Online dating (or all dating) still seems like a relatively unsophisticated sport in Australia. If you’ve ever travelled in France, Spain, the USA or a myriad of other countries, you might have been rather pleasantly (or not-so-pleasantly) shocked to discover that people approach one another much more forwardly than they do here. They think you’re attractive and/or they like you, so they ask you out. At any age. Even if your parents are standing right next to you. Sometimes they’ll ask them along too (and yes, that did happen to me).
In Australia, despite being a hotbed of cultures and peoples and sexuality and life-experience, ‘dating’ still can be a little uncomfortable. Like that ill-fitting jacket that seemed AMAZE in the store. I mean, it’s the right style, it’s the sort of thing you think you SHOULD be wearing, and it looked pretty cool in the mirror… but when you bought it and wore it out for the first time, the shape just wasn’t right. The shoulders didn’t fit. It kind of engulfed you and constricted you all at the same time. It’s embarrassing. You wish you’d never tried it out.
Shopping is a terrible metaphor for dating.
However, the drift is that even if that jacket turns out to be something you never wear again, and it stung your pride (and the wallet) a little, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Look, this all makes a lot more sense when we just get on with it and reveal the only tip you need to hit the online dating jackpot:
Get OK with rejection.
When you think about it, getting OK with rejection makes dating much more fun and much less of a hell-shaped gauntlet we are forced to run through for the sake of finding some mystical ‘The One’.
Getting OK with rejection means that other things happen naturally. Let’s go through some now:
- You’ll use accurate photos: The obligatory ‘best’ photo; a close-up; A ‘real’ you (not the super-uglies, but one that generally looks like actual YOU), a full-body image and perhaps others that illustrate unique perspectives on you-ness.
- You won’t feel the need to lie about who you are. Now there are exceptions here that some dating websites make a pain in the bum. For instance, if you genuinely look, act and feel 10 years younger than you are, and you are not being checked out by ‘that’ age group because you’ve been automatically blocked out of age-related searches, then you may have a good reason to lie. This may also be the case for weight-related and height-related specifics. But the truth is that most of us are the rule, not the exception. Good photos tell a story, and you might choose to leave out the question/answers that continues to cause a serious problem in responses. However if your responses are low, but high-quality in Connection (with a capital C) then is there really a problem here?
- You won’t feel the need to lie about why you’re there. If you’re looking for love, then you’ll be happy to let people know that you’re up for meeting a partner if a right person came along and everything went well over time. If you only want sex, then you’ll be ok with saying that in some kind of non-crude, respectful and alluring and inviting way.
- You won’t ‘swipe right’ on EVERYONE (and I particularly mean dudes who’ve been led to believe it’s a ‘numbers game’). You’re perfectly ok with only selecting people who you are actually attracted to, who seem interesting to you for a variety of reasons (and again: dudes, not because they like ALL the things you like: that girl who LOVES fishing, dirt bikes, Fantômas, the car chases in Blues Brothers, getting the car bogged on rainy camping trips, and listening to you talk about all six for hours really doesn’t exist. Older women are generally more comfortable not pretending to be ‘one of the boys’ who only likes ‘blokes’ things, she likes a mix of things much like you do, so go beyond ‘cute’ and ‘likes my stuff’ when thinking about who you could be attracted to). People who have a vibe of commonality that goes deeper than just if you like the same things, some kind of quirk that attracts you to them, maybe something or someone you didn’t expect totally takes you by surprise when you take some time to ponder, someone who is unconventional or sits outside society ‘norms’ of who is hot and who is not. You’ll be far more likely to ‘match’ with someone who you’ve put a little thought into choosing. Also you’ll have a lot more energy to give just a few people who you actually have some sort of connection with, rather than trying to have 20 conversations and then getting cranky when the 15 yrs-younger-mega-babe who ‘seemed’ so keen and flirty suddenly asks for money and then disappears.
- You won’t feel like you have to be so vague as to be incredibly boring, in the hope of notching up more contact. Come on. EVERYONE likes the Shawshank Redemption. Confess that TV show or film that you really like, but no one else does, and say why. Say it proudly. Wait and see who’s curious.
- You’ll be comfortable being brief, but also vulnerable and authentic. Sure, you like the movie ‘Dazed and Confused’ because it’s sweet and funny and nostalgic. You snort when you laugh too much and like to tell bawdy stories and play the clown amongst friends. But you also can admit to the pain and helplessness you feel in the very bottom of your heart every time you hear another tragic story of how the Government treats Asylum Seekers. Or that sometimes you wake up in the middle of night feeling panicky, and check that your beloved dog is breathing because you fear for the inevitable day when one day she won’t be. If you are confident and comfortable in yourself, then someone who isn’t will be more obvious to you. If you are confident being vulnerable- which means being truly yourself even when discovering yourself- then what have you got to lose?
- You’re far less likely to be suckered in by scam artists. In Australia this year alone over 9 million dollars has been lost to scams via online dating sites. These people are SMART. You don’t have to be a fool to fall for one, but if you’re ok with rejection and respectful of yourself, and you’re not naively caught up in being with just anyone, then you won’t go all the way down the rabbit hole with someone you don’t know very well.
- Speaking of, if you’re ok with rejection you’re going to be pretty keen to make that online spark happen in person ASAP. Because you can handle it with dignity if they don’t like you after the first date, even if you liked them. You can have all the witty repartee online in the world (and that’s a great place to start, especially if you think you come across better in writing and/or are very nervous in-person) but anyone looking for, you know, a real thing, is going to want meet pretty early on (or Skype or Facetime at least). Again, there are exceptions as there always are, but look deep down and ask yourself: WHY am I putting off meeting this person? How much am I going to invest in something that might not be real in the flesh?
- You won’t put up with less than what you think you deserve over the short or longer term if you’re comfortable to walk away.
If I were you reading this, I’d be wondering about now: Ok, I hear you, getting OK with rejection makes some sense… But I can’t help how I feel. I can’t help it if I feel dreadful whenever someone cuts off a conversation, or when someone doesn’t call back after a date. Even if I didn’t like the person, it still stings.
This is all true. You can’t help how you feel. And if you’re online and actively seeking people to date, or even to just share some intimacy with or have sex, then you obviously are already making yourself vulnerable. You’re putting yourself OUT THERE and that’s awesome and hard and raw and tingly and exciting and scary all at the same time, no matter your age or experience.
Congratulations for being incredibly brave and courageous.
But then… if you’re already doing that… why hold back? Dating is a self-journey as much as it is a partnerseeking-journey. Being rejected or rejecting others- and both can be painful- are incredibly important life experiences.
They give you opportunity to understand yourself in new and different ways. It also takes practice. It’s not like the bad feeling necessarily goes away, but it becomes less dominant. The more on board you are with YOU the less that feeling overwhelms.
That’s the same for a lot of feelings, really. We humans are capable of overcoming all sorts of challenges: unreasonable jealousy, worries, fear, anxiety, anger, depression. Exploring the depths of our capabilities is a hugely wonderful part of the life journey. Taking responsibility for your own feelings is a key element to being a good partner, so don’t take it lightly. If you find yourself always blaming other people or circumstances for how you feel, then you really should seek some professional help.
If you’re feeling the pang more than you think you should, stuck or hung up on something or someone that you just can’t get past in order to get ok with rejection, or you’d like help getting on board with yourself, then counselling could be a way forward. Counselling is all about unsticking unuseful stuckness. This blog post gives you some ideas on how you might find the right counsellor for you.
The obvious flipside to ‘getting ok with rejection’ is ‘like your life and love yourself’. Which can be a luxury in a stressful and unfair world, and those of us who are fortunately privileged enough to have this luxury could really embrace the concept. That doesn’t mean being an arrogant, self-obsessed jerk who is so on board with themselves that everyone else has to pretty much walk the plank who isn’t going to shut up and follow the captain. We do not need more narcissists in the world.
It’s about balance.
It’s about having a really good idea of what you GENUINELY want and need and hope for from a relationship and equally what you have to offer. Not what other people or Hollywood movies or your mum thinks. What YOU expect and desire, what you DON’T need, having a vague idea of what your future might look like, and believing there are people out there who can meet you halfway. That goes for any kind of relationship. It’s about escaping expectations and the ‘normals’. It’s about getting your needs met, and being available to meet someone’s else’s needs as well. It’s about being able to walk away from a terrible person or even a great person if they just aren’t the right fit. And then there’s letting people see your heart and allowing room to be surprised.
And finally, it’s about being OK with not being in a relationship.
That’s one of the reasons I specifically offer services to singles. We could all do with getting to know ourselves and disappearing the ideas perpetuated by judgyiness. At least ¼ of Australians are living alone, and there are actually more than that who are single and living with others. Additionally, there are countless people wallowing away in unhappy relationships. So why are we as a society so obsessed with coupledom? Who are we leaving out? I think that’s another blog post…
If you enjoyed this mini-article, then please sign up here to receive more in your inbox on a fortnightly basis. If you’re curious about the potential benefits for you of online counselling, or would like to know more then do get in touch. I love to hear from all people.