The whole point of online dating is to not have to use it ever again, as quickly as is humanly possible.
You get on the ‘horse’ (tenuous online dater analogy) and start off feeling full of excitement about giving your best performance and totally up for the ride (excuse the tacky pun!) You have your eye enthusiastically on the finish line and look forward to winning the race, or at least to crossing the ‘finish’ line in one piece and in a reasonable amount of time. Sadly, this isn’t a reality for most (even the finest quality) ‘horses.’ Instead, they end up more like one of those wooden carousel horses. A pretty ‘profile’ perhaps, but on a never-ending track. Going round and around in circles, with no finish line or prize of any kind in sight.
The novelty of this experience naturally wears off pretty quickly and rarely feels like any fun at all… You’re left feeling like you are purely there for the entertainment of others. Reduced to a fairly polished, but rather lifeless, version of the ‘thorough bred race horse’ (aka. an incredibly unique catch of a human being) you know you really are.
So, where do you start?
Ghosting, delayed responses, when to have the chat about dating exclusively… it’s a minefield out there. I entered the world of Coaching as a Dating and Relationships Coach and I’m pretty confident that the boom in my business around the time Tinder launched in London was no coincidence! As a result, I feel adequately qualified on the topic of how to navigate the dating app experience with one’s dignity and sanity intact.
Firstly, before you start, I would suggest that it is vital that you are crystal clear on your WHY for being there in the first place. This may seem obvious at first, but it mustn’t be a vague goal e.g. “I want to meet someone I find attractive, who has half a brain, is roughly the right age, who likes food (is there really anyone who doesn’t) and would never X *insert deal-breaker. When it comes to your WHY, I’m asking you to dig deep and get in touch with your inner philosopher. Half the time, we still think we want what we wanted 10 years ago. This may be the case, but trust me. It’s worth checking with yourself and you may find yourself surprised.
So, there are a few crucial WHYs you need to consider before signing up for the race… that is, if you want to avoid the merry go round.
WHY am I even qualified for this race?
Aka, why am I single? Get honest with yourself here… do you tend to pick the wrong people? Do you always end up pushing people away? Are you always jealous and picking fights? Do you tend to feel trapped? Are you dating people who aren’t really up to scratch, because you think they’re safer? Are you lacking confidence, because you don’t feel at your best? If nothing changes, nothing changes… cue mental image of wooden horse going around and around on that wretched carousel.
Try to work out WHY your answer to your first WHY was what it was…
You need to dig deep. Did your parents get divorced/is their relationship seemingly impossible to live up to? Did your last partner break your heart? Have you created beliefs about relationships that aren’t necessarily true? Are you more confident on your own? Are you convinced you’ll only end up disappointed or disappointing? Have you convinced yourself that all the good ones are either gay or taken (or straight if you’re gay)?
This is the self-therapy. It can be pretty scary actually, so prepare yourself to conjure up some uncomfortable thoughts. This is an important part of the process, so you can realise you have a good reason for your negative thoughts/fears about relationships. You can decide you’re not going to allow them to get in your way anymore.
What’s your goal?
So, once you’ve established why you’re blocking yourself from achieving your relationship goals, you need to work on making sure you understand exactly what the goal even is. As I mentioned, most of us don’t really know what we want. We know what we should want and what our mothers want for us. However, we rarely take a minute to work out what our real WHY is… which is precisely WHY you’re having to read this drivel.
So, bear with me. Start with what the ideal result would be for you. Dream big and write down your ultimate relationship goal, imagining nothing was in your way and if none of the stories you have told yourself are true. Imagine yourself as the catch of the century, who could have whoever and whatever you wanted. Whatever you come up with, just make sure you know the reasons WHY this would be your ultimate relationship.
An example: “I would like to meet someone I’m physically, intellectually and emotionally connected to, who I fancy the pants off and who wants to get married and have 2 kids at some point. I want to feel like he/she is my friend, as well as my lover and there is no possessiveness or jealousy in our relationship. We have a healthy sex life, are faithful and admire each other.”
Ask yourself WHY you even want what you want
This is where I challenge you to write your WHYs down as ‘feelings’. “Oh, she’s gone too far with this one… what is this crazy lady on about now?” I hear you cry! Simply explain to yourself how you would feel if you found yourself in the (currently rather unrealistic seeming) relationship you just described.
Example: “I would feel happy, content, excited, joyful, secure, accomplished, satisfied”… you get the point.
Now, write down the things in your life that currently evoke those emotions in you… So, using my example, my answer would be laughing with my friends, watching/playing my favourite sport, eating delicious French food, seeing my family. Then, take it a step further and consider what it is about the activities you just listed that make you feel that way and why. Bear with me, there is a point to all this.
So, in my case, I consider myself to be a loving person. My friends and family are caring/funny/generous/reliable etc. My favourite sport is exciting/challenging and my favourite food is romantic and tasty.
So in over ten years of coaching, I have found that whichever adjectives you’ve listed as valuable to you above, are often the same characteristics and values you are likely to find attractive in a potential partner. They are also values you respect in yourself. If your behaviour starts to not align with these, over time you will start to not feel like yourself. Then your life performance will start to suffer. When you are not living in alignment with who you really are, you are far less attractive to others and also to yourself. This affects your confidence and self-worth. Fact.
Why what you like about yourself is important
As a side-note, I feel it is important here to take a moment to think about the things you like most about yourself. Make sure you remind yourself to feel proud of these personal attributes and live up to them while dating. If you consider yourself a loyal and reliable friend, then don’t flake on dates or snog other people while trying to build a deeper connection with someone you’ve ‘CLiKD’ with. If you love time with your family, because you get to be silly and joke around, then don’t be a Serious Sally on dates… it just doesn’t add up.
If you are behaving like a contradiction, then you’ll attract the same nonsense into your life. Always strive to be the best version of yourself. Even if it leaves you feeling a little vulnerable and exposed. The right person will appreciate it, respect you for it and feel more comfortable around you.
Instead of focusing on what you want someone else to add to your life, spend more time trying to add that same value you are looking for into their life and watch the magic happen. It sounds cheesy AF, but it’s absolutely true. If you’re looking for someone to fill a hole in your life, then you will always feel unfulfilled. You’ll find a momentary ‘filler’, but then the same patterns will start to repeat themselves. If you’re looking for someone to share your life with, then be the kind of person you would want to share your life with! This is exactly who you’ll attract. Never focus your attention on what you don’t want. Keep focused on what you really DO want.
If you want to win the race of romance, don’t waste time criticising lame horses. Instead work out WHY you signed up for the race, WHY you must win it and focus all your energy on becoming the kinda horse you would back. 😉
Dating and Relationships Coach