How to online date without losing yourself

Carmen BryceBlog posts

That old saying “the course of true love never runs smoothly” certainly has merit when it comes to finding that love. There was a time when it was all a little easier.

My Dad likes to tell the story of how he and my mam met. Ireland of the fifties and sixties was a very different place and today’s Facebook and Tinder were unheard of.

It might be argued that in one aspect of life this was no bad thing. Meeting the person who you spend the rest of your life with was a far less challenging prospect than it is today.
Dances were the Tinder of that age. Every weekend my mother would dress in her finest, usually something polka-dot from the faraway land of America sent home by an uncle. The excitement and expectation was flowing as she walked with her friends arms entwined down to the hall. My Dad arrived on bike with not too much regard for his pale blue suit and periwinkle shoes.

He saw my mam, asked her to dance, and that was it. Within a year they were married. I remember envying the simplicity of it all. Time and attention was required because the ease of communication wasn’t present back then. We didn’t carry the world in our pockets.

Scrolling through endless faces with a “maybe”, “nope”, why not” attitude was decades in the future where human interaction was reduced to a somewhat superficial experience.

That faraway future has arrived and with it a new pressure and struggle to find “the one”. There are many options available to us yet it has never been harder.

Online dating is an obstacle course of high expectations, hopes and fears where one misstep can see you back at the starting line. Head bowed and self-esteem in tatters. It poses a different set of challenges compared with the so called old fashioned way of meeting people. Spontaneity is replaced with expectation. There is a much greater chance of experiencing rejection.

Your shopping list of requirements replaces having no pre-conceived ideas about the other person. Yet in many ways it is similar to “the real world”. This is because, to borrow a quote from Jon Kabat Zinn “wherever you go there you are”. As with most things in life it is our attitude and how we view ourselves that will determine our experience.

A friend of mine recently joined Tinder and was very excited to receive a load of right swipes in his first week. We were chatting in the pub at the time and his excitement was infectious as he showed me an array of women he could choose from. Out of all of those swipes he had maybe four dates. Out of those four dates none materialised into a second. The next time we met the excitement was replaced with despondency and wondering “what’s wrong with me”. How did my grounded and self-assured friend find himself in a place of insecurity after a brief experience on a dating site?

Rejection can hit hard. It can feel like a criticism of who we are, how we look, our whole selves, even when dates are secured. Another person has decided they do not want us.

Maybe it’s because we aren’t attractive in their eyes, or we have qualities or values which are at odds with their own or perhaps they aren’t ready to date or are still in love with an ex. It doesn’t matter really because we still hear “I do not want you”.

However , rejection isn’t the hurdle which will trip you up time and again but how you handle it. Some of us find our sense of worth and value in external sources. Our self-esteem isn’t strong enough to be an anchor during the rough times. None of us have it all figured out but for some the lure of having a void filled is very enticing indeed.

Each person you meet will have their own story and experiences. Remember that. Two people relating to each other, each with a hope and maybe expectation. It may not lead to a second date or a fifth but that’s ok isn’t it?

When it starts to stop being ok then maybe ask yourself what’s going on. What do you tell yourself when he or she says “let’s do that again” but vanishes or “I had a nice time but I wasn’t feeling it.”

Where do those final remarks land on you? Reflect on the impact such words have for it may tell you a little about how to handle such encounters. Does every let down feel a punch in the gut or can you move on with ease secure in who you are?

I mentioned this earlier and it needs mentioning a hundred times more. The first and maybe most important consideration to have before embarking on the dating journey is to not seek validation from outside of yourself. If you have low self-esteem then it’s likely this is something you are familiar with. Perhaps there is a little nagging voice that says “I’m not good enough” or “I really hope you like me because if you don’t it means I’m not worthy”. Relationships are not supposed to fill gaps in your life.

Not having many friends and missing your family aren’t issues that a relationship will solve. Comparing yourself unfavourably to others isn’t something a relationship will solve. Instead it should be complimentary. Trust your instincts and listen to what you need. If our sense of self is low or depleted then it’s likely we will make bad choices in the dating world.

Throw out this notion of “the one”. There are many. We do tend to have an ideal person in our heads, the kind of someone plucked straight from a Hollywood Rom-Com.

The reality is that there will be many ups and downs, that it’s ok to have a long term relationship that didn’t work out and now you find yourself in a new one. It doesn’t mean failure or something lacking because you haven’t found “the one”. There can be many different loves in the one lifetime.

Please don’t try so hard. Dating should be fun, not an endurance test. That first date is just two people who connected online and meeting for a chat. There will no doubt be a hope there a “what if” but try to stay present and not get caught up in an imaginary future. He or she isn’t a potential husband or wife or anything really. For now, they are simply a person you met online.

It is a valid and at times successful option for many when it comes to dating. When approached with the right frame of mind it can open up new experiences and the opportunity to engage with different types of people and learn about what you are looking for in a relationship and importantly what you can offer.

By Geraldine Mulpeter

Featured in A Lust for Life.