I met my husband on Match.com. It feels so weird to admit that, even though the stigma about online dating has decreased over the years. It doesn’t help that Match doesn’t have the shiniest of reputations when you put it up against eHarmony’s long and trusted compatibility process. But hey, eHarmony was more expensive, it took a lot longer before they let you communicate with potential dates, and my original goal was not yet to fall in love but to go on as many dates as I could to practice dating before upgrading to finding true love on eHarmony. I never actually got that far, though. I ironically found my Love on the website with a hook-up reputation.
It wasn’t automatic. First I scrolled through hundreds of guys’ profiles who lived within a couple hours of me, “winking” at or messaging several I thought might be worth the experience of a date but not hearing back. I learned that a lot of people let their profiles go dormant for long periods of time. The few emails I got from the guys who initiated with me amounted to no more than “Hey, I think you’re hott (yes, two t’s). Wanna go out?”
I almost did go out to coffee with one of them, but accidentally double-booked, had to cancel, and never was motivated enough to re-book (to be fair, neither was he). I realized that despite my original intentions for signing up,
- the “experience” or “interesting story” I would gain from going on random dates no longer felt worth the toll on my time and energy. I didn’t have the wear-withal to get through a whole date with someone who was interested only in my looks and made no effort to read or comment on what I’d written about who I was (and it’s not like my profile was a novel),
- and I was actually enjoying the emailing conversations I was having with this guy from Germany who I’d automatically put in the “friend” and “pen-pal” category since, well, he lived half-way around the world. But I’d realized I’d much rather sit in my room composing a well-thought out email to this intriguing “pen pal” than go out and meet the uninteresting (to me) guys that lived much closer.
So I did, and I eventually fell in love with my pen pal.
I’m not saying everyone should necessarily do the same thing. If you really want to go out and meet lots of different people to figure out what you want in a relationship or to get practice going out on dates, then I say go for it! Take precautions:
- Meet your date in the daylight hours in a well-populated area.
- Tell someone who cares about you where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
- Don’t let your date know where you live nor get in their car (at least for the first several dates).
If you’re not feeling it but he or she is, you have the right to say, “I don’t think it’s going to work out” and not feel guilty, even if your date bought you your coffee. Consequently, many women who tend to feel guilty about disappointing others (especially men) opt to pay for their own coffee to combat their own internal pressure (and perhaps the guy’s verbal pressure) to “pay the guy back.” But hear this: even if he did buy you coffee (or lunch, or whatever), what he gets out of the experience is the pleasure of your company right then, NOT a trip back to his place, NOT a goodbye hug or kiss, and NOT another date. He earns another date by being kind and interested in what you have to say and by being interesting to you. You wanna learn more about the man in front of you (and he also wants to continue to get to know you)? Then feel free to go out with him again. Don’t go out with him out of pity, or out of guilt, or out of fear of not finding someone better.
And if you end up actually pursuing love like I did, whether long distance or short, pay attention to what you’re learning about yourself, your values, and what you really want. Ask yourself what is non-negotiable and what you can be more flexible on. Ask yourself if this person changes you into someone you are not, or if this person contributes to your growth process to become the person you really are deep inside but are afraid to let other people see. And talk talk talk about your relationship with at least one other person who knows you, loves you, and understands your perspective, who can ask you the kinds of questions and give you the kind of feedback that will be helpful in determining whether to combine your life with the person who is winning your heart.
photo by Cristian Dina, on Pexels