About a month and a half ago, I did something I said I would never do again.
I signed up for a dating website.
I said I would never do it again because the first time (about five years ago) I signed up out of my ire towards a certain boy. Actually, I said I signed up because I wanted to meet people and put myself out there, but really it was because I was angry at the boy I was head-over-heals for because he wasn't head-over-heals for me. So I decided I would meet someone who was head-over-heals for me, making the first boy jealous and eventually stomping on the heart of the second boy because I still had it bad for the first boy. All and all, not a good reason to be on a dating website.
I also said I would never website date again because it is such a strange process. You're matched with a guy and start exchanging emails--emails with personal details you wouldn't normally share with a stranger, but you've been seduced by the informality of the medium and you've forgotten how to filter appropriately. You never know who is being honest with you and you find yourself wondering if you are being honest yourself. And then you start psyching yourself out, over analysing how fantastic this guy seems to be, but then wondering what if there's a more fantastic guy you're missing out on because you're spending so much time on this guy. It's like being at a really fabulous buffet (and we're not talking Furr's here, but a high end, entree's prepared to you're liking of every possible cuisine kind of buffet). You can pile you're plate super high and try it all. Or you can pick and choose and then second guess yourself and wish you'd gotten that instead of this and be jealous of your neighbor's plate.
It's all strangely confusing and is a difficult world to navigate. That's why I said I would never do it again, but then I did.
To be honest with you, I can't really tell you why I did. I can't really tell you what drove me to the point of actually getting on the website, typing in my personal details and, tra, paying the fee.
I'd had a few casual conversations with friends about it. Some who had tried it. Some who hadn't. Some who had met their significant other through the medium. Some who saw it as an abysmal failure. And I don't know, I guess one day I just thought, What the heck, might as well.
I know going into it this time around I have different expectations--no thoughts of revenge, anger or jealousy for sure. But actually, I don't really have many expectations at all. If I meet someone and it goes somewhere, awesome. If I make a few friends out of the deal, awesome. If nothing comes of it, well, that's awesome too.
I think this time around, I am much more confident in the person God created me to be. I know I'm a catch. I know together or single, God still has an amazing plan for my life. I know I don't need to be in a relationship to be any more complete. I know I don't need to be single to be any more fulfilled.
And I think knowing those things is helping me be much more objective in how I approach the single and dating on a website thing. I don't have to feel guilty for turning down a guy. I don't have to feel ashamed when a guy doesn't show mutual interest in me. I don't have to analyze my every action trying to explain why all the sudden he stopped emailing. And I don't feel the need to market myself as the potential perfect mate.
And it's reassuring to know along with the jerks out there, there are a lot of pretty amazing men as well.
I wish I could tell you I've figured out the perfect system for navigating the online dating world. I have not. I still find it completely and utterly confusing most days. But for those of you out there thinking you might want to give it a try, here's my advice:
Work on being comfortable with who you are first. If you are not okay with you and confident in who God has created you to be, a dating website is the last place you need to be. The dating world is harsh as it is, but I find the online dating world to be even harsher. Rejection and criticism is frequent and blunt. If you can't deal with it and if you're going to sit around over-analyzing why he or she is just not that into you, you don't need to be on a dating website right now. Be comfortable with you first. Then when you're rejected by a complete stranger who really hardly knows anything about you, it won't hurt so much (or hopefully at all).
Drop your expectations. Don't go into it expecting to find your future husband or wife. All of my friends who have found their life partner through an online dating experience all tell me they didn't expect to do so. They went in simply wanting to meet people and to broaden their dating experience. Examine your motives and make sure you're on the site for the right reasons. The pressure to find "the one" can run really high on these sites. If you don't find "the one", it's ok. You are going to be ok.
Don't feel guilty for saying no or be afraid of hurting the other person's feelings. If there's no spark for you, if you don't find what the other person says interesting, if you don't like the way the other person comes off--be honest and say so from the beginning. Really you're just wasting both their time and your time. You know in the back of your mind it is not going to go anywhere, and you're not doing this to settle for maybe okay.
Don't feel guilty for saying no, but give the guy/gal a chance. Sometimes you can tell pretty immediately reading a profile it won't work out. But if you're not sure, give it a few emails before you say no. If they emailed you first, give them the chance to prove to you why there might be something there. But again, don't lead anybody on. When you know it's a fail, say so.
Sensor yourself. Ask yourself, if I was talking to them in person, would I say this or that? If you wouldn't say it in person, then never, ever say it over an email. You might come off as being more flirtatious or aggressive or whatever than you actually are. Remember, this person is a stranger, they don't need to know the intimate details of your life. And watch your mood. If you're feeling a little blue, a little angry, a little anxious, probably not a good time to be emailing a potential date.
I can't tell you right now whether I recommend internet dating or not. This time around, I'm enjoying the process, but again, I think I'm enjoying it because I am much more ok with myself than I was the first time and I have way fewer expectations.
What about you? Any advice for the potential internet dater? Any stories? Please share in the comments below.