I started online dating in my late 30s. I was a single parent desperate for love and a normal family after years of abuse and unhealthy relationships.
I used a free dating site with a reputation for being sleazy and full of people just wanting to hook up as I couldn’t afford a paid one. It was worth a try as there was little chance of me meeting anyone any other way.
I signed up with nervous anticipation, put my best photos up and tried to describe myself as best I could. There were no pretences or persuasive paragraphs. I still don’t understand why people use filtered, photo-shopped images and lie or exaggerate on their profiles. What’s the point? Don’t you want to meet someone who likes the real you? And surely they’ll realise that your photos aren’t the real deal when you meet up, and they don’t recognise you!
I was looking for long-term, so keeping it real was essential.
The initial flurry of likes and messages came in, which boosted my confidence. Maybe I am attractive and desirable!
Your first few days or weeks on a dating site are always new and exciting. And then the roller coaster ride starts.
The Rollercoaster Ride
Some people are just rude.
Online dating sites are full of people that put others down to feel better about themselves. I got a message from someone much younger than me, so I replied, saying thanks for messaging me; I’m flattered but looking for someone a bit older. He immediately replied, telling me I was too old for him anyway and I should feel lucky I was getting attention from someone so young. Ermmm, you messaged me first, you dick, and by the way, us older women aren’t as desperate as you are for a shag.
Then you get those who just want dirty talk, pictures and sex.
Some even send you photos of their erections without you asking for them — how generous of them! Sorry guys, whilst your member gives me pleasure in certain circumstances, I do not find them visually attractive. They can look quite menacing and will not make me want to meet up with you or have sex with you.
Occasionally you get someone who can hold a normal conversation.
You start to feel a sliver of hope filter in. This is promising! You repeatedly look at their photos, trying to overcome those little icks you notice. After all, it’s not all about looks. If it were, I would have met up with some of those who sent me dick pics.
Some conversations can go on for weeks, even months, with no sign of arranging a meet-up. I initially saw this as someone trying to keep it slow and wait until I felt comfortable. But there’s slow, and then there’s grinding to a halt.
I would chat with quite a few people at the same time and would have to remind myself of our ongoing conversations to make sure I didn’t get people confused. But as soon as I decided to meet up with someone, I would stop putting myself about online and never arrange to meet two people at the same time.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with multiple dates. After all, you’re just meeting to see if there’s a connection. It just wasn’t for me.
The excitement and online connection builds, and you hope that when you meet, there’s some sort of spark.
You meet up, and it goes one of three ways.
Common Dating Scenarios
Not for me.
He’s nothing like his pictures. There’s no attraction. He makes me feel uncomfortable, he’s rude, or he’s not over his ex.
I went out for a meal with a guy. It was a nice meal, and we paid half each.
At the end of the evening, we said our goodbyes, he drove off, and then I sent that “end” text — “I’m sorry, but I don’t think it will work out between us”.
The reply was — “I knew you weren’t into me at the beginning. You just wanted a free meal. Why didn’t you just say something at the beginning instead of stringing me along”.
What?! I paid for half, so where was the free meal? And aren’t first dates about getting to know each other to see if there’s any potential? I don’t class that as stringing someone along.
He then had to be blocked as he became abusive. Phew, lucky escape.
Typically, thoughts of “what’s the point” and “it’s not worth it” follow dates with these people.
Of course, there’s the odd strong physical attraction. Lust takes over. You deal with that and then realise there’s not much else to him apart from that gorgeous face, body and aftershave. Someone else may find something other than that, but you can’t see it.
You may even meet up a few more times, but it remains just a physical thing. This obviously won’t work long-term, and not when you’re a single parent to two kids and rarely get a night to yourself.
Some people are happy with this; if that’s you, go sow your seed. I certainly did for a couple of years. I was a late bloomer sexually, and my late 30s will always be known as my “slapper” years!
I enjoyed the sex but always felt a bit disappointed when it became clear that was all they wanted from me.
I would feel used and unlovable, so I would decide to only chat with people that made it clear they wanted a long-term, committed relationship.
Then there are the ones you meet up with, and you’re unsure, so you continue getting to know them.
I found these were the ones that built my hopes up the most.
It normally happens when they like you more than you like them, so they’re on their best behaviour trying to impress you.
There are a couple of niggles, but you’re willing to overlook them to pursue the relationship you’re desperate for.
Eventually, those niggles can no longer be overlooked, or their best behaviour drops and you realise it’s not going anywhere.
This is when the big dip comes, and you lose all hope of finding someone.
I would always take a break at that point, work on myself and remind myself of everything I already had. But the break never lasted long because I ultimately wanted to find someone I could love and be loved by for the rest of my life.
The rollercoaster ride starts again as you make your profile active, change your bio and photos (because that’s obviously what was wrong last time) and get that first buzz of messages coming in.
There’s a Fourth Scenario
It’s difficult not to compromise when you’ve been dating for a while. It’s hard to deal with the blows of being ghosted, criticised, and stood up. The disappointment of another waste of time pushes you down.
You see other people in successful, healthy relationships and wonder what’s wrong with you. It’s particularly hard when you have been hurt badly before. All your self-doubt comes bubbling up, along with tears, frustration and anger at the unfairness of it all.
But don’t give up because a fourth situation occasionally occurs.
The success story.
This fourth way cropped up following a time of cold turkey from the dating site. I had enjoyed a few medium-term relationships, all from this dating site (ranging from 6 months to a year), but I ended all three of them. It was hard because I wanted them to work, but after years of being hurt, I was determined not to settle for anything less than something that made me feel good about myself and allowed me to be myself.
I’d been messed around by a f**kboy who dangled a carrot (metaphorically speaking, not his actual carrot) in front of me by saying he was willing to give this boyfriend/girlfriend thing a go. His exact words were, “Why not? It could be fun, and you’re cute”. So we arranged to meet to change our booty calls into actual dates. He cancelled last minute, and I’d had enough.
I decided to give up online dating and leave it to fate.
However, I hadn’t yet deleted my profile and had been sharing infrequent messages with someone. He asked to meet up, and I agreed but almost pulled out because I couldn’t deal with another disappointment. He convinced me otherwise, and we met up, both thinking if this doesn’t work out, I’m giving up on this shit.
We met in a pub, and as I walked up to him, there was some sort of click. It was a strange little physical click inside of me rather than the usual spark of lust.
Fast forward ten years and that click, I believe, was the final piece of my puzzle falling into place. We’ve been married for seven years and still going strong.
Don’t Give Up
I know it’s a rollercoaster ride, but don’t give up hope. You never know when or where that thing you’re looking for will appear. Be good to yourself, be true to yourself and don’t settle.
You may have to kiss a few frogs, wade through the dick pics and take the odd bitter comment when you decline someone’s attention, but you’ve got to keep putting yourself out there. You won’t find someone if you’re not trying. They will not come knocking at your door. Unless, of course, you fantasise about your local government candidate, postman or delivery driver!
You deserve the love you are searching for, and there’s someone somewhere waiting for you to pop up on their screen and into their dm’s.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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