March 21, 2020
“It used to be so different. I was so good at it and now I have no idea how to manage it all. It’s devastating and hopeless.”
My friend of more than two decades sighed in exasperation when she got back in the dating scene after more than ten years of being married. She is beautiful, smart, kind — exactly the type that you would look at and wouldn’t believe her saying that she has troubles with dating.
Yet she has — just like almost all of us.
It really used to be different. It wasn’t necessarily easier — but it was a lot kinder. The world wasn’t this big. We didn’t have so many choices. The dating pool and its opportunities were smaller, yet somehow it was friendlier, and it seemed more feasible to find a partner.
Now we are more connected than ever, yet it seems that we have a lot more trouble in finding real connections. Maybe the world changed. Maybe we changed with it. Maybe we are older, and we know better than before. Maybe we expect more and settle for nothing.
But maybe with all these changes, we need to look at dating differently — with a perspective that fits the new world, its new expectations and new relationship dynamics.
Maybe we just need to let go of the dating dogmas that were repeated so many times that it became part of the story that we keep telling ourselves.
Together with my friend and fellow writer Matt Sandrini, we decided to discuss and dissect the 5 dating dogmas most people take for granted. In Matt’s twin article, he analyses the same myths, debunked, from a man’s perspective.
So, here is the female edition of the 5 dating dogmas that can ruin the whole dating experience for you — if you let it.
1. You Have to Date All the Time
They say if you are single — by choice or situation — there has to be something wrong with you. So, to avoid this terrible relationship status, you have to date all the time until you finally settle down.
There is this outdated and distorted concept around singles that they are incomplete and they couldn’t possibly be happy. In the eyes of the society and our peers, being alone means that you are lonely and you can only be happy and whole if you share your life with someone — preferably in a monogamous heterosexual setup.
Being single is not inferior to being partnered, therefore dating all the time isn’t a must.
The urge to date all the time and find a potential partner stems from the mistaken idea that singlehood is worse than being partnered. Single people are regarded as less reliable, less competent, and even their chances of being hired are lower than for someone married or in a relationship. There is a clear bias not only in gender, age and sexual orientation but also in marital status. As if single people were punished for not settling down — when society clearly suggests so.
Contrary to what society suggests and what the media keep flooding us with, being single is not inferior to being partnered, therefore dating all the time isn’t a must.
You have every right to stay away from it — if that’s your wish. You can still be open-minded and curious, with a brilliant personality if you decide that dating is off the table — for now, or even for good. Don’t buy into the narrative, you don’t have to date all the time to be happy. Date when you feel like it and don’t let anyone or anything pressure you into something that feels uncomfortable or off.
2. Online Dating is the Ultimate Way to Find a Partner
We are more connected than ever and there are countless apps and online solutions for dating — some based on first impressions (Tinder), geographical proximity and familiarity (Happn) or based on more complicated algorithms factoring in personality and preferences (Match.com, OKCupid). It seems that nothing is easier than to sign up, create a profile and start searching.
Just because online dating is fast, easy and it gives a lot more opportunities than offline dating ever could — due to the sheer number of users — it doesn’t mean that it is the ultimate way to find a partner.
There are countless other options — even if they can’t deliver the same number of potential partners as online dating.
You can still meet people in bars and clubs. You can start a conversation on the street or in a restaurant. You can find hobbies where you can meet new people. You could even fall in love with your neighbour without even knowing their names. You could meet someone through your circle of friends and friends of friends. And let’s not forget the people you get to know through your work.
These options — that used to be the only options before the world became so digital — are still there, but we diss them, as the way online dating works grants us instant feedback and validation.
But having too many options can be just as bad as not having any. Overchoice or choice overload is a cognitive process in which people have a difficult time making a decision when faced with many options. The term was first introduced by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock.
When we are faced with too many seemingly equivalent options, the choice becomes impossible and in search of finding an even better option we fail to choose. This leaves us with swiping instead of dating; having an endless period of texting without ever meeting in person; dismissing a potential mate because we believe that there has to be a better one.
Online dating can be a brilliant way to meet new people — if you look at it with the right mindset and consider it as an option, not an ultimate solution. But there are still ways to meet people, in kinder and more organic setups, with fewer choices, less anxiety and lower expectations.
3. You Have to Date People Within Your ‘League’
It’s useless to deny that both men and women rank their potential partners — the most prevalent ranking system is the 1–10 scale. It would be nice to say that we are not that superficial, yet physical attraction plays a huge part in forming and maintaining a relationship. But it’s not everything.
It is true that real-life chemistry is based on being attracted to someone — to their looks just as much as to their voice, smell and touch. But let’s not forget other factors that can play a huge part: personality, sense of humour, common goals.
They might not work in an online dating setup, as trying to figure out chemistry with a 2D image of anyone is impossible. Here, the superficial scale will work — if you don’t rank high enough on my scale, I won’t even give you a chance to prove that your personality would worth a chance.
Another dating dogma is that it is strongly advised to stay within your league, i.e. don’t try to find a partner who is better looking than you, for it won’t work out.
This is more unfair from a female’s perspective than it is from a man’s. Women are still expected to be pretty and attractive first and then — maybe — smart, funny and fun. Men can pass into an upper category just by having confidence, courage, a good sense of humour — or (gasp!) money, but a woman will stay a 4 regardless of her character or sense of humour.
As a woman, if you want to date out of your league then date out of your league, but try traditional dating scenarios where your personality, humour and energy can override the perception that would reduce you to a number in an online scenario.
As a man, if you want to date out of your league, just be a decent guy, have some sense of humour, be able to maintain a conversation, be attentive without being creepy and, chances are, you’ll get the girl.
Attraction is paramount. Chemistry in real life is even more crucial. But, no, don’t stay within your league, because it’s shallow and you might miss out on your soulmate if you don’t give anyone a chance who is considered below you — or you can let someone pass who is more open-minded than to get fixated on superficial physical traits.
4. You Need to Know What You are Looking For
They say you shouldn’t even start dating before you figured out what you really want — after all, how can you find something if you don’t know what it is that you want to find?
This assumes that we people are rational beings that decide based on facts and reason — which is false. We like to believe that we make our decisions, especially the important ones, based on something that is tangible and solid. We don’t.
We choose impulsively and then we post-rationalise our decisions almost all of the time. And this is no different when dating, either.
It is nice to have some vague ideas about what kind of relationship you look for — at least the cornerstones of it, whether you are looking for monogamy or non-monogamy; if you only want a hookup or you are ready to settle down. But you can’t know in advance what comes your way and you have no idea how it might change your mind.
What might start as a hookup could end up being the love of your life. What might look like something you could settle for could fall apart after 3 dates. Being open-minded and curious about life and dating is a lot more important than having rigid ideas of what you want.
What you need to be sure about are your values and your boundaries, as these will guide you and keep you safe. And they’ll also save you a lot of time.
5. You Have to Play Games if You Want to Succeed
Ever since pick-up artists have been on the rise, manipulation and playing games with each other — especially men with women — have become the norm in dating. You need to act to get the girl (or guy). You need to be on your best behaviour. You need to know all the things that would trigger them and avoid them or use them with mastery.
This transforms the whole dating into something orchestrated and dishonest.
Sure, it is nice if someone has the ability to keep a conversation — but if it’s a few practised sentences, it won’t last too long. It’s great to see someone who has a strong sense of humour. It isn’t jokes, however, but a situational wit that is needed — and that, you don’t have a user manual for. It’s nice to be shown attention, but it has to be genuine so that it could really count.
You can trick someone to have sex with you. You can even trick someone to fall in love with you. You can lie and manipulate your way into a relationship — but what’s the point?
When it comes to dating, we all look for a connection — of some sort. It can be purely sexual, or it can include several layers, such as sexual, mental, emotional, intellectual or even spiritual. The more layered it is, the better it gets. Even the sex gets better if the other checkboxes are ticked too.
If your goal is a connection of some sort then you don’t need to play games to get it. You need to look for it in the right places. You need to recognise one when it comes your way and you shouldn’t force one type of connection into another label.
You might look for a lover and find a friend — how terrible that is? It is still a connection and while it doesn’t qualify as dating success, you are still better off with it than conning someone into having sex with you.
Dating shouldn’t be this hard. And if you manage to look at it through a different prism, it might shine a different light. Maybe one that you like. Just ditch the dogmas, be curious and open-minded and let life sort it out.