When I started dating again at 41, I found myself overanalyzing everything, going through the motions of swiping right and left, getting super annoyed with creepy guys, responding to less-than-stellar profiles, and spending my precious single-mom free time at boring coffee and happy hour dates. Trust me, I was not living the Hollywood love story.
Reflecting on the situation now, I realize exactly what the problem was: It had nothing to do with the apps I used or the guys I met and everything to do with my outlook on dating itself.
The one thing separating people who have frustrating experiences with dating apps and those who actually find meaningful connections is the way they treat the act of dating. Are you treating dating as a hobby, or are you dating like a professional? A dating hobbyist is someone who is engaged just enough to be able to say they are looking for love but not really getting any results. The pro, on the other hand, gets down to business and gets results.
Here are the telltale signs of a dating hobbyist and a dating pro, why the latter is the way to go if you're searching for a lasting connection, and how to make the switch.
Behaviors of a dating hobbyist.
1. Treating dating like a numbers game.
A common myth is that the more people you date, the more likely it is that you will meet the person you're looking for. The thing is, no one can keep doing the same thing over and over without getting at least a little exhausted. People burn out more quickly than they think and begin to lose hope--which leads them to swear off dating, dissociate from that part of their lives altogether, and then come back and try to do the same thing all over again.
2. Having no real system or strategy for swiping.
Dating hobbyists find themselves swiping only when they're bored or lonely—like when you're waiting in line at the coffee shop or sitting on the toilet, or when you're alone on a Friday night or out at a group hangout where everyone else is coupled up.
You might justify this behavior by saying you are being open and spontaneous, but that is not really what is happening. You are looking for love coming from a place of lack. You are lacking fun, so you go looking for love. You are lacking fitting in with your couple friends, and so you go looking for love. Any time you try to create love from the idea that you will be better off when you have it, the foundation of the relationship will be broken—you're more likely to select people who aren't actually what you want or to scare away quality people with your aura of inauthenticity and desperation.
3. Finding yourself on a lot of first dates.
"Next" is the classic motto of the dating hobbyist. That can look like a lot of first dates with men you do not have chemistry with, which can lead to the aforementioned burnout, or maybe you are swiping left way more than you are swiping right. It is easy to say that a person just isn't a good match for you, but if you find yourself in this position for more than a few months, it is time to take a look at this pattern. Swiping left a lot or continuing to brush off the idea of a second date means you are not digging deep on who a person actually is. You are taking a fast look and ascertaining compatibility—whether over the course of a single coffee date or, worse, in less than 10 seconds while swiping—without taking the time to thoughtfully consider someone.
Behaviors of a dating professional.
1. Having a clear, soulful vision of what they want.
Dating like a professional means you're actually trying to meet new people, explore new connections, and find at least one lasting relationship that feels meaningful and fulfilling, however you might define that. To do this effectively, these people look beyond a potential match's height, number of hair follicles, and love for kayaking when picking who to date. Physical attraction and some similar interests might be important, but a dating professional also has a clear vision of who they want to meet that's based on deeper fundamental qualities they value—things like kindness, compassion, generosity, and loyalty. When you are clear on what you want in a partner, you will be able to see it.
If you're not doing this already, start by spending some time thinking about what you want to get out of your dating experience. Are you looking for someone to laugh with and experience new things around your city? Are you looking for intellectual conversation and stimulation? Are you looking for no-strings-attached sex? Are you looking for love—-a deep, intimate connection that lasts? Get clear on what kind of person you're trying to bring into your life, think about the qualities you want to have in that person, and keep these in the forefront of your mind as you begin to swipe.
2. Creating structure around their dating process.
Just like you commit to going to an exercise class at a certain time for a certain result, you should apply the same principles to your dating life if there's something specific you're looking for. What might this look like? Find a quiet time each day to open your dating app with the intention of meeting a new person and making a new connection (or fostering budding ones you've already started). Start a simple ritual like lighting a candle or taking a moment to pause and close your eyes to visualize the kind of person you want to meet so looking through potential connections online will feel less like something to do and more like deeply focused self-care.
3. Using more than chemistry to decide who to date.
Attraction is absolutely essential for a relationship to thrive. However, initial chemistry is often based on familiarity and hormones, and it can deceive you into thinking that you have found "the one" when in reality you've just found another version of your ex, your celebrity crush, or (gulp) one of your parents. If you have ever started liking the new person in your friend group or the charming barista at your local coffee shop more and more once you got to know them, you know that you can create chemistry with someone simply by creating a friendship and exposure.
Dating like a professional means not being fooled into thinking initial chemistry is the only way to know if you've met someone worth dating. Once you're aware of what you're looking for in a person, it's not actually hard to find people who have those qualities—but it does take some practice to learn to create chemistry.
Your outlook on dating matters.
If you're looking for a real connection, you need to get real about your approach to dating. Stop using dating apps and happy hour dates to fill the time, and start getting more thoughtful about who you're giving that time to and why.
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