I was on the Verge of Giving up
I had been single for a total of nearly 4 and a half years, before meeting my wife online, which happened about 4 years ago now. We have been happily committed since shortly after meeting. My previous relationship of 5 years had ended very badly — and I found myself struggling to contact anyone intimately. I tried quite a few times, but with disappointing, painful results.
I was depressed about it. It seemed like everyone else knew how to date, knew how to meet people, how to connect, how to boot up a fresh relationship like it was a program on their computer. Somehow, I was left completely alone after that breakup, and I couldn’t change that, for years.
Dating sites were appealing to me, because I didn’t really know where I might meet people. I didn’t have a wide circle of friends, or a viable social network I knew how to tap into for dates. I was one of those people who had really put a great deal of investment into my previous romantic relationship, and my larger sphere had fallen by the wayside somewhat. All my eggs were securely in one basket — and the basket was destroyed.
I had planned to stay with that person for my whole life, so when they left, I was heartbroken, and alone. It seemed there was no one else for me. I was attracted to people, and could imagine myself being with someone, but had no idea how to cut through the superficial layers, to really spark something deeper. For the most part, dating sites were not kind to me.
Four Dates in Four Years
Half of them ended in a handshake — the other two, a misleading hug that unfairly got my hopes up. I’m okay with the fact that I took my time. Now I’m with someone who I truly love and admire.
We have a beautiful child and life together, so it was worth it. Nevertheless, I’ve learned some things that I think might be helpful for other people on dating sites, so that maybe they can find success faster than I did.
I reached out to a lot of women. I tried everything. Maybe my pictures weren’t that great. I know you’re supposed to have pictures of you doing exciting things, like martial arts, swimming, hiking, camping, and of course anything self-taken is a complete turn off. I wasn’t great at marketing myself to prospective mates, but I wasn’t horrible, either. Women were interested.
Quite a few women did come onto me and initiated contact with me. The problem was — I wasn’t really interested in many of these women. And there were very few women who started talking to me first who I felt much of an attraction to. Usually I started the conversation and they played ball. Then it ultimately led nowhere, almost every time.
Thoughts About the Mating Dance
It’s a known fact that men are generally expected to do most of the initiation on dating sites (and in real-life dating). This is what leads to me, and others like me, having the discouraging experience of sending twenty messages for every one response. I think that it would be ideal if more women did reach out. Some do, and that’s great, but it should be more 50/50.
I think the issue is that so many men do, that women figure this is a good way for them to do their screening process. Because they’re flooded with plenty of men hitting on them, they don’t have the time or the need to do much of it themselves— and it just doesn’t work very well for all parties.
Battle of the Sexes
Ideally, men and women should be reaching out equally, for a higher chance at a match, and an egalitarian approach to dating. Different sites try to help with these tasks in various ways, and some of the algorithms and features are effective. Nevertheless, the mating dance always kind of plays out the same way, or some variation thereof.
One person expresses interest, the other accepts (or refuses) the interest, then the other makes the next move, and they kind of take turns moving towards one another. If a man is always making the first move, this can create imbalances in the dating ecosystem.
That being said — if you’re a man (like me), be prepared for the same experience I had for most of those years. There’s nothing especially ineligible about me. We could say I’m more or less average, all things considered. In some departments I’m above average, and in some below, and it all kind of evens out.
On a random dating site, some women would want me, some would pass. I’m just a regular guy. It’s more that women are being inundated with suitors, so our chances go down. All men’s chances do.
And women end up disappointed as well, because there are too many men to choose from. It’s hard to stay objective when confronted with so many options — it gets confusing.
Pay for a Subscription
Try a bunch of sites, even the ones that require you to pay for the subscription. This will give you access to at least most of the features on the dating site. Otherwise you’ll be relegated to being able to do relatively little in the form of communication. That’s what I found, anyway.
Also, consider that if you’re paying for something, you feel invested. You’re more likely to want to get the most out of it, to get what you paid for. Usually it is not a lot of money.
Chances are, if you don’t pay for the basic subscription, they’ll either rope you into some of their addictive, paid “boost-like” features anyway — or you’ll always feel like you can’t do as much as you want on the site, because you’re getting the free version.
Do not Give up When let Down
I was blatantly stood up twice — no call, no show; and this was out of relatively few arranged dates. Both times, they had an excuse, but it was never good. Other times I was randomly ghosted, or hit hard with other not-so-good news about our chances.
The bottom line is that people will do this to even the best of us. It is a really bad feeling, and you feel like a complete idiot. We weren’t built for rejection and humiliation — it hurts. That being said, if we know it is just one of the facts of life, we’re less likely to take it personally; and move on with finding the right person for us.
Every single date I had, I was worried the person would stand me up. For the rest of the date, I was generally worried about how it was going. After the date, I was usually worrying more. Dating can be stressful. So don’t give up hope when things aren’t working out. Remember the long game.
Think About Taking Time for Yourself
I took at least a few big breaks from the dating sites, and from attempts at dating in general, so that I could focus on being happy, independent, and healthy.
I worked out at the gym, I built up my resume, made lifestyle changes, tried to look at the big picture, reached out to friends, and gained a sense of perspective.
It’s okay to take some time out for yourself, if you’re frustrated with the dating world. You’ll return to it stronger than before, when you’re ready.
Whether to Make the First Move
It’s no coincidence that my wife made the first move by initiating a conversation with me on the site. It wasn’t anything special that she said, I think it was basically: “Hi, how are you?”. But this showed interest, something other women weren’t showing much of towards me.
It’s a psychological truth that if you make the first move, you’re quite likely to be at least as interested in a relationship as the person you’re approaching. So with that in mind, most people who come to you first, are somewhat attracted to you.
If it so works out that you’re feeling this way mutually, this makes things easier. On the other hand, if you’re initiating with someone, they might not be on the same level as you. There’s a decent chance they won’t be.
They might still get back to you, there may be some feeling that they like you or are curious, but it could be half-hearted. It could very well be an uphill battle.
Get Into a Routine
Maybe consider doing what I did. Cast your line out there with many people, wait to see if they get back to you, talk to them a bit, and then quickly try to move forward with a date. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time. The goal is to figure out efficiently if you’re good for each other.
My wife and I did message and phone for a while before meeting in person, but that was fine. It helped us to warm up to each other. Either way, we got along very well on our first date, and it was natural to set up a second meeting shortly after.
Until you have a second and/or third date, you probably can’t be sure there’s much of anything serious brewing. Romance will happen and sparks will fly. I think that love and chemistry has a way of working itself out if you put two people together who have a connection — and then it’s just a matter of long-term commitment.
Finding the Right Person
I honestly believe that there is someone right out there for each of us. It’s mostly a numbers game. Dating sites do allow you to access a big pool of people. Once you find someone you feel a match with, be open about what you want.
My wife was up-front with me from early on that she was serious about a relationship, and I let her know I wasn’t going to lead her on. There is nothing necessarily wrong with marriage or children entering the conversation in early dates.
On our first date, we went into quite a bit of detail about what we were both looking for. We moved quickly with the big questions, but didn’t jump into intimacy too soon.
I think there’s something to be said for maturely sitting down with someone you’re interested in, and having a conversation about what you both have in mind for the relationship, going forward. It’ll save you both a lot of potential headaches, heartaches, time, and uncertainty.
Dating is not easy — in general, but I think most people can at least acknowledge that it seems possible to find a good match. Dating sites operate according to the same logic. The romantic in you will want, and sometimes hope, and even prematurely believe, it to be easier than it is.
In all honesty, finding love is like anything else in life. You need to work at it in order to find success, sometimes for a long time. There’s no magic number of tries or period of time before you get there, but remember my story of how long it took, and how hopeless I felt.
One huge reason I’m now happily married, with a beautiful baby boy, is that I didn’t ever give up completely on dating sites. When things went wrong, I took some time to pull myself together, and kept trying.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash