After my twelve year marriage broke up, it seemed intimidating to be out there again. But when I heard so many stories about how so and so met their new partner online, I was hopeful – at least for the first few months. Fortunately, I’ve made some notes to help others as we find our way into this new reality of online dating.
THE REALITY OF ONLINE DATING
YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THE MEAN (PART) OF THE MESSAGE
When tail pictures and people with unicorn heads started showing up on my direct messages, I knew the dating world had changed. When I was in my 20s, AOL Instant Messenger was popular. The reality is that pictures and explicit openers are now rampant – quick connections are part of online dating culture.
You need to be willing to accept that you are using a medium that encourages quick and easy adult encounters. However, there are people out there who are looking for long term relationships and you should indicate this on your profile if that is your intention. Look for people who have explained the same thing. If you are not ready to see this aspect and are constantly being asked what you are looking for here, you are not ready.
YOU MAY TAKE NOTHING PERSONAL
You will be spooky. They are matched and then suddenly unmatched. You are told things like, “You’re pretty, but I’m not interested in being with anyone with kids,” or “You’re older so I think we’d be just good fucking friends.” They start a conversation and then disappear. They are treated as a shiny object until another, hotter, shiny object is added. Then you will be fired.
The thing is, most of the time you have no idea why they didn’t reach you and your inner critic will be right there giving you a million reasons for it. And sometimes you will do the same. You have to acknowledge that there are people you just don’t care about and you have to tell them that. If you are not strong enough to deal with rejection without notice, you are not ready.
YOU MUST BE OPEN TO THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH HERE
If you live in a dream world of undisciplined hope, which means (like I did in the beginning) that you believe this will be easy and someone will save you from the work of dating and learning about yourself, you will be utterly disappointed . There are people who connect instantly and get married three months later by meeting on a dating site. However, this is not the norm. You already know that.
If you’re open enough and have some basic firm boundaries, you can use dating as a time to get to know yourself better and learn what you actually want in your next relationship. Nobody will save you from work. Dating is a process. It can either be an adventure or a nightmare depending on your attitude. If you are already complaining about how much you hate dating, or how many good ones are being taken, or how much time it takes these days, you are not ready.
The world suits your energy. You will find what you are looking for. When I tell you to just look for BMW every time you drive, guess what you will always find? There is such an opportunity to become aware of your general mindset and what exact effort you are ready to make here.
There is no quick certainty in online dating, no exact formula to find the perfect partner for you. People want the dreamy relationship right away. If you are not ready to find out as you go, or take the time to learn about yourself as you go, you are not ready.
THEY ARE A POWERFUL PART OF THE EQUATION
You need to remember – you are in control here too. Your choice is how you use these apps and who you let into your life. Don’t throw your hands in the air and give up. I’ve heard so many women grumble and complain about the negatives of online dating (and yes, there are a lot of negatives!), But they still haven’t realized that women are not exempt from the multiple connections we have from people want here.
Not every woman seeks a long-term relationship. We might just want a connection or a situation with friends with benefits. The choice is yours what you are looking for. This is what online apps offer us. If you are not ready to exercise your power, you are not ready. Your power lies in explaining your expectations, being honest with yourself, and removing people who don’t stick to the line. You need to be willing to actively participate in the process – this requires personal integrity. You need to know what you are ready and unwilling to discuss or who to meet during a chat.
You need to be able to confidently tell people things like, “No, not open to sexting on the first convo” or “I would like to meet you, but in a public place first.” You make your own rules, but here’s the deal – you need to have a strong and clear voice to enforce those rules. If you can’t speak, you are not ready.
You have to distinguish your hopes from reality
And the apps will definitely help you with that. People are not always what they seem to be promoting through their online presence. They won’t always look the same in real life. They won’t be what you thought they were. I suggest that you video chat before your first meeting so you can get a feel for who they are before moving on.
You also need to let your imagination run wild. If everything on their profile matches what you’re looking for, and you’ve been chatting and feeling good, your mind could be telling your heart a lovely love story before you actually start dating. “Oh, he’s taking his kids to a park – that must mean he’s a good father.” You don’t know that yet. But your heart yearns for a relationship so much that your brain connects points that have not yet appeared. Be aware of the story you will play with this person in the future.
Stay in the reality of now. It’s okay to be hopeful, but that too has to be disciplined hope that doesn’t advance too quickly. Likewise, you need to realize when you are just trying to fill a void in your life by looking for quick validation. You have to understand that there are real people on both sides who have real feelings. If you can’t be honest with your own intentions and others, you are not ready.
Overall, dating apps offer a space where we can meet other people. We can either come prepared or fumble our way through the rabbit hole. We all long for connection. Being honest with yourself about where you are in your life and what you are looking for will keep you in control of how you use these apps.
Some people say it’s an online numbers game – you have to keep meeting people in order to be someone who is closer to you. Some people say, “Just go play and see what happens!” There is no one-of-a-kind way to meet your next partner. If you are ready to accept this, invest your time and be true to yourself, I say go along with it. But there’s no shame in knowing that you’re not ready to get back into the game either.
I love seeing women take the initiative to create the life they want and be true to themselves. I think that freedom comes with age. So here’s to the lovers and the realists working their way forward. I am right there with you.
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