We live in a dating world where the playing field has definitely changed. Gone are the days when someone would actually walk up to you, strike up a conversation, ask for your number, call you, engage in light banter, ask you out, plan a date, show up for the date, and things would progress after you and your date had actually spent time in each other’s presence.
In fact, dear reader, if you are currently dating, when was the last time you got to know someone in that manner?
The last time for me was over two years ago. The guy was Southern and new to Los Angeles. We met online, but he asked for my number after a few messages. He called me, we spoke a few times, and he asked me out. He initiated all of the calls and all of our contact. Our first date was not the requisite coffee meet and greet. Instead, we met at a restaurant and shared a lovely meal. He followed up with more dates, all of which he planned based on my responses to questions about the things I liked to do.
I enjoyed every one of those dates. I enjoyed being courted and treated well. In the end, we both determined we weren’t compatible for the long run, but I walked away from that experience believing that behind the screen, there were honest and genuine people really searching for the real thing. He restored my faith.
The more I speak to people on the subject, however, the more I hear that people are not really dating these days. Even scarier is the idea that most people don’t know how to date. We think that going out with someone, taking walks, showing up with flowers, calling just to “check in,” and being available to another person is too much like a commitment before the commitment.
Correct me if I am wrong, but dating is a commitment. You are committing to getting to know someone before making a decision about being in partnership or trying again with someone entirely new. My question is simply, how does one do that when so many people are scared to even show up as their true, authentic selves?
In today’s digital age, dating has a new script: You see a picture of someone, you swipe to the right / send a wink / send a “Hi there, you look fun. We should talk” or some version thereof, exchange some short-verse messages, maybe you exchange phone numbers (but even if you do, you’re still texting), agree to meet, meet and act shy and awkward because it’s a blind date, sort of, and then you decide pretty quickly if you want to see them again—mostly because you know how easy it would be to start all over with somebody new.
The upside is that yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. The downside is that you’ll never find your fish if you’re always throwing them back.
I’ll just say it: the digital age has messed up how we find and keep love flowing. We replace actual feelings with heart emojis. We break up via text. We get back together with each other via text. We stalk each other’s social media pages; we know the names of “friends” before we even meet them. Our dating lives are constructed online, and we dress the part by taking selfies and pictures of our food to show anyone following us on Instagram that we are, indeed, having a good time. We create personas, and I’m starting to believe that we care more about those personas than actually showing up, with all of our flaws and beauty, to present ourselves as worthy of love.
Maybe that’s the real issue. We don’t think we are worthy of love.
Or maybe some of us are ready—I like to think I am—but when we put ourselves out there, who is actually ready to meet us?
My last relationship lasted two years and ended when a woman sent me pictures of herself and the man I was dating frolicking in the city. He’d found her on eHarmony a few months earlier. According to the woman, he invited her to come see him over a weekend that he and I were “fighting.” She spent time in his apartment and felt like there was a female presence, so she went looking on his Facebook page, which led to his Pinterest page, which led to me. When she confronted him, he told her that I was his ex-girlfriend and she shouldn’t contact me, but she did.
When I confronted him, he made up an elaborate lie about why she only thought they were together. He told me I should trust him. But the pictures she sent me were taken inside his apartment, and I found his profile on eHarmony and Match, so he couldn’t deny what happened.
No matter how hard we try to create perfect online personas, who we are always shows up. The last relationship and the many others I have explored in this digital age have taught me that we all want the same thing: to be accepted. I believed at the end of my last relationship, and I still believe now, that love is a choice. We come into relationships as individuals. We partner with people based on shared goals, morals, and the vision to build something together that can be really special.
It takes a lot of patience to explore this dating field when you are faced with so many apparently empty people, but it’s worth it when you find yourself involved in something special and come to the heavy and deep love that happens when the masks are torn off and the flaws are exposed and beautiful. We all crave this type of love, yet it seems impossible to achieve when we forget that love is ALL faith, trust, hope, compassion, forgiveness and showing up for each other.
So many of us are afraid to explore the deep emotions—we show up in shallow forms just to attract something. But deep love can’t be nurtured in shallow pools. In order for us to truly find and savor such heavy love, we have to come into our relationships loving ourselves enough to risk being authentic.