John McElhenney is starting the new year resolved to end the online dating dance with a focused approach to dating.
Relationships are a force of nature. When we don’t have them we suffer from loneliness, boredom, ennui. When we do have them we suffer from feeling smothered, codependent, and overwhelmed. And of course, there’s the up-side. When you’re single, your options are limitless. You’ve got online dating sites, apps like Tinder, and all the potential dates you could possibly imagine. And a lot of free time to spend searching, buffing yourself up, and putting your best foot forward.
With the start of the new year, I’ve begun a conscious move away from online dating and into real-time dating—no small thing. With swiping, you barely lift a finger (literally). It takes a lot more energy to actually go out. The Internet makes us lazy. Browsing online profiles kind of feels like dating, the way window shopping substitutes for walking into the store and trying something on. We convince ourselves we’re upping our odds by adding our own hopes and wishes to the endless online pool of potential partners. But I know that for me, finding a partner will take effort. Effort that is 100% up to me. And some nights, even when I know a woman I know will be at an event, I take the easy road and skip it.
It’s painfully clear to me that when I opt in to dating in cyberspace but opt out in the real world, nothing will happen.
Online dating (the browsing and contacting part) is easy. There’s nearly zero risk. It takes very little energy. And you are browsing hundreds of available partners in your area. What’s missing, though, is connection. Online profiles cannot deliver any of the feelings you experience when you’re with another person. You might find a face attractive and be excited by shared interests, but without contact, there’s no spark. And when there’s a spark, you know it, before anyone has spoken. And without it, well … you know there’s not going to be a next time.
Even hot text and email exchanges don’t equal or even approximate the fire you feel in someone’s presence. I still engage in banter, but I’m learning to see it for what it is. Too many of my long, romantic chats with potential partners ended in disappointment when we finally met.
The low level of actual energy you put into online dating is exactly equal to the low return you will receive from your effort. You can’t have the new shirt or shoes if you don’t walk into the store. And that means trying them on, finding out the price, and making a decision. Feeling too lazy to go out? Just whip up OK Cupid or Tinder and start cruising, but don’t expect to find—and definitely don’t expect to meet—the partner of your dreams.
So what are some of the things that make putting yourself out there in the real world more challenging (as well as potentially more rewarding)? The things that keep me at home on a Sunday morning, when I know there’s a spiritual service nearby that is likely to include several attractive single women? For me, there are several thoughts and feelings holding me back.
- I’m not feeling too great about myself. This can be energetic, spiritual, or physical.
- I just don’t have the energy to put my a-game together.
- I’d rather do something else.
- I’m afraid of rejection or looking like a fool.
- I’ve gotten comfortable—maybe too comfortable—in my solitude.
These are all valid feelings, but I am proof that in two years of seeking, a love poem is not going to bring you the partner of your dreams. Well-crafted words might get someone interested. Your poem might even elicit an email if it’s published online. But intention is useless without action. It’s the romantic longing for romance without the risk. You might feel the pain of getting excited by someone then being let down by their lack of resonance. (See: Met My Match.) But you won’t feel anything if you don’t get out there and meet someone—in person.
A woman it didn’t work out with popped up on OK Cupid again. She still looks delicious. And she reminds me of how I can look at a picture and imagine everything is ON when in reality it’s not. What this woman showed me, for the first time since my divorce, was that dating and finding the right combination of looks, intelligence, and joy, is tough. It takes work, and that work includes getting out in the real world, getting your hands dirty and your feet wet and your dreams dashed and your heart crushed a little when it doesn’t click.
So what’s different for me now in 2015? I’m not just browsing, I’m dating. I’ve only had two real dates since my divorce over four years ago. I’m determined to move past the three-month mark, to go out with someone, to pursue a relationship, even make a statement (though probably not by adding them to my Facebook profile picture).
Here’s what I know what I have to do.
- Focus on myself and my own well-being.
- Be radiant and potent in my walk through the world.
- Get fit because I deserve to be stronger, healthier, and more energetic.
- Go out even when I don’t feel like it.
I was in a cardio workout yesterday with two very attractive women. I was noticing my own joy at just being around them. I did not have any plans to ask them out. I did not proposition either one of them. And our banter during the workout was hilarious and untethered to any idea of “dating” or romance. Oh, I guess I should mention, they were both married. But … two weeks ago, when the same two women were in the same cardio class with me, I’m certain the “friend” was not wearing her ring. A certain antennae perked up in my brain and I noticed how I took her in with slightly different eyes, imagining she might be a divorced (or at least separated) mom.
For me, divorced moms are sexy. And if they play tennis … Well … I’m sunk.
Because parenting is a life journey to which I’ve committed myself, I get turned on by a partner who has the same orientation. And tennis, being my favorite sport, is a passion that if shared, can serve up a lot of positive feelings and shared time together.
So I’m heading in a wew direction. I’m seeking a parter for the mixed doubles league. And yesterday I took a step. I asked one of the two women at the gym if she knew anyone who would be interested in joining a mixed ladder as a team.
She smiled and asked, “Would you prefer a single woman?” The banter between us was rich.
“Well, that would be a double win, but not necessary.” Then she delivered the kicker.
“I’d do it, if I didn’t already have so many commitments. But I’ll give it some thought.”
Suddenly, I was feeling warm and fuzzy. She’ll give it some thought. And because I know we already get along (this woman has been coming to the cardio class for months) I can imagine that she will. And of course, she does have a lot of women friends who also happen to play tennis. And some of those women are single. So who knows? Whatever happens, it’s about my intention, my idea, and my action.
So here’s my new 2015 Dating Goal: I will take specific actions to meet single women who play tennis.
What action will you commit to for 2015 to improve your chances of finding a partner?
This post really began with these two ideas:
- Offline Dating: Setting Intentions and Actions in Real Life
- Why Online Dating is a Distraction and Not a Solution
And this earlier run at online dating:
- Met My Match: My Online Dating Near Miss Responds
- Harsh Awareness: I Wouldn’t Date Me – What Am I Looking for After Divorce?
back to Dating After Divorce
image: it’s a bit frosty on court 6 this morning, cc 2014 john mcelhenney, creative commons usage