05 Feb Swipe Right: When is online dating right for you?
2008 was a year of great change for me. I was on my way to divorce and moving across the country to start a new job in California. After taking some time to get settled, by 2009, I was ready to date again. Let me just state for the record how vastly ill-equipped I was for this adventure. I had dated my ex-husband since high school, so needless to say, a lot had changed since then. How are you actually supposed to meet someone in this day and age? At first, I tried all the “usual” methods. Nights out at the bar — not exactly my scene. Maybe I could meet someone at the gym? At the time, I was studying Krav Maga and as it turns out, it’s a little difficult to pick someone up when you’re repeatedly kicking them in the groin during class. I tried church, volunteering, even getting all dolled up to go grocery shopping but none were very fruitful ventures. Inevitably, I found myself where all modern day daters will eventually end up: online. A 2012 analysis published in Psychological Science for the Public Interest found that one of the benefits of online dating is the ability for a dater to have access to a very large pool of potential mates. It also found, not surprising to anyone who has used online dating, that it can have many highs and many lows. So how does one survive the sometimes awesome, sometimes awful, sometimes downright weird world of dating?
Find your support system. I was fortunate enough to have a group of friends who were also single and dating. These are the people I knew would celebrate with me when a date went well, like when I met my now husband. They would laugh with me when a date went comically wrong, like the guy who showed up with freshly bleeding roadrash. And they would give me hugs, ice cream and wine when I was heartbroken after the end of a promising relationship. Find your allies. You will need them.
Take a break. One of the men I dated once lamented that a pitfall to online dating in particular is that people jump from one relationship to another. Rather than doing the work to heal and reset after the end of a relationship, they just dive right back into the dating pool…dragging a giant albatross of baggage. In fact, according to a 2016 survey administered by Match.Com, millenials are 125% more likely to admit they are addicted to the process of making a love connection. Don’t give in to the allure or pressure to get right back into dating after the end of a relationship. Also, if you find yourself getting jaded or disgruntled, that’s a great sign that you need a dating time-out. Get comfortable being alone for awhile. Find the magic in cooking elaborate meals for yourself, spending time with friends, going solo on an impromptu road trip. Celebrate ALL the forms of love that surround you in life, not just “being in love.” Mostly, use your break to…
Work on yourself. I remember the day I was crying to my best friend after a breakup. The guy broke up with me after three months because I had student loans and apparently that was a deal breaker. This was the third relationship in a row that I just couldn’t make work and I was feeling sorry for myself. My friend said to me matter-of-factly “have you considered seeing a therapist?” And then it clicked. What was the common denominator in these relationships? ME! After more than a year in the dating game along with other big life stressors, my head was not in the right place. I was making choices, accepting treatment and excusing behavior that was NOT healthy for me. So I took her advice and sought out a therapist. BEST. DECISION. EVER. I apparently was ahead of my time because a 2017 article published by The Insider extols the virtues of relationship therapy for the single person. The article sites therapy as a way to evaluate how your see yourself, the traits you’re looking for in a partner and provides the type of accountability and insight into your actions that can be invaluable. During my time in therapy I didn’t date at all, I got comfortable being alone.
I recently shared this experience with my colleague, Azra Alic, LCSW. Azra is a Behavioral Health Therapist at Crossover Health. She explained that when working with her therapy patients on relationships as humans, we all have an instinctual longing for emotional connection. It is helpful for individuals to understand the ways in which they seek this type of connection, also known as attachment. Our personal attachment style plays a role in how we behave at the beginning, during, and end of a relationship. For example, in the early stages of relationships, there is a lot of uncertainty and emotional risk-taking involved in getting close with a new partner. People respond to uncertainty differently. Later on, attachment styles dictate how we bring up difficult issues. For example, do we state our needs clearly? Or, do we get overly angry and critical? Or, perhaps we give up because we think our partner won’t understand us anyway. Taking the time to learn this about ourselves, as well as our partner’s attachment style, creates a strong foundation for building a lasting relationship dynamic.
Determine what’s most important for you. After six months in relationship therapy, I decided to try again with a better frame of mind. I knew what I wanted (I think I still have the physical list of my personal requirements in a mate) and I knew my deal breakers. The vision I had for my mate was now fine-tuned to include the most important elements that were in line with my values. With this in mind, I went back online. I changed my approach. I only responded to those who reached out to me in a meaningful way. I declined dates (or second dates) if I knew right away he wasn’t a good fit rather than sacrificing what I wanted or trying to change him into what I wanted. Finally, I met my current husband. I knew from the first date that this was a man who was worth the risk and worth the effort. We both came to the relationship having worked through our baggage and committed to working through whatever we faced together. Relationships worth working for are not always easy, but having a true partner in life has made it all worthwhile.
About the Author
Danielle Heuseveldt, RD, LDN, CHWC, Crossover Health Coach
As the leader of Crossover’s Health Coaching program, Danielle knows firsthand—and advises our members—that healthy relationships and companionship is part of a healthy lifestyle, as much as coping with stress (like divorce), sleep and practicing good nutrition and exercise. Learn More
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