“You’re too weird for a relationship”.
These words were uttered to me by a man I was seeing while we were having a quiet drink after our social club and oddly enough while we were still very much in the honeymoon phase of our liaison. Our year-long assortment of after-club conversations and rendezvous could not really be characterised as a relationship in the usual sense of the word, nor would I term it so casually as simply dating either. The emotional baggage carried by both was of sufficient weight to prevent either one of us from setting clearly defined boundaries as to what was happening. However, that we were both in love with one another was most definitely certain.
Two years on and only one remains in love, long since the romantic rendezvous have ceased. The weekly meetings continue as we are part of the same social club and quitting is not an option. The odd thing is that I am not necessarily unhappy in my unrequited state which sometimes leads me to believe that perhaps his assessment of my ability to sustain a relationship is fair; maybe I am too weird. For someone to whom relationships are important though, this idea rankles and I am determined to prove his theory wrong. Hence, I have joined the foray of online dating in an attempt to distract myself and to move on to someone more worthy of my time and heart. Here are some of my observations thus far.
Older does not necessarily mean mature
I am in my late twenties and the youngest of four children by 7 years. It is therefore natural that I find myself more attracted to older men or else to men of my own age who have grown up in a family dynamic similar to mine. i.e younger with a sizable age gap between them and the next sibling. I have discovered though, that age does not an emotionally mature man make. I have discovered that in some cases, not all, if a man is still single in his late 30s, and has been for some time, there is a very good reason for it. Whether it is due to having too much baggage and no capacity to deal with it or having a mental age of 18, alarm bells should go off if you are dating a man over the age of 35 who has never come close to a long-term committed relationship. Behold, the confirmed bachelor.
Be clear about what you want and what you are ready for
Plenty of Fish has a good format for online dating which helps to sieve out the time-wasters and enhances the chance of meeting someone who is actually looking for the same thing you are. When I joined I completed a personality test which highlighted my dominant traits to increase the possibility of matching with someone similarly minded. It also stated on my profile what exactly I was looking for, choosing from a range of options such as “looking for a relationship” to “wanting to date but nothing serious” to “looking for a one night stand”. I think this is a great idea as at least if you are only after a fling you can find someone who is of the same mind-set and not hurt some poor sod who is looking for something emotionally solid. As I had only just made the decision to join the dating world I opted for the “date but nothing serious” option, more to keep an open mind than to avoid the development of a relationship. Given that dating culture is not really prevalent in Ireland it is not something I have ever experienced properly and I would like to while I have the chance. So I swapped messages with a few nice guys and went on a couple of dates with one with whom I had the most in common. On the second date we spent the whole day together which I think killed our interest in one another and we mutually let things go after that. I became aware that one nice guy who was looking for a relationship was more interested in me than I was in him so after a week I sent him a message to explain I wasn’t quite ready for what I thought he wanted and didn’t want to waste his time and effort. He took it well and told me he appreciated my honesty and that there were no hard feelings.
Tinder is like Ikea for partners
The above phrase is actually plagiarised from another article I read a year ago but I thought it too good not to use. The premise behind Tinder, for those who may be unfamiliar with it, is that you swipe right if you like the look of someone and swipe left if you don’t. If you both swipe right for each other then hey presto! you have a match and you can message each other if you like. I have about 140 matches in total, of whom 20 at a maximum have made contact. I have only gone on a date with 3 of my Tinder messengers. So my overall romance success rate is less than 10%. It is a fun app to play with though, play being the operative word- when you get a new match you are given the option to send them a message or “keep playing”. This to me indicates that the developers may not consider it conducive to finding your soulmate and see it more as a fun way to meet new people. This in turn, of course, may lead to something more substantial but it is important not to go in with this mind-set if you want to avoid disappointment. Unlike with Plenty of Fish, Tinder does not differentiate between those looking for a one-night stand and those looking for something more. It is at the users discretion to disclose this information so it is worth asking someone straight out. I have had a few guys directly proposition me which resulted in me telling them to keep swiping. I did appreciate that they were honest about it though and didn’t waste my time, as does happen more often than not.
Online dating facilitates stalking
Even as recently as 10 years ago online dating was still considered a bit taboo with many people unwilling to admit they had met their spouse on the internet for fear of being seen as creepy or weird. Now, it is more accepted and simply seen as an alternative to meeting someone in a bar or through work. The argument of “how do you know they are who they say they are” is redundant in my eyes when you consider that this is just as applicable to a stranger you meet in a city centre pub. There is an element of trust required for both situations. That is not to say there are no creeps on the internet. Unfortunately, the danger with online dating is that it more easily facilitates stalking on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, particularly if these are linked to your online profile.
Two months ago, I had one such experience with a guy I met on Tinder. He asked to meet in a quiet pub which immediately flagged something to me so I opted for quiet-ish but still busy enough that I could cause a scene if it looked like I was in danger. I also made sure my housemates knew exactly where I was, who with and the time I intended to be home by. As it transpired, he simply had a slight hearing problem in one of his ears and didn’t like loud music. However, having met him I instantly felt my energy being sapped from me. Here was a creature who took my positive energy because he had none of his own. As our conversation continued it struck me that the information my companion was sharing was not really appropriate for a first date with someone you have just met. I had already guessed from his demeanour that he might be suffering from depression but in a few hours I had learned about his issues with bullying in secondary school, his strained relationship with his father, his inability to deal with people who have attitudes in conflict with his own and how his family would love me. This was too intense for me. I waited for the date to end and mentally decided to turn him down should he ask me out again.
The following morning he texted me asking when he could see me again. I didn’t have the heart to say “never” so I took the coward’s way out and explained that I was busy with work all week, which was true, and that I would text him when I was free again, hoping he might get the gentle hint. Later that evening when I was out with a friend he texted me again asking about my day. At this point I realised I needed to be blunt so I told him, nicely but in no uncertain terms that I was sorry but I wasn’t interested. His response was to attack me for rejecting him and to demand why, after we had a nice date, in his eyes, the previous evening. I firmly said I found him a bit too intense and wished him well, ending the conversation. He rang me on WhatsApp leaving me a voicemail explaining that he wasn’t intense, just being friendly and he thought I was a nice girl. I felt this action merely proved my point and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I ignored the call and further messages which provoked some nasty comments which were designed to illicit a reply but only resulted in his number being blocked. So it ended, until a week later.
I was just off the tennis court the following Sunday when I saw a Facebook message from this guy asking to see me again. I very deliberately do not use my surname in my profile so that only people who actually know me and have been told what it is can find me. Facebook have an extra security measure for log in whereby you can add your mobile phone to the account and should you forget your password this is offered as an alternative. Unbeknownst to me, it is not automatically privatised and this was how my Tinder stalker tracked me down. He searched for my number on Facebook and found my profile. I didn’t respond to his message but it prompted me to block him on another online medium and enhance my privacy settings. No harm came of it in the end but it gave me a fright.
True love can be a click away
Although my online dating experiences have been relatively fruitless thus far, there are plenty of success stories. More and more people are meeting their potential partners online and allowing romance to blossom into meaningful relationships. My cousin met her now husband on a dating website and I can’t imagine two people more suited for each other in mind and spirit. He fits in well with the rest of the outlaws and is great fun. Similarly, one of my close friends is about to tie the knot in August with an online match. I have yet to meet him but I can tell he makes her happy and clearly knows her worth which is good enough for me.
So what have I learned from all this?
Online dating can be great fun so long as you don’t take it too seriously and as long as you are clear about what exactly it is you want to get out of it. I choose to see it as another way of meeting new people, similar to going out to a pub or joining a sports club. There are a multitude of different types of online daters and trusting your gut is still key to sorting the creeps from the crème but once you do you can’t really go too far wrong.