I’m a glutton for punishment. Though my counselor prefers to call it perseverance and that I am full of “hope”. In fact, she says she’s in awe of my ability to put myself out there and try and trust no matter how many times, or how deeply, I’ve been hurt. Whatever the motivation I guess my other choice is to wallow… and, ain’t nobody got time for all that. So, here I am.
My most recent venture into having a relationship was a spectacular fail that left me questioning my judgment once again. But, I’m learning – I didn’t question my worth, just recognized that I need to pay more attention to actions in the future and not just words. So you learn and you move on. Which leaves me to some lessons I’d like to share.
I’ve recently rejoined the world of online dating – not a territory I’m unfamiliar with. Over the years I’ve tried lots of dating sites – eHarmony (too much pressure), Tinder (too skeevy), Yahoo Personals (yeah, may as well call that pre-Tinder Tinder, yuck), Plenty of Fish (or douchebags but I guess that logo wasn’t as cool so they went with “Fish”), Match (not bad, but… too much work). As you can see I have a pretty strong background in this arena. And yet, nothing but funny stories, uncomfortable moments and flaccid dick pics to show for it. Gross. (And for those of you out there wondering if erect dick pics are preferable – let me be clear: NO dick pics should ever be sent during any sort of online dating “get-to-know-you” stage… after that what you and your partner are down with is entirely up to you, but seriously… send me a picture of your junk and a) I’m done b) I’m sharing it with all my gays. Fact.)
So, here I am, back online trying to meet someone – sans dick pic – for an actual relationship, not just hook up. And I have to say I’ve spent a lot of years complaining about the whole online dating experience, and yes, I’m aware that Every. Single. One of you. Has a story about a “happily ever after” couple you know who met online… thank you so much for sharing, I get it. It can happen. But only if you stick with it and you set up some ground rules.
I’ve come to realize that all my unsuccessful attempts in the past weren’t entirely due to a flawed system (anonymity, douchebaggery, lies, etc.) but rather my own control over my situation. I’ll explain. One of my biggest frustrations with online dating has been that it is simply exhausting and time-consuming. I get it “relationships take work and time” – but actually MEETING someone should not take that much energy and effort. You have virtually the same conversation with anywhere from 5-15 people at the same time – I literally am to the point where I keep a note on my phone of my responses so I can just copy/paste them to people. (Which actually IS a helpful hint.) These “conversations” can go on for days or weeks and lead nowhere. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve “talked” to over 125 guys online over the years and met three in person. Three. These are not great odds for actually meeting someone. Of those I’ve seen one of them more than once… and on the second date found out he was in a relationship and looking for something on the side, suffice it to say there was not a third date.
For those of you who have tried online dating, you know the struggle. For those of you who haven’t – virtual high five… unless it’s that you are single and lonely and for whatever reasons you haven’t ventured into the online dating world, in that case keep reading this is for you.
I swore I’d never try online dating again. I’ve never had success. I’ve tried it multiple times. It’s exhausting and a waste of time… blah blah blah. But, every time I see my counselor I have to answer what I’m doing to try to meet someone, and apparently “nothing” is not a proactive answer. So after a relatively crushing blow from the guy I’d been seeing off and on, I decided to give a new site a try. I signed up for Bumble in mid-January. It’s basically a slightly less skeevy version of Tinder. Swipe right if you find the person physically attractive, if he swipes right too you have 24 hours to send him a message (on Bumble the girl has all the power—she has to reach out first) and then he has 24 hours to respond. If one of you doesn’t contact the other in the allotted time the connection dissolves. So… it keeps things moving, there’s no time to over-think and you always know that you have to make the first move. I like that part of it because it also has encouraged me to really think about what I’ve struggled with in the past with online dating. Here are my observations for successful, or at least sane, online dating:
- Don’t be too nice. I tend to think “maybe they have a great personality” or “maybe he thinks girls want a machismo guy but isn’t REALLY like this” – whatever it is, if I find myself making a single excuse, I’m out. Which leads me to…
- You don’t owe anyone anything. Feel free to just stop chatting with a person. You feel a red flag, you get bored, you change your mind – move on. You don’t have to give your reasons; you don’t have to feel bad or apologize. You do not owe anyone anything. Make that your mantra.
- Copy/paste. Seriously, it may feel insincere at first, but it will save you time and sanity as you’re weeding people out. Plus, they are your thoughts and feelings – chances are your answers to the same basic questions didn’t entirely change just because you’re talking to a new person. And if they did, then you may have some self-work to do before jumping into a relationship. Know yourself before you get anyone else involved.
- Be comfortable being you. Post the full body picture. Share the awkward insecurity or idiosyncrasy that makes you uniquely you. It basically boils down to if you aren’t comfortable in your own skin, you probably aren’t going to be ready for a relationship even if you meet someone great. You have to take care of yourself, accept yourself, love yourself if you really hope to be in a healthy and fulfilling relationship. If you aren’t here yet, take some time to work on it. You deserve that.
- Raise your bar. If you see someone and instantly think they are out of your league – who cares. Swipe right. The worst that can happen is you never see them as a match because they swiped left. Who cares. GO FOR IT. And the opposite is true as well – if someone looks like they could be attractive “if”… or if you see something you don’t like in their profile but think “well, I’m sure they have a lot of other redeeming qualities” – move on. Again, ain’t nobody got time for all that. You have worth beyond your recognition.
- Let go. Your worth is not based on who finds you attractive on an online dating app. If you swipe right 50 times and only get 2 connections back – that’s great! Don’t think about the 48 who didn’t pick you. And don’t start lowering your bar just to get more people to notice you. These aren’t Pokémon—the goal is not to collect them all. The number of people who find you attractive on an online dating app has nothing to do with your value as a person.
- SWIPE LEFT. If you see someone on the site who you know in real life (IRL)—swipe left. If you see them, they see you. If they see you and are interested in asking you out—they will. Don’t swipe right and get your feelings hurt because you never heard from them. Just make it a policy and stick to it. Dating is awkward. Online dating tends to have a negative stigma, don’t let that encroach upon your real relationships or acquaintances. (Sidebar: Dudes I know IRL who are reading this blog and are on Bumble – this is why I’ve never swiped right for you. If you’re interested, ask me out I might be too.)
And, those seven things are keeping me focused as I appease my counselor and try to put myself out there again. And who knows… maybe someday I’ll be your “happily ever after” online dating story you can share with your single friends. OR I’ll have some great fodder for the blog. Either way, I’m still hoping and trying and putting myself out there. I hope you do the same, whatever your “happily ever after” is that you’re chasing.