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Online Dating At Its Worst and Best (…and my advice to those seeking love on free dating sites)

10 Mar

I want to preface this entire post by saying that I am in no way, shape or form an expert in online dating or dating in general, for that matter. I feel, however, that I truly have experienced the best and worst of online dating in the past year, and I hope that these experiences can help others who may be in the same situation or who are exploring online dating for the first time.

The Worst

A year after I had ended an awful two-year relationship, I met a man — we’ll just call him X — on a start-up online dating site. I actually wasn’t out looking for anything at that point, I simply enjoyed talking to him because he was from the Netherlands and I’m sucker for learning more about other cultures. A few months went by and we admitted that we both liked each other a lot but obviously the whole long-distance thing was a bad idea. Even with that said, we still continued to Skype once a week for a few hours. Fast forward to a year (yes, a year) later: I have stopped talking to X a couple of times because, deep down, I knew that it was unhealthy. Despite all of this, he kept coming back and telling me that he missed me. In June of 2012, he told me that he loved me. He was drunk when he did it, and I knew that this wasn’t the way I wanted anything in my life to be. We agreed that we wouldn’t date anyone else until we had met, and we made plans for him to come see me in October.online dating

Before I go any further, I want to outline some characteristics of X that I knew were bad but had dismissed because I thought that I was being paranoid:

– He was a partier, good looking and very cocky

– He spoke of having sex with multiple women and even kissing a girl who was in a relationship with someone else at the time.

– He lived with his grandparents and didn’t have a real job (he dropped out of law school). Instead, he kept in touch with all of his international friends and pretty much visited them and got free places to crash all of the time. In a way, I felt like he was using these people.

– The only time he ever said he loved me, or said anything romantic, was when he was drunk.

– He wanted me to fly to him even though I was the one who had a stable job and had never flown overseas before. He said that where I lived seemed boring with nothing to do, and he used that as a way to keep pressuring me to come see a city (Amsterdam) that was actually cool.

Even with all of these signs, I had strong feelings for this man. My family was extremely concerned about me, and they had the right to be, but I defended him. I had a feeling that he was lying about being faithful to me, and so I did go on dates with other men but didn’t tell him about it… I never was serious about any of the men, though, and I did it more to have the “upper hand” if I ever found out that he was lying to me.

In August, I noticed that his relationship status on Facebook had disappeared. Around the same time, he “accidentally” deleted me as a friend and then added me back. A few weeks after this, I randomly clicked on one of the girls who had liked a picture of him only to find that her public profile said that she was in a relationship with X.

Suddenly, I figured it out: he had defriended me so that he had time to hide his relationship status from me. I found out that he had been dating this girl for several months, and I told him to never speak to me again.

I can’t express the feelings of anger, embarrassment and shock that I felt about this entire situation. He most likely would have continued to lead me on and I would have spent who knows how many months delaying my OWN search for love because of this man. That, more than anything, was the crux of my anger.

After this experience, I want to stress that long distance relationships do not work if you meet online first. I’m sorry, but the odds are seriously against you. I would never, ever recommend the experience that I had to anyone, and I would advise extreme caution to anyone who is taking this route. Yes, I have heard of success stories, but they are few and far between. In addition to this, I want other online daters to know that this can happen even if you are talking to someone locally. Ignore any person who takes forever to make plans with you, seems like he is playing around or just gives you an “off” feeling. I can’t tell you how many times my gut was telling me to walk away, and you need to trust that gut feeling even if you think that you are crazy.

This situation caused me a lot of pain and anger, and it was only because of this that I decided to get back into online dating SERIOUSLY this time. I made a profile on Plenty Of Fish and OKCupid, and I got to work on finding a man who truly was going to treat me right. For some of us, myself included, you need to get angry before you get happy. Never let a bad experience or relationship cause you to retreat from finding love. Instead, get pissed off about it — only then will you truly put your heart and soul out there and become determined to make your life better. Just make sure that you are in it for the right reasons, and not for revenge or attention.

The Best

After becoming very angry at my awful situation with X, I met a man on OKCupid about a week later. Apart from loving to travel, this man and I didn’t really have that much in common. He had cats, though, so we talked a lot about that. This man insisted on calling me, kept in constant contact with me and planned very nice dates. Even after the third date, I was struggling to find things to talk to him about. On top of this, I discovered that he had recently broken up with his girlfriend of five years and that they had been engaged. I was outraged, I told him that I refused to be a rebound, and I seriously considered dropping him every time I talked to him. My co-worker, who had met her fiance online, told me to not give up and to give him a chance. “Everyone finds out what they want at different points in their lives,” she told me. 

This man asked if I wanted to be exclusive after our third date. I told him no. I went on two more dates with him and he asked me again, and this time I said yes. It took me about five or six dates to really start learning about this man, understanding his personality and finding things to talk about. Every single part of this process was painful, and I really took a HUGE leap of faith with him.

Fast forward six months later. This man has turned out to be the perfect partner I could ever ask for. I found that dating someone who wasn’t similar to me in personality meant that there was more to share and discover with each other. Once we became comfortable around each other, we were able to truly act like ourselves and I found that I absolutely loved the man that he really was, not the person he had initially acted like when we first started dating. He was kind and patient about my insecurities with his ex. What at first was a very shaky beginning turned into something absolutely wonderful over time, and it’s all because I knew deep down that what I was doing before I met him, and the men I was selecting before him, were obviously not working out. If you feel that you’re in a similar situation, I dare you to date someone that is a complete opposite of you. It’s probably the best decision that I ever made.

Online dating is, as I like to say, the best boot camp that you’ll ever experience on the path to finding love. By taking leaps of faith and by being patient and open, you can become very, very hurt by people, but you can also find love. I personally think that you have to experience the bad to find the good, and this was definitely my case with online dating.

Am I protected against getting hurt down the road? Definitely not. None of us, even the ones who meet people offline, are ever truly safe. We are all going to get hurt. It’s how we deal with this pain, and what we channel that energy into, that really determines what is going to happen. Ultimately, you have the power to determine all of this  because 99% percent of life is showing up, and how you deal with that 99% is going to shape what your life will be like. As Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The most successful people in life recognize that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation.” If I hadn’t met X and gone through that entire situation, I would have never gotten angry enough to truly go out and find what I knew I deserved. If I hadn’t been hurt, I would have never learned how to identify men who are unfaithful. If I would have never been open about my feelings to X and truly put my heart out there in a way I had never done before, I know that I would never have been able to open up to the man that I’m now in a relationship with as much simply because I used to keep my emotions very closed off. I really would encourage everyone to take the worst of online dating and channel that negativity in a way that you can also find online dating at its best.

When dating anyone online, you should:

– State exactly what you are looking for on your profile. Looking for hookups? Be honest about it. Looking for a serious, long-term relationship? Let everyone know. Put your personality into your profile and have at least two close friends read it. Ask them if it accurately describes you and, if not, what to change. Be sure to give your profile a good proofing, too. 

– Talk online to someone for a week, talk on the phone for a week and then you should be having your first date somewhere in this time frame. I don’t give a crap if you don’t like talking on the phone. Guess what? If you want to date someone, you need to find out if you can communicate well with that person. Suck it up, call them, and figure it out as fast as you can. If they do not suggest a date after this time frame, move on.

– Do not stop going on dates with others until you are exclusive with the person. I can guarantee that they are not focusing on one person at a time, and neither should you. Dating, online dating in particular, is about going through many dates with people and using that knowledge to determine what you’re truly looking for.

– Do not have sex with anyone you meet online, or anywhere really, until you are exclusive. I’m very traditional in this sense, and it really does weed out people quickly. Get rid of anyone who pressures you.

– Get used to the fact that online dating is a very fast-paced process. You may feel that you have nothing to talk about with the person, and that’s true because, um, you just met the person. This is the number one thing I struggled with in online dating because I was used to meeting and dating men by getting to know them in real life as friends first.

– Have a three date minimum. Would you like someone to judge and dismiss you after meeting you once? Give someone a chance enough to see them three times, and then make your decision to keep going or not.

– Keep trying. Online dating, just like dating in real life, is pretty much all down to chance. The more you put yourself out there, and the more duds you meet, the more you will learn about what you’re truly looking for. This is pretty much the best reward you can get out of going on a lot of awful dates. It also makes you a total pro at first dates and the art of conversing with someone you barely know.

Please feel free to comment or send me messages if you would like to ask questions about my experiences in online dating, long-distance dating or even if you have questions about how to make the perfect profile. I’d love to somehow use what I’ve gone through in a way that will help others to hopefully find love, too.

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