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Online Dating Refresh: Can We Start Over?

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I am happy to admit that “dating” is not my thing. And I’m also a bit frustrated to report that dating is usually the initial hurdle in the race to find a long-term relationship. If you (anyone) are interested in dating as a sport or dating as entertainment, we’re not going to get very far. I write about intentional dating: dating with the purpose of finding your next REAL/AUTHENTIC partner.

We Have Successes As Well As Failures

If we can see each adventure into relationship-building as an educational opportunity we can keep a positive and hopeful outlook as we browse and swipe and poke and message and get only false flags and imposters. I’m beginning to believe that 80% of online dating profiles are BS. And of the 20% that are real, only 0.05% are appealing to me. Yes, I said it. That’s the goal, right, to have an immediate appeal? If there’s little appeal, there is no amount of chemistry or humor that’s going to make up for a “meh” response. If you see someone’s dating profile and don’t say, “Damn! I could go for him!” then I’d suggest swiping left and moving along with your own self-development program.

The successes come when we take risks. The successes come as we up our game and begin to ask for what we really want. And we begin to act according to our aspirational selves. Let’s say we’re overweight and a bit too comfortable with tequila and chill, alone. I can think of three things in that statement that need work.

  1. Your fitness says a lot about how you treat yourself. If you can’t love love love yourself and your body, how can you love me and mine?
  2. Your drinking may not be giving you the benefits you think it’s giving you. It may be making things worse. It may be causing you to settle. Or worse, to get complacent.
  3. Your Netflix binge routine is not all that attractive. Yes, I’d like to snuggle beside you and watch The Queen’s Gambit again. But if that’s your “jam” we’re going to have a lot of alone time. I love entertainment. I love connecting with my partner. And I love long walks on the beach. Let’s put the focus on what we want to DO together. Netflix can be a fallback when we’re exhausted from playing tennis in this lovely spring weather.

How Do We Start Over?

I will tell you that restarting your online dating apps is not going to be encouraging. If I recall anything from my past experience, what I know is this.

  • people lie in their online dating profiles
  • people use old photos where they were fitter, happier, and 10 years younger
  • people claim priorities that they really don’t have (“I love live music.” And they can’t name a single concert they enjoyed in the last YEAR.)
  • people express what they are looking for in terms of travel, drinking, entertainment (I’m interested in intimacy, romance, and authenticity – can we start with that?)
  • people play games in the online dating world (dating as entertainment is not a sport I’m fond of – you are wasting your own time, and when you connect with me, you are wasting mine)
  • people connect (bumble, tinder) and then don’t say hello
  • my finger gets tired of all the LEFT SWIPES and longs for the RIGHT SWIPE but they are far and few in between

What to do with this information?

  • Get a plan.
  • Be intentional.
  • Get a wingman, if you need support.
  • Work the plan.
  • Revise the plan as new information comes in.
  • Remain hopeful and patient.
  • NEVER accept a “maybe good enough” date. EVER.

The Real Answer is Not Online Dating

You know it, I know it, Bumble knows it. Online dating is more of a game, more of a reality-tv show. People are playing “get me excited” on these apps. But the effort is small. (put up a profile, tell a few stories, pay some money for a boost, hope for the best) And the results are small too.

I’ll Meet You Out There, Okay?

I think this is going to be the title of my next dating book. Let’s “get out there” and meet in the real world. Sure, play on Bumble, fantasize on Tinder, drool on, but don’t pretend that this is doing the work of finding your next relationship. It’s like trolling for a partner using the lowest form of engagement possible, social media. Yes, it’s engagement, but the connection and authenticity is VERY LOW.


What do you love doing? Are you doing it now? Are you doing it today? Will you make plans to do it tomorrow, or in an hour? Where you find your passion you will also find similarly impassioned people. If it’s yoga you love, go to yoga classes. If they are all women in the class and you’re interested in men, go to a different yoga class. If you’re not really interested in a yoga-guy, find something else you love doing. Do you like to bike ride, swim, walk around the lake. DO IT. Look around. Be happy. Be connective.

First, be connected and connective with yourself and your experience of THIS VERY MOMENT. Can you notice you reading these words? Do you hear the sound of your voice or mine as you’re reading? NOTICE EVERYTHING about this moment. And when you’re “out there” notice all you can about the moments as they wash through your life. THIS IS THE MOMENT. If you are waiting for a sign, for a message, for a coach, for a wingman, THIS IS THE SIGN.

Get out there. Get on with it. And get into your living dream. It’s all you have.

Second, be intentional in your walk of life. Do things that support your health and well-being. Make sure your self-care and self-love programs are healthy and vibrant.

Third, make casual connections with people you are attracted to. For whatever reason. If you feel a connection, take a moment to follow it. Say hello. Smile. See if anything, any signals, come back towards you. That’s the start of EVERYTHING. Look for sparks in other people.

Sure, play on Bumble and OKCupid. But understand that browsing and swiping is NOT DATING. And DATING is the only way to find a relationship. And if that’s your goal and you don’t have a clear plan… Well, that may be why you’re getting exactly what you’re setting out to find each day, “I don’t know.”

Setting Your Plan and Checking-in With Yourself Every Damn Day

Put your plan, your 5 steps, your goals, on post-it notes around your house. Put the list on your morning mirror. Check-in with your body and your needs before checking your phone, before making coffee, before getting out of bed. A body scan is a great way to tune into yourself and your needs BEFORE making or accepting any plans. Then go forward, drink your strong coffee, take your brisk jog in the frigid air, and pursue your plan with energy and active participation.

Now, can you see how swiping left or right has very little to do with the paragraph above? Do you understand that taking one more “hello date” with a “maybe” rather than a “strong yes” is a cop-out? It’s a distraction. If you don’t find the YES partners, don’t date MAYBE partners. You’re wasting precious time.

Final Encouragement

There are men out there who are seeking a long-term relationship with a woman just like you. And we are intentional, honest, and working on our plans. One of our plans is to find a YES partner.

When I learned in my first three years after my divorce, that I was not interested in dating at all, my dating journey became much more efficient. I did not go on “hello dates” with any MAYBE women. If I did go on a “hello date” and the meeting was anything less than INTERSTELLAR, I did not ask for a 2nd date.

And finally, if I was in the process of “dating” someone and I learned that they were NOT

  • the one
  • interested in a long-term relationship
  • not delighted to see me 99% of the time

I quickly and clearly expressed my change of plans and released them back into the stream of possibilities.

Get clear on your dating goals. And if you need someone to talk to about all of this crazy mess, I’m here.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Get the complete single dad story with John’s new book: Single Dad Seeks (available in all formats)

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

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