what makes online dating hard?

What Makes Dating Hard: Can We Be Honest Online and In-Person?

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It seems today, we’re all complaining about online dating. Perhaps we’ve gotten into bad communication habits, perhaps the apps suck, or perhaps we play too many games. Part of the online dating process is like a game. We swipe, swipe, swipe, and hope to connect through witty repartee and negotiate an in-person meeting. That’s the initial goal of online dating, in my perspective, to actually get to a date.

So What’s the Problem with Online Dating?

  • Profiles don’t tell half the picture (they show an initial attractiveness in a photo, and photos can lie)
  • We’re so used to texting we’ve become quite casual with responding and following up
  • It does take a lot of work to find and agree on a meeting
  • Some people are more interested in the play of it rather than actually finding a relationship

However, there are success stories. I have several. And yesterday I had an opening that turned into an in-person meeting and… Well, at least the messaging intent to get together again. That’s all I could’ve hoped for. That’s a 100% success.

When I think of my ideal first date, I don’t think of kissing or sex, I think of interesting conversation and obvious intelligence. I think of joy and an expressed interest in doing it again. Just a meeting to get a read on potential chemistry. A “hello date” to see if the connection will be mutual, one-sided, or nonexistent. And, last night it was nice. I got exactly what I wanted. Even some funny things, like we drove the exact same car, we’re sort of in the same business, and have worked at several of the same tech companies.

I did my best afterward to be casual. I was thinking, “Let her make the first reconnection,” but I didn’t want to play games. I was fine with her knowing that I was interested in a next date. And without dramatic flair I simply said, “Yes please, may I have another.” And then I waited. And my text/message timer began ticking. It was only 9:30 at night. It wasn’t like she went to bed.

Waiting for the Follow Up

I was a bit surprised by my letdown as I waited for a response. Even a few other “interest” alerts didn’t lift my spirits. And I think this is the reason: even initial connections via online dating are rare. And when you have one, you want to have it again. Of course, it might not lead to something, but it might lead to everything. Right? I mean, that’s the plan. That’s the ideal strategy. Initial date. Good chemistry. Second date. Continued interest. And violá.

The real hurdle is the initial date and chemistry that leads to a willingness to do it again. I guess that’s the acid test. If last night was a “meh” for her, I imagine she will not reply. She will let my tempered enthusiasm wither on the vine.

For example, several days ago I had a breakfast taco “Hello date.” She was fascinating. Cute. And we had a nice initial connection. But my heart was not in it. I knew before I asked for the real-world meeting. She was “conservative.” And one of her initial messaging flirts had to do with drinking. (For me, not an inspiring topic.) Still, as a human male longing for some connection, I followed up with a message that was out of character for me. “Shall we continue our conversation on bikes (she’s a road biker) or over ritas? Thankfully, she suggested bikes. And my guess is, we won’t ever make that appointment.

Why would I follow up with a drinking meeting? It’s not like I don’t drink, but if drinking is a hobby… Sure, it’s a good icebreaker. I suppose. Perhaps I was thinking I’d be able to overlook her politics. For whatever reason (I surprise myself sometimes) I offered “ritas” as a next date option. I’m going to have to go back and examine my motives. What was my fantasy about having drinks with this woman I was marginally attracted to? (Uh oh. I’d rather not say.)

So, let’s at least say, online dating is complicated. Even when we think we have our preferences and objectives clear in our mind, our animal drives can subvert our rational minds. I don’t feel like this was a miss. I feel like I understand a bit more about my current neediness. And the date from last night and my disappointment at not getting an immediate response… Again, neediness. And that’s not the position I’d find myself in while approaching my next relationship. I don’t want to be needy.

Sure, there are a lot of things in play at the moment. And the immediate response of the woman yesterday and an easy agreement to meet and see some live music was fantastic. And my enthusiasm begins to translate initial chemistry and attraction on my part as an opening for something of potential.

I suppose if there’s anything frustrating for me about online dating it’s finding the women of potential. They have to be attractive to me, attracted to me, and available. Oh, sure, and a whole bunch of other stuff that’s intangible.

AND… she messaged me back with some options this morning. “Better than a cup of coffee,” I responded.

An opening is an opening. Let’s see where this leads.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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the sex index by john oakley mcelhenney

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