I think I have been avoiding this topic because I have felt uneasy with the world of dating myself. I have wondered, “Who am I to give anyone advice if I feel so out of my depth?”
But I am here to tell you that although I do not have ALL the answers and although I do not feel like I understand ALL the nuances to dating in the 21st century, I have a few tricks for how to prepare emotionally and psychologically for the process.
When I refer to dating here, I am talking about the process of meeting someone (either in real life or on a dating app/website) and seeing him or her a few times (maybe less, maybe more). During the dating stage, people are getting to know each other and perhaps trying to figure out if they like each other. There is always the potential that an actual relationship can develop but let me be clear, when you are “dating” someone YOU ARE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP.
And for this reason, it is important to keep your expectations in check. Tinder and other dating apps are increasingly becoming the primary means by which people meet each other these days. On these apps, people are confronted with hundreds of potential matches and have to select people based on photographs and a few bits of information (sometimes none at all). If you’ve ever checked out Tinder or the likes you will know that the information you get can be really sparse and often you have to select someone based purely on whether you like their picture or not. This makes people anxious because it feels scary to be chosen or rejected based on your looks (or your selfie skills) alone. The real life equivalent of this is having a guy/girl approaching you at a bar. There is no true understanding of your character, your likes or dislikes, or your intelligence –it’s simply a matter of physical attraction.
The trick is to remember that it’s not rejection if he/she doesn’t know you. If you’re not “selected” based on the pictures and/or information you provide on a dating app or if no one comes up to you and asks to buy you a drink, it is not because who you are as a person is not worthwhile. In order to survive the dating game, you have to remember that a rejection that occurs at this superficial level of engagement is not really a rejection of you. Sure he/she may be rejecting your hair, your look, or your lame bio, but is that really you? You are more than your looks, your pick up lines, and your 300 character self-descriptions.
There is a reason we don’t call rejections and failures in dating ‘heartbreak’. And that is because it takes time to get to know someone’s heart and to let someone into your heart. And that should be an assumption going in. Attraction is awesome and there is nothing like the thrill of meeting someone and feeling that instant connection but that is just the beginning. The time spent together after that, where there is an opportunity for a meeting of minds and hearts, is where it starts to actual resemble a relationship. Relationships don’t necessarily have to be long to be impactful. But they are made more powerful and more meaningful by the following:
- Personal disclosures
- Difficult or challenging moments/events
- A test of fidelity
- A shared loss
- Spending a lot of time in shared quarters
- Really great sex
- Meeting each other’s friends/family
So before you embark on any form of dating, keep the following in mind. The hurt and rejection you might feel will sting for a little while but do not let it take you down. Any interaction that occurs at this stage is usually relatively superficial and does not always involve a meeting of minds and hearts. If he/she doesn’t know you, then he/she cannot reject you. If it doesn’t work out, if he/she doesn’t call back or you feel you’ve “messed things up” in the early stages, dust yourself off and acknowledge that the “loss” is really not that great.
And if, after a few dates, you start to feel that there is a chance for a real relationship then by all means go into it open-hearted. None of us know whether the other person is 100% safe. When we like someone, we open ourselves up to getting hurt. There are no guarantees. Life is always going to be about finding the balance between keeping yourself safe and taking great risks. It takes time to build up trust in relationships. Be careful to not assume you’re safe because you want to it to be something before it really is. Guard your heart but at the same time be open to sharing yourself and exploring the other with courage. There is no greater human journey, than the journey of intimacy. Do not let fear hold you back from taking that risk but be careful who you share your heart with. It’s definitely not easy. I struggle with the balance all the time. But if you have a support system in place who can catch you when you fall, then by all means attempt to fly! And I hope you know I’m here for you too and would love to hear your stories!