This week’s post is brought to you by LaVerna Wilk – a Gottman certified couples therapist with a masters degree in counseling. She’s also BestMarriages’ resident expert on neurotherapy and trauma. Learn more about LaVerna here.
A common question I get asked in my office is, “Why is dating so crazy these days?” Its because online dating has changed so much about how we meet people.
How Dating Used to Be
Before the internet we met people through school, or work, or through a friend of a friend. Or if we were really lucky some really gorgeous soul moved in next door and changed our lives.
We were attracted to people based on what we saw in that first impression, then confirmed it over time as we hung out and were observable. We knew who was in our league and who was not.
You saw this prospect as they interacted with your friends or family, at the movies, over dinner, through all the seasons and reached conclusions about them based on concrete evidence. Then, if it didn’t work out, you moved on to someone else.
How Dating Is Now
With the dawn of dating websites suddenly the whole world is our oyster. We get to create a profile that tells the world about who we want to be, list our most marketable qualities and then go “shopping.”
Searching for Our Fantasy
We find ourselves looking at people and judging them from a photo or a cute catch phrase and – feeling brave and smug as we hide behind our tablets – we send out a witty quip that we sat up all night thinking up.
If it is well received then what follows is a frenzied message thread where we ask “revealing” questions and try to match our answers with theirs to create a fantasy where we project our best versions of ourselves, hoping against hope that this is what the other wants to hear.
Once all the boxes have been checked, you agree to meet.
Yaddah, yaddah yaddah…
Reality Sets In
Now you are in counselling because who you thought you were meeting is somewhat similar to who you are now in a relationship with, but there is just so much more that doesn’t fit.
Not only that, but you find out that for the first few months you were talking and starting to meet up that they were also talking to and meeting up with 4 other potential people.
You were not being courted so much as compared to your peers. Somehow you came out as their top pick, but top of what?
Online Dating vs. IRL (In Real Life)
Because if you were brutally honest with yourself you would admit that had you met this person on the street or at your friend’s BBQ you wouldn’t have given them a second glance.
You would have noticed that with every beer they started to leer more and more. You’d realize they hated dogs because they kept pushing your friend’s dog away with their foot – and not always gently.
You would have noticed that when you talk to them they keep looking over your shoulder, as if there is someone better back there that they could be spending time with.
So what is the answer?
How to Approach Modern, Online Dating
Abandoning ship and closing all your profiles is not necessary. But I do suggest that when you find someone online who is interesting, meet sooner rather than later. I know it is intimidating, but real life context is a thousand times better than words.
Plato said that you can learn more about a man in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
So go play!
More Than Just an Online Profile
If they said they like to hike but when you plan a hike you learn that they thought you meant around the block wearing flip flops, that’s important information.
If they show up with proper footwear and a day pack filled with water and nutritious snacks to share, that is also important information.
If they say they like to play board games and you pull out your box of Settlers of Catan and they pull out all the expansion packs, that’s important information.
Your Real Life “Friends List”
Let’s face it, your friends are your friends because they know you and want what is best for you, so why are you not bringing your date to meet them?
Learning about your date as they are hanging with your friends can be super revealing.
Just casual hanging – don’t play 20 questions.
If you are going to have a relationship but your friends hate your date, how is that going to look for your future?
Bring Virtual Back in to Reality
In short, bring it and keep it in the real world. Online dating is a fantasy world that is completely dependent on our honesty and self awareness.
Regardless of how you meet and what has been said, judge for yourself.
We are defined by what we do, not by what is underneath. So if someone says they are generous but don’t even notice the homeless person on the street because they were so busy talking, that is important information.
Believe what you see over what you are told. If those two don’t line up, you are being lied to. As convenient as online dating can be, you have to bring it back into the real world – and soon – to really know if this will be the right relationship for you.
Would You Like To Set Up an Appointment With LaVerna Wilk or Another BestMarriages Relationship Expert? Call Us Today at 1 (604) 539-5277