Why I stopped online dating
The reasons I decided that I’d rather just live life, and let whatever is meant to be, be.
A little over a year ago, after a fifteen-month relationship, I found myself single — again.
Single at thirty had felt depressing enough, but single at the tail end of thirty-one? I genuinely thought I’d rather die.
I was working from home for a startup tech company. Outside of that, I was part of a professional aerial dance group. We met for rehearsals about ten hours a week but, that was often my only interaction with other humans and I was desperately lonely.
I’d joined a coworking space in the hopes of meeting some new people, but the space was filled largely by middle-aged, married-with-children corporate types, so there wasn’t much connection to be formed.
I was convinced that I would never achieve the things that would lead to my ultimate happiness — marriage and children.
It was like I could see this timeline floating in space in front of my eyes.
“If I meet someone within a year, we can be married by the time I’m thirty-three and that still gives us a year before we’d need to start trying for kids. My uterus will still be viable”
The man. The marriage. The kids. Then I’d be happy.
But working alone with one social outlet populated by women who didn’t really have single prospects to introduce me to didn’t really help to accomplish those goals. So I did what all desperate Millennial's do — I started online dating.
The start of round three
I’ve online dated (OD) before. In fact, my last two serious relationships were with men I met online — however, I don’t really recommend it as a healthy option.
In three rounds, over eight years:
- I’ve easily been on over 90 first dates with men who I’ve met through the internet (I actually kept count until 62) Of those, I had at least a second interaction (sometimes we chose immediately to be just friends) with maybe 20.
- I’ve been ghosted more times than I can count and while I can proudly say I’ve never ghosted, I have been guilty of leaving my own string of broken hearts.
- I’ve been roofied and almost raped (two separate events, and almost being an extremely keyword).
- I’ve been through countless renditions of my own profile and developed a pretty thorough system of how to check for “worthwhile” candidates.
- I’ve had two serious relationships
During my 2018 OD stint, I eventually got to a point of not even wanting to spend time talking much prior to a first meeting. I felt like I was expending too many emotional resources on getting to know people only to wind up disappointed, or merely lacking physical connection. At one point, I was regularly going on dates every night that I wasn’t at dance rehearsals. It became a bit stressful and I started to feel like I was neglecting my own dog.
The turning point
Four months in, I became utterly exhausted. It was May, and between moving, working full time, and preparing for the end of season performance (with family in town), I was just too busy to make time for dating. By this point, I’d already enlisted a friend to help with dog care because of my neglectful feelings, so making time for strange men was not at top of my priority list. It was barely on the list at all.
May was a month of dedication — of time and energy to groups and things greater than myself. And for the first time in almost a year, I was pretty happy.
I was still casually conversing with OD candidates via text message, but if I’m completely honest with myself, it was only to help ease the loneliness I still felt when I was….well…alone.
An infuriating text
One day during show week, while waiting backstage for one of my pieces to begin, I read a message from someone whom I’d only been texting with a few days. A message that made me livid.
When this man and I first connected digitally, I was very forthcoming about having a busy week, having explained to him that by the end of the last show, I’d have spent no less than 50 hours at the just at the theater. Factor in drive time, working three of those days, and the fact that my parents would be in town for 6 days, I barely had time to even sleep.
The angering message came about 4 days after we’d first connected. He complimented me about something related to my appearance (remember, at this point he’d only seen photos of me). I thanked him but added a sassy, “If you think I’m sexy now, just wait until you see me in person. 😉” He lol’d but a few minutes later said something along the lines of, “Usually when someone gives you a compliment, the polite thing to do is return it with a similar type of compliment.”
My answer was honest but kind. “I don’t do things just because society dictates them to be polite. You felt inclined to compliment me and I thanked you. I am not inclined to compliment you, being that I don’t really know you. I promise, once I know you in person and have decided that I like you, you’ll be sick of my compliments. 🙂”
And then the enraging text:
That’s not going to happen. You take forever to respond to me and when you do, you’re cold and withdrawn. I have no desire to meet someone like that, never mind date them. Good luck finding true love with such a cold heart.
Who the fuck did this man think he was?
For starters, taking a few hours to reply to a text in the middle of the workday is perfectly normal. Never mind that whole I’m-busy-at-the-theater conversation.
Secondly, those who actually know me know that cold-hearted and withdrawn is the opposite of who I am. Can I be cold on occasion? Absolutely. We all can. I’d even venture to say that first impressions of me are of a woman who is fiercely strong, independent, and unempathetic. But that’s all a facade; walls I’ve erected from years of rejection and pain. If anything, my downfall is caring too much — about everything.
That text infuriated me to the point that it was affecting my performance, albeit for the better. I used my fury to power through a six-minute piece that normally felt like it’d never end.
Later that evening, delirious and sore, I made a decision. No more hunting. 98% of the men on dating sites are the same, anyhow; none of them turned out to be who I wanted. They were all just as lonely and lost as I was and most of them were part of the nerdy tech community that I’d been in for half a decade — a community I really wanted distance from.
But at that point, dating had become a hobby in itself and I’d chosen to retire from dance at the end of the season. So while I wasn’t really ready to quit OD until I had another reliable social outlet, I merely phased it out while I added in real hobbies, keeping the profiles but only speaking to those who initiated contact.
I asked myself,
In your wildest fantasy, who do you want to be?
I moved and acquired a roommate, joined a new earth-conscious, hipster coworking space, and started going to a climbing and yoga gym.
Over the following months, I acquired a few new friends and started dating less and less. Frankly, I was too dang busy falling in love with myself.
In September, I spur-of-the-moment accidentally quit my job, and was forced to once again reassess and make a choice about the one very large aspect of my life that I hadn’t yet changed.
The “easy” and “responsible” thing to do would have been to get that resume together and start looking for new work, in the field I know. But honestly, as long as I have freedom, love, food, and a roof over my head, I don’t really care about money.
This time I didn’t need to ask myself what I’d do in my wildest fantasy, because I already knew. In fact, somewhere inside, I’ve always known, I just didn’t believe in my ability to achieve it.
All I’ve ever wanted was to travel. Not in a fancy-hotels-across-Europe-way, but in a sleep-in-jungle-huts-with-native-people way. But I’ve done enough travel and lived enough life to know I’m happiest when I’m helping others — truly helping them. So now I’m a freelancer and will be spending the foreseeable future wwoofing around the globe.
In mid-September, 2 weeks into ‘unemployment’ I deactivated my only remaining dating profile, and I’ve never been happier.
Yes, I still want a life long companion, and I still struggle with the ticking of the biological clock, but it’s much quieter. I think because I used to just know I would never meet my person and have those children. And had I stayed on the path I was on, I’ve no doubt I’d have been right.
But now, writing this on a plane at the beginning of an arduous journey to Laos, I know there is someone out there for me, and I’ll meet him when the time is right. After I’ve finished meeting myself.
In retrospect, I’m grateful for all of the negative experiences I had through online dating — each of them taught me something about myself. Including that text. That one helped remind me that being true to myself is always the best way to be and those who are worth the effort will not take it personally
Online dating never did lead me to a husband or babies, but what it did get me: a greater understanding of self, the confidence needed to be alone, a roommate, the strength to say “No” and the courage to merely walk away from a situation that feels unsafe, trust in my own gut instincts.
If you enjoyed this you might also like some of my other articles
Are you allowed to be happy that someone has died?
Society tells us to feel despair, but sometimes we don’t.