Listen, dating is a hellscape. Let’s just get that out the way upfront. If you’ve read any of my stuff before, you’ll know I’ve written quite a bit about how confusing modern dating gets, and just how ridiculous some of the experiences of meeting people via an app or online, can also be.
The number of cockwombles out there seems to grow daily. Where are they all coming from? Men and women who seem to think it’s fine to make crass comments about your appearance upfront, or make demands, or call you derogatory names, who show up and act like jerks, or say things that are just unacceptable in any polite company. Then there’s the ghosters, the cheaters and liars. What is the world coming to?
To Date or Not To Date? The 6 Guys You Will Meet Online
A.K.A “There’s comedy in tragedy, right?” My reflections on 6 months of actively dating in London.
It’s no surprise then, when one by one, my single friends start to find themselves giving up on the game. And it is a game. With no good rules.
Dating, and especially online dating, takes time, energy and money. Getting fed up after a while isn’t something to worry about — I think it happens to most people. But there are ways we can combat this burn out, or prevent it from happening.
First, take a nap. Then fire the missiles.
My reference to a 2000s “meme” aside… it’s true. You can take a break — some serious “me time” — before you crack on with all the messaging and swiping and whatever else. It is a time sink to do those things, even if the apps and sites make it as game-like as possible. Reality says that these things are still taxing, so if you need a break, take a break. Give it a rest. Be cool on your own for a bit.
Then, when you’re ready, get ready to attack it again.
Now, it’s time to deal with reality.
I’ll tell you straight up: I loathed dating. It was just the worst time ever. Dating is total rubbish, for the most part. But I also really wanted and valued finding someone to share my time with. Call me old school, but I did really want an intimate and invested relationship with someone. I realised pretty quickly though that I was firmly in the minority on this; most the people I encountered, particularly on sites like OkCupid, were not interested in monogamy or a relationship. The majority were just looking for an additional fun person to sleep with and maybe spend some time with. A capital-R Relationship wasn’t really on the menu.
No shade. Everyone has to look for what they really want and value, and what is right for them. It was just really really hard to find what I wanted and valued. I’m certain I’m not alone in this.
But what was worse was the time before that, when I wasn’t really sure what I wanted and was just out there looking for… something. Dealing with your own reality first is pretty important in preventing that stage where you’re just over people and life. Get ahead of the emotional confusion burnout and face your reality first. What are you hoping for? What do you need? What do you want? Before you start losing patience with the process, recognise your own real needs. Is it a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship that you’re after? Do you even actually want a relationship? Because the answers to these questions vary the mode of search pretty widely. If it is a relationship that you are after then…
Consider making a list.
Confession: I made a serious list. It had about 85 things on it, from as small as ‘has nice hair’ to ‘is generous’ to ‘likes languages’. They weren’t all dealbreaker items, but just making the list of what I was looking for did help me to realise that I was looking for something specific — it wasn’t as vague and hard to imagine as I thought.
The vagueness is the killer; that’s when you start to say yes to dates with people who aren’t actually on your wavelength at all. And of course that is hard to tell via an app, but having an image of what you are after and what you need will help filter things a bit better — save yourself the time and exasperation of ending up on a date with a gym junkie with no other hobbies when you loathe exercise. Save yourself the fail of a date with someone who wants to stay home all the time if going out is vital to you. The difficulty usually comes in knowing what those positive and negative qualities are for you. And if it isn’t a relationship that you are after…
Make your profile clear clear clear!
Don’t write on your profile that you are after ‘the one to marry’ if you’re actually looking for a friends-with-benefits relationship. This should be logical, but it is incredible how self-deluded and flat out unhelpful many profiles are. I am going to take aim here at the dudes: dudes, we don’t want to sleep with you if you’re going to be deceptive about your intents. Just be clear. Tell the world what it is that you are after.
This goes for specific kinks too. If your profile is all about how you love tennis and long walks on the beach, and after a week of text chat back and forth you throw in, “Oh, and I really just want a cuckhold relationship,” that is just too late in the conversation to admit that you are looking for something specific. Something specific the other person may not have mentioned they’re into, at all. Don’t be surprised if that person says no thanks, and ends the discussion. Please, for the love all things decent, do not then harass or be rude to that person who isn’t interested in the thing you tried to deceptively throw in a week later. Get a grip, write it in your profile, avoid future rejection.
The irony is that this tends to happen more with people who think they understand kink but actually don’t — they’re not really members of that community, they just want to experiment, but look for a consenting partner on a common dating site, rather than a specifically kink site (where everyone is aware of what they’re looking for and agreeing to), and they are hoping they will just stumble upon a consenting partner. Don’t be that guy/gal. Just be clear about what you are after in your profile, make sure you’re on the right site to be looking for that thing. Simple.
Develop your questions wisely.
Following on from my earlier point on knowing what you are after, you do need to be able to subtly get to know a person — before you meet them. This is hard, I know, and people can say all kinds of shit on text. Some people swear by having a phone call before meeting an online potential. Whatever works for you, of course, just make sure you know what questions you need answers to before you engage in real life.
I know a lot of people think, “Just meet! That’s the best way to know.” But I do not believe that is a fair approach. Save yourself wasted evenings of dull small talk and just find out the essentials before you agree to a meeting. A picture and profile are rarely enough to know anything by.
Find activities that satisfy you first.
Online dating is a particular experience. I have never, ever had any success from it. I was single for about 2 years in London, using apps every so often, and getting nowhere. When I did finally meet my partner, it was because of an activity group we both attended (a writing group, specifically). The activity itself was one I enjoyed, so it meant that I didn’t feel too horrible by going out and doing that thing. I wasn’t so focused on finding a partner.
An Introvert’s Rules for Better Social Interactions
Setting helpful boundaries to prevent burnout, without resorting to hermitage
I personally have some rules about what social interactions I engage with and why. This is because I am an introvert who experiences a lot of guilt for being an introvert, something I am working on. But in the meantime, I have a clear set of rules about what social events I say yes to, and what I say no to. One of the big rules here is about the activity contained within an event itself — if I like that thing, I am likely to go along, even if I don’t know anyone there. Find activities that you’d be happy to participate, whether you meet people or not.
Develop an attitude.
You’re probably thinking…what?! I don’t mean ‘go out with a bad attitude’. I mean you have to adopt an attitude that works for you. It usually is a combination of earnest looking for someone (if it is a relationship that you are after) and disinterest in the result. Basically impossible. So be gentle with yourself. Develop an approach that will get you through the painful process of searching.
For me, this was an attitude of knowing what I was after, and coming to clear conclusions about whether the people I was dating matched that idea. If someone acted a bit awfully, they had to go. No more chatting, no more second, third, fourth chances — if they keep on cancelling and rescheduling, if they won’t make the time, if they can’t keep up their end of the chat, etc. It feels a bit ruthless, but that is reality. Some people are on those sites just because they think they should be. If that’s you, think twice. Are you wasting your own time and the time of others, just because you think you ‘ought’ to want to date? Not everybody has to! Not everybody needs a relationship! Just do your thing and when you’re ready, do dating properly.
Keep in touch with your own feelings.
Last but not least, your own mental and emotional health is primary in all this. Putting yourself out into the world to find love is really hard and I empathise with everyone who is embarking on that process. You are doing a courageous thing by offering yourself up emotionally to get to know people and facing potential rejection. That is hard going, and it is important to check in with your own body, your own feelings, as regularly as works for you. Even if you, once a week, sit down, have a meditation sesh, or a bath, or go for a quiet walk — whatever it might be that gets you into the reflective zone — it is worth doing. Take that time to journal about your experiences, to reflect on how you feel and how the process is affecting you. Stop whenever you need to. There is no hurry to this.
Why ‘Self Care’ Is Vital and How You Can Do It Better
‘Self care’ isn’t as selfish as it sounds. Here’s how to integrate it into everyday life.
Love comes at any age. You are not in a competition with anyone. You are trying to find your own happiness — an arrangement that works for you. So invest the time for your own sake. Don’t do it because you think you should. Do it because you really want to. Acknowledge and own your needs. In this way, you can curb the exasperation and prevent overload and overwhelm in the future. Good luck.
Oh, and if all this earnest advice is too much and actually you just want to see how messed up the world is… this is the article for you:
Weird Things Men Have Actually Said To Me
‘You’re not that cute, but I see Jesus in everyone’