“And then I had this one dad who was 40 years old, father of two, divorced, and super cute, but he was so discouraged by dating and he was the perfect catch... He was like, ‘I don’t know why I’m even messaging you, but I’d love your advice.’ And then it turned into me having this idea of ‘Well, maybe I could feature you on my page. I feel like you’re a catch, and I feel like a lot of my followers would eat you up.’” It looks like she was right because Haugo was able to set him up with “three or four different matches that he’s excited about.” She even helped him improve his “game” by assisting him in crafting his intro texts.

Before you ask: No, she’s not some kind of professional relationship expert — she does have her master’s degree in counseling and personal psychology. “Having that counseling framework is helping me give advice to these people,” Haugo explains. That being said, don’t expect to slide into her DMs looking for a free therapy session. Haugo prefers to give her followers her “blunt opinion.

Dating isn’t always easy on people’s self-esteem, but for Haugo, the challenge has been a boon. “[The experiment] showed me you have to have confidence and you have to be intentional,” Haugo says. “I used to have the mentality of lower standards: ‘I’ll just be so nice that they can’t help but love me and pick me’ type of thing. And now, I’m like, ‘No. Who are you?’ My standards and my confidence have drastically risen.”

As February comes to a close, she’s still actively prioritizing her dating life. “I want to keep the ball rolling,” Haugo says. “I’m 31; I’m ready to find my partner. I don’t want to spend my entire 30s going from one flame to the next. I want to build a life with somebody and have that stability and have a beautiful relationship.” Whatever her next experiment may be — and whatever her future with her three front-runners may look like — she has so many people rooting for her on her quest to find love.

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