Additional tips for dating in a sustainable, semi-nondehumanizing way on and off the apps. Number one: keep your thinking flexible -- be willing to extend trust or revoke it at any time, hold out hope or let it fade, as things change. And as always, actual results may vary. But take what works for you and have fun:
-Pay to subscribe on dating apps occasionally and filter hard by your preferences so that you spend less time swiping through people you find depressing.
-Limit time swiping - once a day, perhaps. Consider only going out with people you’re genuinely excited about/attracted to (unless you’re very avoidant and rarely excited). Or, take a break altogether from dating when burnout is high or you realize you are using it to distract from higher priorities.
-Limit time chatting before meeting. Meet in a (safe) public place asap because a connection over text simply may not translate to IRL chemistry. Waiting can prolong projection and fantasy, or be a sign of anxiety or avoidance that therapy can and should help with.
-If your attachment style is more avoidant, challenge yourself to respond to messages within 24 hours. If you lean more toward anxious/preoccupied attachment, journal first before double-texting to learn where the urgency's coming from.
-If you’re avoidant, try a second date with someone who doesn’t present any red flags, even if you’re not quite feeling it at first. If you’re more anxious/preoccupied, end things and move on if, within two dates, you uncover red flags.
-Do fun things on dates so that even if it’s not a match, it was still time well spent. If you’re a foodie with some money in your pocket try a new, cool restaurant, but otherwise, why not take a (short, non-remote) hike as a first date, or try bubble tea because you still haven’t.
-Do easy things on dates when you’re fried. For example, don’t drive across town at rush hour to meet someone you’re meh about; suggest that you both make a cocktail from scratch at home and share a virtual happy hour.
-Consider making a “dealbreakers” list à la Love Factually by Duana Welch, PhD. These are items without which a relationship would be doomed for you, even if the person had every other thing on the list. For example, if you definitely want children, and s/he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter that s/he’s also smart, kind, funny, and great at oral sex (I know, bummer).
-Meet people in meaningful places, not just via apps. What settings stir the strongest feelings in you — a cultural group, an animal rescue, a meditation center, a Jack Harlow show, a hiking club, your friendly neighborhood sports bar, comics shop, salsa class, or Ta-Nehisi Coates lecture: whatever it is you’re into, look for people there. Even business networking events — if work/career is very important to you, yes, it can and should still be done there, sensitively.
-Not sexy but (sometimes) true: dating can be like job hunting, particularly if you’re in your 30s and wanting children. Just like feeling the burn of bills due and severance running out when you’re funemployed, dating can feel like reproductive musical chairs — hurry up and find someone to join gametes and finances with so you can both sit comfortably down before the music stops. That’s on a bad day. On a good day, love, like work, is deeply meaningful and fulfilling (I know mine is).
-And just like you may randomly be presented with your dream job by your fantasy football friend’s ex-college-roommate’s cousin, you may walk into a coffee shop one day and effortlessly meet The One. But you’re not gonna sit around waiting. Like job hunting, plan on it being a numbers game and a mental strength test, a question of volume, pacing, and coping skills. Approach finding a partner with the meticulousness and drive of an Oscar-winning indie auteur casting the lead of her passion project. Others (especially HSPs) will too, so you’re not gonna get cast in most love stories. This is normal; let this be.
-Develop a growth rather than fixed mindset about dating. It’s not a binary, dating “success” or “failure” thing. You’re building mastery as a dater and honing in on what you want and how to be in a relationship. Learn something and grow from every single encounter (“She reminded me how much I love a sense of humor,” “Wow, he introduced me to reading literary erotica together as foreplay!”, or "Ok so now I know that scheduling dates a month apart is probably a sign of emotional unavailability"). Also try to leave people you date with something positive (for example, even when ending things, let them know clearly and sincerely what you appreciated about your time together).
-Don’t overidentify with the concept of “single.” You are many things beyond it, just as life is about much more than the sum of our paid work. You will enjoy this expansive identity sometimes for weeks at a stretch, and other times, just minutes in a day. Again, focus on growth.
-Accept yourself as whole, perfect, and complete even when single. Self-acceptance doesn’t mean you are trying to stay single (unless that's what you want!), it’s not passive resignation or inaction. It just means that you can hold both sides of the dialectic simultaneously — you accept that you’re not in a relationship at the moment even as you work effectively to change that. Easier blogged than done, but even flashes here and there that you feel at peace with reality — take it! And build from there.
-It can take time for sex to fall into place, to shake off jitters and to learn each other’s bodies and preferences, but there should be a spark and some compatibility from the beginning. Find a reasonable libido match. If sex matters to you, don’t diminish that; you will regret it. And if it doesn’t much, don’t pretend that it does; your partner will be left regretting.
-Find ways to soothe your loneliness. Especially now, with so many folks living alone and working from home… remember that even in your loneliness you are not alone… it’s a friggin epidemic. Try offering a loving kindness meditation to yourself, to all those who swiped right on you when you swiped left, to all beings everywhere because we all want to be loved. Avail yourself of hugs from friends and animals. A warm bath or a weighted blanket and a favorite book or show can feel like a hug when you don’t have one handy. Or seek a body-based trauma treatment like brainspotting, somatic experiencing, or EMDR from a skilled clinician.
-Treat others how you want to be treated. Do no harm. Do not abandon the part of yourself that is patient, wise, and independent. And enjoy the mystery of life unfolding. You’re doing great. :-)
Rebecca Robinson, LMFT provides expert online, evidence-based therapy to deep-thinking/deep-feeling adults in California and Pennsylvania.