Process of Illumination

What I Learned From 10 days On Tinder, Part Two: Online Dating And The Importance Of Being “All In”

It seems that last week’s post on dating has generated a huge amount of interest in this topic. Over the past week, I’ve had countless conversations with other fellow “Tinderers” who either want some coaching or are willing to share their experience in order to help others navigate through the twists and turns of this crazy, yet potentially enlightening experience. Even non-Tinderers are fascinated with how it works and are eager to know what it’s all about.

At the beginning of my Tinder experience I had no idea what I was doing. It may seem pretty straight forward (because it’s a pretty simple app) and we might think we know why we’re there but, in truth, I don’t think many of us actually know what we really want until we throw ourselves into the deep end.

As I said, the reason I went on Tinder is partly because my friend made me… but I agreed to do it because I knew that it was time. I had started talking with friends about “getting out there” and meeting people but, let’s face it, in our culture today, online dating is pretty much how it’s done. The idea of going out with your girlfriends in “packs” is rarely a successful approach, especially if you are looking for companionship or a long term relationship. When I used to hear people say “it’s a numbers game” when referring to success in online dating, I would cringe. I couldn’t bear the thought of going on dozens, if not hundreds of dates over the next few months or years, smiling awkwardly as I wondered why this process had to be so effortful and structured.

I wanted it to be organic and easy.

I wanted it to be magical.

I wanted it to be fun.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a man in my life again but I didn’t want it badly enough to invest so much time and effort into what I thought would be an extremely uncomfortable process.

Unfortunately, though, dating is exactly that…

An extremely uncomfortable process.

Regardless of how we meet someone, we still have to navigate the same sets if issues. Online dating is simply an alternate means of introduction. It speeds up the process of selection, which I think is the thing that makes it so overwhelming. I mean, think about it: We can walk along the street during rush hour and pass by hundreds of potential dating candidates. There they are, all in once place and yet we neither take the opportunity to connect nor feel overwhelmed by having to sift through all the choices. Why? Because our attention, in that moment, is not focused on finding a mate.

But what if, all of a sudden, we were told that all these people were also looking for someone? How incredibly overwhelming would that be?

All online dating does is to put all those people in one place and organize them for you to make it a bit easier to sift through.

That’s it!

The matchmaking process has been around for thousands of years. In fact, my mother was a professional matchmaker. She founded and ran the first dating service on Toronto called June Adams Introduction Services in 1955. In those days, you put your trust in the expertise of someone else to make your matches for you. In some ways, that seems even crazier than the online dating model and yet it has been widely accepted in many cultures for centuries.

At June Adams, my mom would interview you, take a photo and put all of your information on a card… Pink for women, blue for men.  Then, she would rely on your stated preferences and similarities (as well as a good dose of intuition) to decide on your matches. Even though my mom was very good at what she did, it still came down to the individuals and whether or not they got along, had chemistry or could see one another as a potential mate.  I suppose that having another person hand-picking your matches, coaching you and supporting you through the process served to mitigate the sense of overwhelm, at first. In the end, however, you still have to kiss all those frogs.

In that respect, online dating is no different. So, the trick to not feeling overwhelmed by the process is in how you approach it.

And everyone is different.

Which brings me back to my point of how many of us don’t really know what we want as we are entering into the process. I say this because I’ve seen it happen again and again… one person says they’re going online because they just want to get laid and then discovering that, even though they do want to get laid, at some point, they’re not just looking for a random, anonymous hook-up. They want something that feels more connected and meaningful. Alternatively, I’ve seen people who say they just want to meet new people and have some fun but they soon discover that what they actually want is a partner… or vice versa.

The point is that this process can be very emotional and will push all of your relationship buttons at some point or another. You will attract what you seek and if that ends up making you feel strangely uncomfortable, consider this: Anything in you unconscious which you haven’t dealt with will rear it’s ugly head. And, because it’s fairly anonymous, at first, it’s a lot easier to be in denial about it. It’s easy to be superficial, or inauthentic or push boundaries or make projections without taking into consideration that there is another human being on the other side of the exchange who is going through pretty much the same things you are and may not have a clue what they really want, either. It’s easy for misunderstandings to happen, for hearts or egos to be hurt.

So, here’s what I learned about that.

Before you begin the process of online dating, you must make a commitment to yourself to constantly bring your head and heart into balance.

Do not go into this blindly.

This means that you have to pay attention to how things make you feel, how you’re showing up… and why. You have to own those feelings and the decisions you make as a result. It will feel vulnerable and awkward and frustrating, but as long as you remain present to the experience there are jewels of information you can gather which will help you connect the dots and form an accurate picture of what you really want, need and deserve.

You may discover that you went in a direction that you didn’t intend and, when that happens, it’s ok to course-correct. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do. Don’t let yourself be led in a direction that doesn’t feel authentic simply because you feel too far into it to change it. And when you start to feel uncomfortable, don’t rush to assume that it’s time to call it quits. First, let yourself assess whether you truly aren’t ready to do this or whether you’re just feeling that way because you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone.

Because, isn’t that the whole point?

If we want to have a different experience, we have to be willing to be a little uncomfortable in order to get it.

This is what I refer to as being “All In”.

Once you have made the choice to give online dating a try, don’t let your gremlins sabotage you.

Take responsibility so that you can get the most from the experience.

Looking forward to sharing the next instalment with you…