Question: With COVID I find myself relying on dating apps more and more.
I’m serious about finding a relationship and make a lot of effort with matches, but don’t find I get the same effort in return. Can you help?
Answer: Dear reader, you echo the voices of many folk who talk to me. They are putting themselves out there on dating apps and finding it difficult to meet people who are also looking for something serious.
COVID has definitely driven more people online — and given so many folk are now using dating apps, the way they are being used is also changing.
It was once a place for folk who were seriously looking for relationships, and it was also very stigmatised.
The apps are now ubiquitous and the stigma has fallen away.
As the user population swells (as with any online community) it can become a victim of its own success.
The quality of the pool is watered down as there are people who are looking for distraction, looking for validation, some ‘harmless’ flirting, or simply sex or friends with benefits.
There is nothing wrong with any of this, it just makes the process of finding people looking for serious relationships a little trickier as there is more to wade through.
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The first thing I would recommend is to hold lightly. So many people grab onto contacts and want to start engaging at a rapid rate.
Remember, not everyone has the same amount of time or interest to spend on dating apps — some folk have quite busy lives and may just pop on from time to time.
Others may simply want to take things very slowly.
Then there are those who may be holding many conversations simultaneously.
The thing is, you won’t know any of this until you take the time to get to know the person better.
Step away from your assumptions. Not everyone will be your “one true love” and not everyone will treat you poorly either.
When we jump to conclusions that is when the anguish starts.
Approach everything with curiosity and keep coming back to your intent.
Work out what you’re looking for
If you want to find a serious relationship, have you taken the time to think about the type of relationship you seek?
What are the benefits of being in a relationship?
Knowing what you’re looking for means you’ll recognise it when you find it.
Thinking about it is also a way of manifesting — suddenly the things you seek are front of mind and you will be more aware of them.
Kind of like when you are shopping for a big-ticket item like a car, and suddenly you start noticing all the cars around. You start thinking about them in terms of the criteria that you have.
This strategy can help you be more discerning in who you give your energy to online.
Online dating has some limitations; it is two-dimensional. You can’t pick up on people’s energy or smell (those all-important pheromones which determine chemistry).
So, it will only ever make a good starting point.
And whether we like it or not, we have to accept that anonymity breeds bad behaviour.
People feel less accountable and often don’t remember that manners are required online as well as in person.
It’s not OK to treat people poorly, make lewd comments or constantly steer the conversation towards sex.
If this is you, don’t do it!
If you are experiencing this, you can set a boundary and if that doesn’t work the block button can come in handy.
You don’t need that kind of energy.
Also, no matter how interested you are, people don’t owe you a reply.
Don’t automatically assume you did something wrong. It’s more likely the level of engagement at the other end — disappointing but it’s on them.
We have to realise that not all folk using dating apps will be looking for a serious relationship.
Many folk will pick them up and have a flick through as if they were leafing through a magazine.
What it means is the serious folk will need to work a little harder to sort through their matches, hold their boundaries firmly and keep reminding themselves what they are looking for.
Take care of yourself
It can be exhausting navigating dating apps, so take regular breaks from dating. Dip in and out.
Best to step out for a while than to become jaded and cynical — those lenses rarely attract the people we want.
And lastly, if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t! Listen to your body: it will be telling you if things are not good. For example, those gut feels and tension.
Pay attention to red flags.
Remember you are worthy of the partner that you seek.
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