The Problem With Online Dating
Most people find online dating a disappointing experience and many give up despairing of ever finding their one. To hear real people’s accounts listen in on our podcast.
Others dread the prospect of dating online and would rather leave their chances of finding someone to luck rather than dip their toe into the shark-filled waters of dating sites.
In one of my groups, we had a talk about dealing with a difficult relationship.
It turned out to be a group of people dealing with physical abuse. It was hard to listen to.
There was lots of crying and horrific accounts of abuse and even worse feeling trapped in the situation.
One left with this statement.
I was shocked that anyone could feel so trapped and that their options were so limited.
I want to show anyone who reads this that there is a path to always be able to find someone you can build a lasting and loving relationship with.
No-one should ever feel stuck or have to stay single without wanting to be.
Let’s start by looking at the problem and answer the question of how we can meet someone without the dread, despair and disappointment that most online Daters go through.
Why Is online dating so disappointing?
Dating sites are a business. They make money by people paying to get access to other people. Naturally, they show you the promise of what could be.
And so it looks like we’re going to have our inboxes filled by Tom Hardy or Megan Fox lookalikes. The reality is we get Keith Richards types wanting us to walk alongside their mobility scooters.
We think we’re going to get James Bond-style suaveness and sophistication to whisk us away from our everyday lives.
The reality is we get messages like ‘Hi, Ur bootiful. Fancy a shag!’ with an accompanying picture of a withering penis.
Or we send message after message only to be ignored.
When we do meet someone we get excited by, they disappear without a word and we are left feeling rejected and wondering what we did wrong.
It all seems like a time-consuming drain that leaves us feeling empty instead of improving our life.
So Why Is Online Dating Such A Problem?
The problem of dating sites is the same problem we have in relationships generally.
Our technology exceeds our emotional maturity.
There has never been more available single people.
Dating apps mean there is now more access to more available people than at any time ever.
Yet, finding the right person is still a draining and time-consuming process.
The Tragedy Of The Commons
The problem with online dating isn’t the technology any more than Social Media is the problem with Society.
The problem is that online dating, like Social Media appeals to the worst of our instincts and we have not developed the emotional maturity to resist.
Lack of trust leads to greed. Greed destroys
The Tragedy of The Commons is the concept that any resource freely available becomes ruined as individuals take more than their fair share.
In dating, everyone is concerned with what they want. People have checklists and see others as profile that meet their agenda or don’t.
Everyone has seen the dating profiles that have a list of what someone wants or doesn’t want.
We’ve all had instances where we knew someone, whether in a store or personal interaction, saw us as a gateway to what they wanted.
And so what happens is that all humanity, care and concern is sacrificed for personal self interest.
In other words, all we see of others is whether we want them as a partner or not. So men send dick pics and nasty, bitter insults when they get turned down. Both reject people for the slightest hint of a problem.
So where we might become attracted to maybe 30 or 40% of people in our target group, we reduce this down to 10 or 15%. And then we bemoan the lack of available partners.
Dating sites become toxic because people act selfishly from desperation, anxiety, selfishness and hurt. This isn’t because people are inherently bad, but the environment plays to the worst of our instincts.
And so people get hurt and bitter. They take out that hurt and bitterness on others and the chain of pain continues. People become less trusting and more guarded and the vicous cycle continues.
We Start From A Flawed View Of Relationships
Culturally we have been given a framework that screws us up for relationships. We are often the product of parents that are bumbling as best they can to varying levels of competence. We are given the Fairytale framework that sets us up for failure. And then battered and bruised, we head back into the dating market unsure if we will ever find love.
Among the pool, are those desperate for someone to fulfil their dream. Those constantly anxious that they’ll end up alone and unloved forever. And those still reeling from rejection and hurt to varying degrees.
What this creates is an underlying anxiety and insecurity that we might not be good enough.
The 'Not Good enough fear'
Culturally we have all had experiences of failure. We have all compared ourselves to others and found ourselves lacking. We have all been told by someone, somewhere, whether it was a parent, a Teacher, family member or school bully that we aren’t good enough.
And so, just as we fear to speak in public. To put our ideas and beliefs out in front of others where we can be ridiculed, we also fear putting ourself out there where someone could reject us in the most personal way.
So we when you take this deep-rooted insecurity to an environment where everyone is trying to get the best deal for themselves. By this, I mean that we all want the most attractive, intelligent, sovent and charismatic partner we can get.
So what happens is person A is top of person B’s list. But person A is more interested in person C. Person C is holding A as a back up, but hoping person D comes through. In other words, we are all reaching for a perceived higher rung of the ladder. Because all any of these other people are to us, is a profile and an idealised belief of what could be.
People often bemoan the plethora of choices given to each of us. And too many choices does just lead to confusion and procrastination. However, the genie can’t be put back in the bottle.
The problem isn’t our technology, but the fact that emotionally and psychologically, we are still operating at the same level of sophistication of the Villager who had to choose between the only two eligible candidates.
If we want to thrive in dating and succeed we have to psychologically and emotionally evolve to a level equivalent to our technological environment.
the hope and prayer strategy
Some people see the shitshow that dating is and give up. Even though there is this great technology that is a gateway to all the people I could possibly want to work though to choose a partner… I’m going to be a Luddite and insist that my partner finds me.
Others date, but ineffectively and then complain that dating doesn’t work. Or even more sensibly, write a list of complaints on their profile to show tier grumpiness.
The guru strategy
Many people do strive to learn all they can.
There are no shortage of dating tactics screaming on Facebook and Youtube.
From the Pick Up Artists who teach men to make women insecure enough to find them attractive.
To the Dating Coaches that tell women they have to make men wait for replies, dates and sex.
All of these are based on a basic premise that plays to your insecurity. No-one will want you as you are. You have to play a game and pretend to be someone else to fool someone into a relationship.
Many of these techniques and tactics are effective. If you have a strategy you believe in and follow, you’ll get some result.
The problem is that a relationship isn’t what you really want.
You want the right relationship. One that satisfies your needs and grows in trust, respect and love.
Yet research shows that people who play games in dating attract others who play games. And so the relationship becomes a power game. There is no trust. There is little respect. And the love soon fades.
And so the cycle begins again. Only this time there’s more hurt. More pain. Less trust. And more anxiety that this relationship thing will never work out.
So, as people keep asking me…
What The Hell Should I Do?
On the spectrum between “I’m just going to be my slobbish self and be loved or not as I am” and “I’m going to religiously follow the fad tricks of some self proclaimed Expert” is a middle ground.
Commit to becoming the partner you wish you had and develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to make dating and relationships simpler.
In between the spectrum of “I want. I want. I want.” and “What do I have to say or do to please you?” is a middle ground.
It instead says,
“This is who I am. This is the life I want. This is the kind of relationship I see developing. This is the kind of qualities the person I want to partner with has. If this is you, and it fits with your goals, let’s talk.”
The Best Dating Strategy
People are desperately seeking the killer chat up line or the selfie filter that is going to make them stand out in a crowded dating market.
Yet there is a much simpler strategy.
Stop treating people (including yourself) as a commodity.
Even though dating sites portray as in much the same way as Amazon sells products we don’t have to buy into it.
Every profile is a living, breathing person with a bruised heart and an anxious head. Some you may not like. Some might be especially unlikeable.
Yet when you treat them as an object, you cannot help, but see yourself as an object.
The Theory of enchantment
Chloe Valdary developed the Theory of Enchantment by studying why we like to follow certain brands like Nike or popular singers like Beyonce. What she discovered was that people feel an affinity for people and brands that empower us.
It is the theory of enchantment because it is how we delight people. So what she has done is codify the way in which brands can delight and empower their customers and so develop a commercial relationship with them.
What does this have to do with dating?
This theory is about connection. And connection is the basic human need we are seeking to fill.
The Theory of Enchantment has three principles.
- Treat people as human beings, not political abstractions
- Criticise to uplift and empower, never to tear down or destroy
- Root everything you do in love and compassion
Wouldn’t dating be so much easier and kinder if everyone did this?
Of course, not everyone else will. In fact very few other people will.
But that is the point. Because when you act like this, you stand out in a way that makes you a shining light.
It’s not the reason to do it, but ironically it is actually the simplest way to stand out in a crowded and competitive dating site.
Connection Over Transaction
So if we rule out doing nothing. And we rule out the other extreme of using tricks and playing games, the third way is to be your best self and treat everyone well.
What we’re doing here isn’t leaving the few people we want with the best impression of you.
We are being the better person. Rising above the cesspit that dating can descend into and leave everyone better for having interacted with us.
What happens is that we bring out the best in most people. And irritate the bitter trolls who want a reaction. Whatever anyone does or says we do not take personally. Whether it’s a compliment or an insult because both are designed to impose control.
Our goal is to connect on whatever level others allow us to and find out who people are.
People sometimes ask, what should I do when someone I’m not interested in contacts me?
Be kind. Be honest. But never leave them worse when they found you. Encourage them to raise their behaviour to what it could be.
Playing The Dating Game
People often worry about wasting time talking or dating to someone, they have no future with. That is a side effect of only seeing people as objects fulfilling your vision.
What happens is that the rush and the objectification they have of others is actually the barrier to them having the relationship they want. Because they play the game of dating, they pretend to be something. The other pretends to be something. And so it takes months or years to work out who is what. So in actual fact you slow down the process of true connection.
When you open up to being more authentic, which means honest and true. Not pleasing people. To having more curiosity for others. And to making connection more important than finding someone to fill a role, you find who people are.
People who you would never date can still be your allies. People who might not be right for you, but have qualities that you can appreciate. And possibly networks that might well include people who would be perfect for you.
This doesn’t mean you have to befriend every lonely soul seeking penpals or accept the unacceptable.
It means being able to engage with people to see if you have commonalities and interests that might be rewarding besides a narrow dating focus.
The Enchantment Strategy
The Enchantment Strategy is based on this core idea.
Dating sites are predominantly based on lust and excitement. It’s about what we think we want in a snapshot of who the person is.
Physical attraction and excitement is an indicator of a good dating relationship, not a lasting domestic relationship.
Love doesn’t happen at first sight or in the first month. That is lust. People get stuck in loveless marriage because they base lasting relationships on fleeting feelings. Enjoy the fling, but don’t mistake it for a strong foundation.
Most couples have met at work or as friends without necessarily feeling a deep attraction at first. Over time they developed feelings and love.
What if we connected more authentically and allowed what happens naturally to happen faster?
Here’s the strategy;
- Treat people as humans, not objects.
- Seek the humanity in everyone and only uplift.
- Be authentic, honest and assertive.
- Seek connection and let the connection fall to wherever is natural
- Don’t mistake excitement for connection