From endless swiping and fizzling conversations to dates that disappoint, online dating can often feel time-consuming and unrewarding. Especially in a pandemic when meeting potential partners is even harder to achieve IRL. Here, we spoke to two dating experts about how to make the experience less painful.
Before embarking on online dating, relationship coach Cheryl Muir emphasizes the importance of understanding who we are and what we want. “To have healthy relationships, we need to dive deeper into ourselves. Think about what you need and what you desire? How can the person you are dating meet your needs?” Muir says.
Have a list of non-negotiables
Think carefully about what sort of person you would like to attract. Take some time to sit down and write out what you ‘must-haves’ and ‘cannot haves’ are. Once you have this clear in your mind, you have what Muir calls a framework to assess potential dates. This will mean you can be pickier about who you swipe with and speak to. “This avoids this round and round overthinking,” Muir adds. Of course, you need to be open and not create an unrealistic list. “Remember that person might come in a slightly different package to that we’re expecting,” she adds.
Be truly yourself
The easiest way to find someone well suited to you is by being totally honest and yourself from the get-go. “Don’t try and tell people what they want to hear. Even if a relationship starts, it’s unlikely it will last. It’s much more efficient to miss out on certain people by being yourself,” Sarie Taylor, coach and psychotherapist, advises. This starts with your dating profile. Describe yourself as honestly as you can and tell people clearly what you are looking for. If you want a long term relationship, state that you do. Plus, don’t leave out valid information for fear people may judge you. “Embrace it as part of who we are — you will meet the right person by being authentic,” Taylor adds.
Ask the right questions
When speaking to potential dates online, conversations can often be lengthy and not very revealing. Muir advises being more tactical with a question like: How did you spend lockdown? “The answer is illuminating and shows how the person invested their time. It’s a soft way of doing some investigating into what sort of person they are,” Muir says.
Taylor recommends trying to understand their internal experience as opposed to their external one. “Ask that person what brings them joy and what they are excited about,” she says. It doesn’t have to be their job or house but something deeper. “If someone can access joy without these external things, they are likely to be able to be compassionate.”
Trust your gut
After a few dates with someone, deciding whether to continue can often be tricky. At this point, Taylor says it’s important to come back to your gut. “Often our internal chatter and overthinking — for example, I am not good enough or I need to find someone quick — clouds our instinct.” Instead, take some time to write out how you feel and re-tap into how you are really feeling about the situation.
Embrace speaking by phone
Dates are an investment of our time and resources, so it’s important to focus on meeting people with solid potential. To do so, Muir suggests arranging a 20-minute phone or video chat to see if you click. This is a quick and efficient way to weed out how you would like to spend more time with.
Emotionally prepare for dates
We often spend time physically preparing for a date — choosing an outfit and applying makeup — but what about the emotional prep? Muir suggests taking some time predate to check in with yourself and how you are feeling. “Create a relaxed and non-needy energy by reminding yourself you are lovable and worthy.”
Don’t stay on dates that don’t feel right
We can often stay on dates longer than we feel necessary as we feel we ‘should’ stay. “You must follow our gut instinct,” Taylor says. If it isn’t flowing, then you don’t need to stay longer. Often it can be a good idea for a first date to be short, say 1-2 hours. Put a time frame on it before you meet. If you have a great connection, you can always stay longer.
Rejection isn’t personal
While rejection stings, it’s important to see it as a blessing, not a curse. Someone choosing to be honest with you is always a good thing (even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time). “Rejection is inevitable but not personal. It’s more about them; it’s their decision and their choice”, Taylor points out. Although the ‘plenty more fish in the sea’ phrase is overused, it does ring true here. “There are lots of people out there and the more time you try to make something work that isn’t working, there isn’t space to meet that new person. You need to close one door to open another,” Taylor points out.
Look beyond online dating
While meeting people organically is tricky in the current climate, you can use this time to think about how you might meet people IRL when things are more open again. Muir suggests thinking tactically about where you might meet someone with shared values and interests. “Think about what activities would that person be doing and go to those events,” she suggests.