At one time, finding your life partner was much easier that it seems to be today. It was usually done for you, via a formalized ritual of courtship that would be overlooked by your mother, blessed by your father and bad luck if you ended up with a bad match.
This evolved into the dating game, where polite women waited to be asked out and men arranged everything in the hope of ultimately securing a mate. It allowed more freedom, but you still had to meet enough single people in the hope of finding someone you could love or cared to spend a lifetime with. In the past three decades, dating has become more of a process where almost anything goes but with no certainty of finding the “right’” person.
Online dating services came into being almost immediately after the invention of the internet. Initially they simply matched people up based on profiles of likes and dislikes. Nowadays, there are thousands of dating services using anything from habits to religious belief to dietary preferences to match people up. People are using these services to hook up for friendship, sex, and marriage (not necessarily in that order). But are they having any better luck than their predecessors?
As a counsellor of twenty five years, I unfortunately tend to hear more about the negative experiences with internet dating than the positive ones. Comments like “ I can’t believe my bad luck!” or “ I keep attracting the same type of person over and over and I never get it right” are not uncommon. When things don’t work out, our first reaction is to blame and find fault with the person we’ve attracted. “ He was a liar and a cheat.” “She only wanted me for my money.” These negative experiences can also cause us to make sweeping generalizations such as “you can’t trust anyone on internet dating sites”.
The truth is, if you are unsure of yourself and don’t feel worthy of love, you will attract someone who will mirror that back at you. For example; if you are desperate for love and believe that you are never going to find it because you are not good enough, attractive or smart enough, or if you fear being rejected, you may attract someone who won’t respect you or love you enough. Or you may attract a relationship where your needs are disregarded or the person is emotionally unavailable. You probably will attract a whole lot of rejection!
Clearing limiting beliefs such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unlovable” will help you build a positive self-image and self-worth. Once you feel good about yourself and believe that you are worthy of love and a good solid relationship, you will attract someone who also believes that about you and will treat you accordingly. Then the use of internet dating sites can be a great way to meet a variety of people.
As I was writing this article, I contacted an ex-client whom I consider to be quite an expert with internet dating. She was happy to have me interview her on the subject. When she first came to see me, Sandra had made use of internet dating services for over 5 years and dated around 15 to 20 men. Three turned into serious relationships but none of them were successful. Sandra is a very busy business woman who owns two retail businesses and, at the time she was dating, was raising two teenagers on her own. She had been through two divorces and was determined not to repeat the pattern.
Here’s what she had to say about the process:
At first it was fun being able to sit at home looking at photos and profiles with no obligation to make any kind of comment unless I was interested. It felt exciting, a little scary, but mostly nerve racking. It was intimidating at first because I didn’t know the rules and didn’t have any idea how to go about it.
I learned fairly quickly to keep the emails with the interesting ones down to a minimum. If they sounded promising, I would suggest that we meet for coffee.
Until you actually meet face to face you don’t know if there is chemistry. You can spend a lot of time having conversations and getting your hopes up to feel totally disappointed when you finally meet. I found it best to meet for a quick coffee; 15-30 minutes is all you need for a first meeting.
Sandra said this was safer and meant she wasn’t stuck spending an evening with someone who would never work out. She said rejecting someone was actually harder than the thought of being rejected.
Rejecting someone was hard for me. I’m a nice person who hates to hurt people’s feelings. I didn’t find this easy at all! Eventually I learned to be direct and firm, yet gentle. What I found worked best for me (and a nice way to let them down gently) was at the end of the coffee date if I wasn’t interested in taking it any further, I would end the date by saying “Well it was nice meeting you and good luck with your search. I really hope you find what you’re looking for.”
The biggest challenge of all for her was learning how to let go, enjoy the process and not be attached to any particular outcome.
I went through a process of discovering and learning things about myself with every man I met. This was the key to my success. Having the courage and willingness to look at myself and understanding that I was responsible for what I was attracting was the key.
Sandra said that when she was the one rejected in one of the more serious relationships, it brought her face to face with old issues of abandonment from her childhood. Although very painful, it was a turning point for her.
I had to deal with those old issues before I could go any further or else I knew that I would attract that pattern again. I also learned that having clarity about what is truly important to me in a relationship was an important key. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than the best!
Sandra decided to quit internet dating to concentrate on healing her past. When she did feel ready to try dating again, the first man she met turned out to be a keeper. They have been happily married for 10 years now.