The bearable lightness of online dating

Ok listen up. There is a lot of unnecessary heartbreak, regret, hand-wringing and second-guessing going on and it’s got to stop. As I wrote a long time ago on WOE: sometimes in life, shit happens but this isn’t shit we’re talking about. This is simply meeting new people and many of you are overthinking the whole thing. You invest far too much in the equivalent a telephone job interview. You see a picture and you project a fantasy relationship, with you and them in blissful union. You place undue emphasis on a short conversation, one that  is less meaningful than any you have with your hairdresser, a person who actually knows you far better. You bet the house on a few initial meetings. You worry, agonise, pursue, stalk (you know who you are Stella Grey) and lose your dignity. You annoy your friends, your colleagues and yourself. You invest heavily, when you should be dating lightly.

It’s the sort of thing you do when you’re young and you think everything matters and you can also fix world poverty. But you’re not and you can’t, so you need to stop seeing your adult dating experiences as your young, breathless self. Instead, you could try reframing it and giving it the gravitas it deserves: very little. Invest sure, but do it with lightness. Assign those initial dates a value that reflects the inconsequential activities they generally are, somewhere on the spectrum between meeting a useless recruitment person and one who might know their job. I know that’s about as minimal as you can get but I want you to see that you don’t need to let this stuff infect your life to the point where you become this pathetic person who waits for texts from someone they’ve not met yet or went out with once. Know when you’re not wanted, understand their lack of communication is part of the very real truth that though you might see hundreds of men or women on a dating site, the statistical truth is just as it is on a crowded train, a nightclub or a party. You may only feel something talking to one or two of these people. So the chances of a relationship stemming from a contact are statistically slight. The person who stopped texting you, felt that and reacted accordingly. There is no need for you to spend hours or days (or god forbid, weeks) agonising this stuff. Just wipe it aside and move on. Get rid of their phone number and delete their emails. Do not even entertain the illusion that they will return once they see what a good catch you are.

Stop spending serious time on things which have not yet signalled they deserve it. Impatience, desperation, anxiety – these have no place in online dating. Save them for things that truly matter. As for the person that matters, maybe you need to stop looking so hard. Or look sideways. And stay on your tippy toes.

12 comments for “The bearable lightness of online dating

  1. Blame d'Iphone
    September 24, 2015 at 21:41

    I blame the iPhone. Too much distraction, too much smartphone slavery. Agree; get out there and talk and have fun. Emotion is for the bedroom not whilst sitting on the loo tindering.

  2. Jay
    September 24, 2015 at 23:17

    Hi Woe – this is great advice and needs to be read by those starting out on the online dating train. Your reference to Stella Grey could not be more apt – ‘impatience, desperation, anxiety – these have no place in online dating…save them for things that truly matter’. Are you listening Stella? Over-investing, or worse, creating a ‘fantasy relationship’ with someone you’ve not even met, or had one or two dates with, is just plain weird.

    Wise words – you definitely get my vote for ‘Dating Writer of the Year”!!

    • woe
      September 26, 2015 at 09:06

      That’s kind. Thank you. We’ve all created fantasy relationships, had non-relationship relationships and kidded ourselves. I still make mistakes but I try not to make the same ones!

  3. M
    September 26, 2015 at 08:45

    But it’s natural to want to have a partner. It’s natural to want that connection, to want love. It’s natural to feel lonely when you’re always on your own. If you didn’t care at all about other people, you’d be a psychopath.

    This may be useful advice for people who are new to online dating and who haven’t been single for long, but there are plenty of people who have been doing it for years and who are genuinely desperate and anxious and lonely.

    And it isn’t always as easy as moving on to the next one; there aren’t always plenty of fish in the sea. Maybe in London you have plenty of choice, but if you live in a small town it’s a lot harder. I look for people who are roughly the same age as me, within 25 miles, with similar interests – and I only manage around three dates a year.

    And yes, I get my hopes up. And I think that’s only natural considering the circumstances. There isn’t an off-switch that I can flick.

    • woe
      September 26, 2015 at 09:05

      Hi Emma,

      The point I’m making is that if someone is going cold on you – and they are not answering your texts, etc, you need to disinvest. I understand you have few men around and getting a date takes ages (Btw, even being in a city, the statistical likelihood of getting a date and not having them bomb out on you is low, seriously).

      Equally, it has been proven time and time again (not just by my correspondents or me) that over texting and over communicating damages a relationship. Men might say they want it but their primitive urge is to pull back if you get too close too early. Like animals.

      I’m saying be ready for love and desire it, but if the man or woman has stepped back and is not engaging, then you need to remember who you are. You were there before them.You will survive it. A relationship does not automatically take you out of lonely; you still need your life. A full life, one that you inhabit and enjoy is more likely to attract people. I’m not hippie drippy as you can tell, but that is how the universe seems to work.

      Thanks for commenting

    • Charlene
      September 28, 2015 at 23:43

      Online dating is not the place for anyone who is “genuinely desperate, anxious and lonely.” Run like the wind if that is you. There seems to be a huge disconnect between what online dating IS and what people want it to be. Wishing it won’t make it so. No one’s criticizing you for “getting your hopes up”…on the contrary, we’ve been there and we know how painful it is. Rather the goal is to save others the pain, by telling the truth about how what it is like and how to cope. Jay is right, WOE needs to be writing the online dating advice column. Stella has no idea what she is doing and is only making it worse for others via her terrible example. If it’s even real. Maybe it’s a cynical marketing ploy to attract unhappy middle aged females by creating a bond of solidarity over how hard and unfair it all is.

  4. woe
    September 29, 2015 at 00:25

    I am going to be doing dating advice. I get letters from people all the time and I figure why not. I will have to change the site a bit to do it so IT guy is telling me how.

    On your point about solidarity amongst a certain type of woman, I agree that is what it is generating. It’s a little like women coming together to say “all men are bastards.” Stella Grey is like a charity case now. She’s so desperate and anxious. It is behaviour you can unlearn if you want to but it seems to be part of her view that she is a very good catch. And her supporters are even more hysterical. Fact is that online dating makes people disposable. We’ve all been disposed of. But the old rules of dating still apply. Be cool, don’t be desperate, don’t be in their face all the time and just see what happens.

    • Charlene
      September 29, 2015 at 14:36

      Great, I’m glad you’re going to do advice. That’s perfect. Another problematic issue with online, is that it raises expectations, where they wouldn’t have been before. Somebody who would have struggled dating in real life expects it to be better online, where it actually could be worse.

      Dating (online or not) inevitably slides into personal growth, when what the user wants to happen, just does not happen. We can date successfully, but still not wind up in the long term relationship we pursue…but dating advice is a good start!

      WOE, what is your advice for the person who is doing his or her best, having realistic expectations, playing fair, keeping a sense of humor and it still is not working? That for me is the hardest question…Don’t want to preempt your new focus but I’ve struggled with that one and interested in your thoughts at some point.

  5. Mr Majeka
    October 1, 2015 at 01:25

    Everything woe has said on this topic is bang on target. I’d like to find something to disagree on but nope, got nothing.

    Some choice cuts:
    “I’m saying be ready for love and desire it, but if the man or woman has stepped back and is not engaging, then you need to remember who you are. You were there before them.”

    “A relationship does not automatically take you out of lonely; you still need your life. A full life, one that you inhabit and enjoy is more likely to attract people.”

    “Be cool, don’t be desperate, don’t be in their face all the time and just see what happens.”

    “Stop spending serious time on things which have not yet signalled they deserve it.”

    Thanks, woe.

    • woe
      October 1, 2015 at 03:06

      My pleasure. I have made many mistakes just like anyone else but you have to make them. What annoys me are fundamental things that people do which tend to relate to their insecurity and do not reflect the moment that an early date is: it’s just a meeting and to agonise because someone didn’t call is silly. I do require some notice if we have made a date and they want to cancel: ie: not just go quiet but say “Sorry I won’t be coming.” But far too much time in invested in this.

      • Mr Majeka
        October 2, 2015 at 02:15

        Very true. There’s not THAT much significance to early dates, I accept first impressions count for a lot and one needs to put his or her best foot forward, etc. but I’ve realised there are other, more worthy things to fret and agonise about than someone else’s seeming lack of interest.

  6. Maturin
    October 6, 2015 at 16:35

    You are the wisest woman I know. It comes from experience, I expect
    Thank you for letting me back in to the circle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.