August 18, 2016
It always starts the same: “I hate online dating.” Or, “I quit online dating.” Or, “I don’t believe in online dating.”
I, of course, have to follow up half-heartedly with “why?” I say half-heartedly not because I’m an impatient person but because this is something, as a dating coach, I hear almost every day of my life. I find myself treating this question like a record that just keeps skipping. I ask the obligatory “why?” because it’s my job, and when a person makes a bold statement like that, he or she wants to elicit a response from me. The reason is always the same—this person has a story to tell.
Here’s a gem from the other day:
My friend met her ex-husband on Match.com. He is crazy! She had to get a restraining order against him, and then he had to go to a facility to get help. Can you believe that?! I would never do Match after that!
There is so much to unpack here. Does this woman not hold her friend responsible for any of her actions? She married the guy, for crying out loud! It’s not Match.com’s fault the relationship didn’t work out. It’s the two parties involved.
Let’s look at another one. I was hosting an event recently, and one woman started the conversation the same way, with one of the three infamous lines above. When I asked the “why?” she was waiting for, she said, “All three, yes three, guys I met online lied about their height!” I can’t dispute the fact that lying is wrong, which I expressed to her, but is a guy lying about his height—oh sorry, three guys—enough to make you completely take yourself offline and out of the reach (no pun intended) of plenty of other eligible men? I think not.
One client recently told me that she, in all of her excitement, told her brother-in-law that she had met someone online. He then sent her, I kid you not, a story about a woman getting killed by someone she met online. While there’s no disputing that this was a horrible scenario, my client luckily had a sense of humor about it, knowing that her brother-in-law meant well… kinda, I guess. I told her to reply with no words but simply a link to one of the many published “success stories” that the sites tout.
The reason for my frustration here is not that I want everyone in the world to be online dating if they’re single. It’s quite the opposite. Whether to go online or not is a personal choice. My beef is with people equating one story, whether good or bad, with their definition of what online dating is. Everyone who knows anyone who has done online dating has heard both a horror story and a love story. “My friend got stalked!” “My sister met her husband online!” “He met a woman on OkCupid who cheated on him.” “We met when I was stationed in Germany… on Tinder! And we got married last year.” How about all of the in-between stories, the mediocre dates, the run-of-the-mill experiences, the two-date wonders? No one ever talks about those.
Just to drive the point home, let’s say you’re food shopping. You meet someone in Aisle 6 as you’re looking at the pasta, deciding whether the gluten-free rigatoni really could have the “same great taste” as the real thing. (For the record, it can’t.) It’s love at first sight, and you walk off into the sunset (aka the check-out line) in a state of carbohydrate bliss. But then things aren’t so great. You find out that this person can’t hold a job. This person doesn’t even like pasta. What?! This person is not who you thought he or she was initially. Ask yourself this: Would you stop going to that supermarket because one person wasn’t right for you?
It’s not the medium; it’s the person. Online dating isn’t the cause of good or bad dates, good or bad relationships. The two people involved are. So, when people say to me that they have “quit” or “banned” online dating from their lives, that to me means that personal accountability isn’t something they have an abundance of. In fact, perhaps this ban of the medium is a defense mechanism so as to avoid future rejection. You can’t fail if you don’t play the game.
In the end, don’t let one person or experience dictate your future success. If you have a bad date, so be it. Don’t let that person prevent you, through your decision to quit online dating, from being happy. No one should have that power over you… particularly another person you barely even know. As a former economist, I can tell you that a sample size of one or two—or three, in the height case—is not statistically significant enough to draw any conclusions. Far from it.
So, online date if you wish, have some experiences, and chalk it all up to another tool to meet new people. But no one person could ever represent the entire world of online dating.