Oh the lure of an enticing profile, a chiselled jawline, a sparkling eye, some pretty hair blowing in a gentle breeze, a friendly-quirky-accessible expression as s/he hugs the family dog with such affection you dream that this could be you one day, in the arms of your new heart throb, though ideally with less slobber. A few words that whisper Hey, cutie, I might be just what you are looking for, or At leastyou can be pretty sure I am not a serial killer. And then the thrill (small and fleeting, but a thrill nonetheless) of the swipe right that is captured instantly and returned to you with flashing intensity “It’s a match!” Ya,you think, with a little toss of the hair, I’ve still got it. And then you keep swiping, playing it cool, waiting for your special someone out there in the dating stratosphere to boldly make the first move and send some actual words to your app box. You don’t want to seem too needy.
Yes, friends, I am talking about the pure romantic MAGIC that is Tinder. The new love story. If you are in the dating pool, this one’s for you. If you’re not, have a laugh at our expense, but also, light a candle for us, maybe say a silent prayer.
“Tinder is for hook-ups!!!” My kids inform me when I quiz them, like I am a tiny little lamb that has escaped from Butterfield Acres and has just gleefully scampered into the bus lane on 12th Avenue during rush hour. Apparently I need some serious protecting from the perils of the big city living. Yet I know that it can’t all be anonymous meet up sex between consenting strangers, because my clients tell me ALL OF THE THINGS about their dating highs and lows, and a good many of them use Tinder, and other similar apps to actually go on romantic dates with a view to finding long term relationship —true love, even (what!??) And then there is my actual sister in Arizona, who met the love of her life on Tinder. It was her first time and his first time. So please join me in an “awwwwww”. Right!? Two Tinder virgins in holy union.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not passing judgment on drive-through sex. We live in an age of convenience and for some this is an empowered expression of their sexuality; fun and frivolous, adventurous, a choice for pleasure that does not require emotional involvement they are not ready for. So kudos to them.
But for the other little lambs out there, I have learned some things about Tindering in my travels, that may help your modern online search for love feel a little less like being led to slaughter.
What could go wrong with this system devised by a handful of technology geeks in their “basement” those few years before they became gazillionaires, you ask me?
Well my pets, let me share with you the most common online dating pitfalls I encounter in my quest to help clients create healthier relationships!
Fakers. This one always surprises me. Because we all know that when s/he sees you in person, s/he will know that you’re not actually Brad Pitt, that you are really 5’4”, that the picture was from that time you went on the Atkins diet and “baconed” your way into one month of being super skinny. And while you may LOVE how you looked when you had hair, the fact that you don’t now is relevant on an app designed to match via instant markers of attraction!!! If you are a “faker”, listen, you are not less than your picture or your former self, or even Brad Pitt! You have amazing things to offer, but that brooding bad ass with a little boy inside, packaged by perfect tousled hair and a sinewy jawline? Well that’s his gift not yours, so stick to offering yours. If you don’t fit into your high school jeans anymore, THAT IS OKAY! You are still somebody’s hot mama, and you know what, I love you, so use a picture from this decade. OR don’t use a picture based, image-based app. There are other options.
Avoiders. Sometimes good people get stuck in unhealthy relationships, or confusing relationships. Or a million iterations of “it’s complicated”. They have wandering eyes, because maybe their eyes have not made a commitment, or want out of a commitment. Tinder, turns out, is a great place to “wander” without having to commit to uncommitting from whatever else you have going on. Which is fine. No judgment from me. But if you are looking for love, well you don’t want to be taking it personally if Mister or Miss Right wants a lifetime of light flirtation or chit chat but never wants to leave the drawing board, or the living room, or the dating app. It’s not about you.
Wallflowers. This also happens. Smart, confident, funny, engaging wonderful humans, who are really intimidated by having other wonderful humans in their physical space, close enough to touch them or breathe their air, or study their facial expressions as they talk, or hover over them, or evaluate them. For some this is absolutely excruciating, and without the safety of a phone they can hold far away from their face, or turn off at the small touch of a screen, they cannot come out of their discomfort. And so face to face Mr. or Ms. Congeniality becomes the quiet librarian, which is fine for the librarian lover, but less so for the guy or gal who was swept away by wit and charm that has now been extinguished by a slight wind. I mean I am not saying your Wallflower doesn’t warrant some TLC to get them feeling confident, but it’s a frustration for some and a deal breaker for others.
Long Distancers. And this happens. People fall in love. They fall in love with a voice, with a story, with some lovely images on a screen that may be actual real, recent enough, legit photos. They share, they confide, they have late night chats, after all, in the online age, why limit yourself to your boring stupid city with boring stupid crowds that you have met a thousand boring stupid times? Why not fall in love with a foreigner, because I don’t know about you, but Italy can’t come too soon for me?!! If we’re gonna look for romance through the interwebs, we might as well GO BIG! Carpe diem, viva la resistance, YOLO!!! The TRICK here, is that there are invisible gaps in a virtual connection, that YOUR mind, YOUR brain, YOUR history, YOUR emotional experience fills in. Without realizing it, YOU are creating a work of art, and sometimes you are falling in love with an invention. Am I saying it can’t work out ever? No, I am not. But I am saying that you can fall head over heels into a love that cannot sustain itself in physical proximity. I’ve seen it happen. Remember that scene in You’ve Got Mail, when Tom Hanks says “Kevin, this woman is the most adorable creature I’ve ever been in contact with, and if she turns out even to be as good-looking as a mailbox, I’d be crazy not to turn my life upside down and marry her”? Well, it’s not always that easy, and it’s not always about looks. It’s a thousand other cues that relate a person to you, that inevitably you will fill in, unconsciously, and may not translate when you are sitting side by side, in real time. And this can feel like a loss. There is your paramour. Only they are stand-in. Because the real new love of your life exists only in your head and that’s not going to keep you or your cats warm at night.
Predators. Shortly and sweetly, tell someone where you’re going, even if it’s me (you know if you’re afraid of being judged). Don’t take candy from strangers, wear all the condoms and pour your own drinks. At least in the beginning. Once you’re married take all the candy and drinks you can get.
AND BEWARE!!! Serial Tinderers & Ghosters. I am SO SORRY that this one happens. This is where most of my sad stricken clients come crying to me, and looking for my help. There are a lot of folks out there who are not emotionally healthy and ready for a relationship. They want it. Sometimes more than anything. But they have unresolved pain and unresolved histories, and they are AFRAID OF INTIMACY. Not sex, per se, though sometimes that too. And so they dive right in, head over foot, and they talk to you for hours and you have so much in common, and you open up your heart, and you let yourself be vulnerable and you meet their German Sheppard and they meet your Miniature Daschund, and you talk about the future, and you dream, dreamy little thoughts about changing your relationship status on Facebook and buying an Ikea lamp together, and then BAM, one cold morning over your Vente Skinny Latte with 8 pumps of caramel, you find yourself waiting a little too long for a response to your text. And then it’s over. The slow ghost. The hard ghost. This one hurts friends. The latte doesn’t taste good anymore. The world is clouded with a thick fog of confusion. And underlying your 9,999 attempts to replay the thing and figure out where it all went wrong (did you imagine the harps playing? But what about that thing they said while staring deep into your soul that involved the word feelings? You met the dog!!!) —underlying ALL of that painful overthinking, you are just sad. Sometimes, heartbreakingly sad. And they start all over again, repeating the falling-in part, without ever, ever buying the lamp.
So how do you protect yourself from this one? Should you stay home and play solitaire, with real cards and never go near a computer again?
I WANT YOU TO TAKE RISKS AND BE VULNERABLE AND FIND AND KEEP LOVE ALIVE. Hell I even want you to have all the fun distraction of swiping shenanigans. But when this kinda stuff is happening, it will be so much less painful if you are aware. If you’re looking for love on Tinder, use an emotional condom.
I am saying don’t put all your eggs in the Tinder basket or you may get a Tinder Surprise.
It’s okay to pace yourself.
It’s better to connect in person —it’s a meeting app, not a get ready for engagement app.
It’s important to deal with your shit, or get some help to deal with your shit. That infatuation high is amazing, but is no substitute for basic emotional health, inner worth, and self esteem, many of which need some tweaking and rebuilding after a previous break up. And if those areas have fault lines, you are more likely to crash and crash hard when something doesn’t go the way of the great white wedding. In any given week I talk to a lot of clients about their dating and relationship experiences and foibles, I support many a man and woman through the business of creating relationship; from gluing back together the splintered shards of the heart that just got smashed, to negotiating their insane impulses to block and delete, hire a PI, or send the tenth drunk text in a row declaring their love while asking if the ex was “a better lover”, again. You can get some coaching help, so that you aren’t choosing crazy, or bringing it to the table. Because I get you, and all of the things you have done. And your secrets are safe with me.
It’s your future, your heart, your happy, and that’s worth a super-like premium blue star to me.
— Love, Erin.
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