My experiences with online dating have run the gamut from truly awful to absolutely wonderful. I have been on first dates that would make even the most seasoned daters cringe and I have been on first dates that were absolutely perfect from beginning to end. Well, maybe I should say that I have been on one first date that was perfect.
My first foray into the wild world of online dating happened shortly after college. Online dating was still a very new phenomenon and many of my friends were horrified by the idea of putting up a profile declaring my "single and searching" status for anyone and everyone to see. But I was, in fact, single and I did want to meet someone.
So I listened to my instincts, and I put myself out there. I chatted with a handful of guys, but never felt enough of a connection with anyone to schedule an in-person meeting. I feared that my friends were right and that I would not be able to find someone "normal" online, so I shut down my profile.
Several months later, I met someone through some mutual friends and we began to date. It started off intensely passionate, but after a matter of months, it became clear that we were not compatible. I spent the usual amount of time moping about the end of the relationship before deciding that maybe I should give online dating another chance.
By this point, the Facebook frenzy was in full swing and it seemed that more and more people were making connections in the virtual world. I created another profile and was pleased to see that there appeared to be more people on the dating site than before. I exchanged winks and emails, and even met up with a few guys for a beer or coffee, but always left crestfallen when there was no spark.
Was I having bad luck? Or was online dating just inevitably frustrating? I was glad when, once again, a friend came to my aid and set me up with one of her grad school classmates, who happened to live in my neighborhood. He had pretty eyes and a warm smile and, like me, loved exploring different cuisines, studying psychology and spending time in nature. We dated for about a year before we realized that we were more compatible as friends than as romantic partners. After we broke up, I went through the longest spell of singledom of my entire adult life. My mind naturally returned to the possibility of "getting back out there" online once again.
Well, over the course of six years, I came and went from online dating sites. I tried every site I heard about, and sometimes had profiles up on multiple sites at a time. I tried different approaches as well. For a while, I would be very proactive about my online dating attempts, searching through matches, and reaching out to people I was interested in. When that didn't seem to work, I got frustrated and decided to just wait for the right person to contact me.
As I developed more strategies, I would play them on loop, with the occasional unsuccessful date in between, until I decided that I had had it. I was tired of the tedium of searching for someone, so I shut down all of my accounts and told myself that I would never return to the agonizing world of online dating again. Turning my romantic life into a job wasn't proving itself to be satisfying, and so I found it easier to retreat into an acceptance of being single.
I didn't do online dating for many years. I focused on the other things in my life that made me happy and believed that, if I was meant to meet someone, I would. I had a handful of dates with a handful of guys over the course of the next several years, but I never felt the kind of connection I was seeking.
But in the meantime, I built an incredibly full life for myself and was happier than I had ever been. One day, the idea of putting up a profile online randomly popped into my head. I quickly dismissed the thought at first. But then I gave it a bit more thought, and realized that I was in a very different place in my life than when I had last been active in the online dating world. And I felt like I could take the experience a little more lightly this go round.
There I was, putting up a profile again, but this time putting much less pressure on myself and my search. Within a month, I happened to come across someone I had a crush on in college but had never dated. We scheduled a coffee date to catch up and ended up spending nine hours chatting about nothing and everything like long lost friends.
That was a year ago, and although I can't say for sure what will happen, both he and I believe that this may very well be it for us. Sure, it's a coincidence that we went to college together. But more than anything, I am grateful for my patience and acceptance of myself, and my openness to meeting or in my case, reconnecting with someone in an unconventional way.
So, if you have been searching for that special someone online, but have been feeling discouraged, don't give up hope. If you need to deactivate your online dating account for a period of time to gain some perspective or breathing room, so be it. But you can also try approaching the experience with patience, self-acceptance, and above all, a lightness of being about the whole experience. You never know when you might connect with a person that will take you on that perfect first date. And remember, one is all it takes.