As you may well know, gentle reader, I met my favorite person on okCupid. Before our fateful first date that Friday in September 2014, though, I did quite a bit of internet dating. There were four main phases in my internet dating history: several months 2007-2008 (one meet-up in person, which led to my own first panic attack – and not remotely because the guy wasn’t great; it turns out I was a wreck); spring of 2012, which led to a few dates (then I got horribly, horribly sick for a year, which cut that short); fall 2013 (kind of a lot of dates); and then late spring 2014-September 2014 (a LOT of dates). Even the one-off dates (of which there were many) were a pretty positive experiences. Internet dating did me well – obviously.
This is not a post about whether or why you should be online dating. It’s not about what I think of all the sites I was on at one time or another (in addition to okCupid, I did Christian Cafe, eHarmony, Christian Mingle, and Match). It’s not about the cultural impact of this new way of forming romantic connections (check out this article if you’re curious about that). It’s also not about my stories (although I have some good ones).
What I want to talk about is how to do this thing. I learned a couple of lessons I think are worth passing along – maybe you will find something I learned useful.
When you’re on a date that isn’t going anywhere, be charitable. One of my friends used to talk back in her single days about helping awkward guys learn some dating skills if she found herself on a date with them, just by being a good date herself. She didn’t do this over multiple dates – she wasn’t leading them on or anything – but she chose to see each dead-end date as a different kind of possibility than romance, not a waste of her time or energy. I found that sometimes that chemistry just wouldn’t be there face-to-face, or something would come up in discussion that made it clear we weren’t a great match, and it was tempting to abruptly end the date, be a bitch, or regard the fellow with animosity. But not once was he actually a bad dude with nefarious intent; he just wasn’t the right guy for me. And that is not his fault. Not once would my antagonism have been warranted. I really think kindness is clutch here.*
Another way to think of it is this: especially with the way you end things, whether you’re just chatting online or have been dating for awhile, try to be a positive experience that will encourage good men and women to go out and try again. Putting oneself out there is tough and scary work; be the kind of person who makes others feel it’s worth their effort – and that they have something to offer – even if you didn’t turn out to be “the one.”
Don’t lie. I never struggled with lying until I started getting “maybe we could do this again sometime” from men I didn’t want to go out with again. I am totally ashamed to say I had a terrible habit for awhile of saying, “sure,” and then emailing or texting “Actually, I’m so sorry, I was nervous and I lied; you’re great but I’m not interested.” It was a huge step for me to learn to be honest to men’s faces. Just being frank without being mean is plenty for most people – you don’t need to “make a statement” with your “no thank you.”
When you get super-judgy and cynical, you might need a break. I felt my heart hardening in the spring of 2008. I noticed I was trending toward this nasty attitude when I caught myself looking at profiles and thinking, “Not cute enough for me…Not godly enough for me…Not smart enough for me.” That is not the person I wanted to be, so I quit online dating for 4 years. And when I came back, it was completely different. For me, a big part of guarding my heart was keeping myself from becoming mean and cold and hard.
* I do want to note that having boundaries is important, and you might be justifiably “rude” by putting your foot down and insisting on being left alone, etc., when you’re being pursued past the point at which you said “no thanks.”