“Jeff just liked you. Send him a note.”
I open this email and look at his picture. I like the color of his olive skin. It stirs my interest to read his profile. “Kayaking, coffee shops, days out with his daughter, hiking, looking for something serious. Love to travel and would like to have you with me?” I see a picture of him and his daughter, she is cute and he looks tender. He reports to share my faith and likes drama movies too. So I click the pink heart.
He asks me how I’m doing.
I tell him.
He wonders if I’d like to have coffee.
We have a good conversation, he leans in for a kiss after walking me to my car.
I’ve just opened my time, energy, heart and lips to a complete stranger and after we say goodbye there is a 50/50 chance that I’ll see him again. And this, my friends, has become a common experience in modern dating.
With many people using online dating to find a relationship, it can be a lot of pressure to figure out if someone is for you from a profile and a 60-90 minute visit. If you were to meet someone in the workplace or at an acting class every week, you’d have the chance to observe how a person interacts with his cube mate or how they express their creativity, without necessarily sizing them up for romantic potential right away. Maybe you’d have a few conversations with them over time and sense romantic tension building. The question of whether or not you’d go out with them may be a slow build towards that moment when he nervously asks you at the water fountain if you’d like to continue talking over dinner Friday evening.
I think online dating can be a great tool for finding a relationship, but the nature of it tends to speed things up. So if your goal is to create a lasting relationship, built on a good foundation, then one tip I’d give is to find ways that you can “slow things down” and mimic some of the real life dynamics that have been happening for centuries in offline dating.
Here are five ideas for how this could look:
1. Avoid Stream of Conscious Texting - If you met online and exchanged numbers, it can sometimes be easy to start an ongoing chain of texting with this person throughout the day. So you can end up giving a large chunk of your concentration and energy to someone who hasn’t yet proved to you they’re worthy of your time. You can always get back to him later. Let them wait for an answer. Or tell them you only like texting to firm up plans. Everyone has their texting style, but consider avoiding on-going texting.
2. Spread out Your Dates (especially at the beginning) If you have a full life, this one will probably happen naturally. But if your weekend happens to be wide open on the Friday you meet, consider waiting a while to meet again. Give yourself sometime to feel into how you felt with the person. Give them space to contact you again, so that you can really gauge what their interest level is when you’re not around.
3. Do Different Kinds of Dates and Sometimes Include Others As you know it’s good to get to know a person in a variety of settings; out kayaking together, watching them give a presentation, going out with their friend group, visiting your grandma, a walk on the beach. etc. Mix it up and see if the the way they interact with you is consistent with how they treat others. Anyone can put on an act to treat you well if the two of you are always alone watching Netflix.
4. Choose a Person Who Has Their Own Life Too If you or the guy you’re dating is always available because they are still looking for a job or they have very few outside interests, it can be hard to slow things down. This happens because if nothing else in your life is making you “light up!” then it can be very easy at the beginning of a relationship to want to be around this person all the time, because the attraction to them makes you feel alive. Be filling your life with things that light you up and find a person who does that in their own life too.
5. Communicate Your Boundaries When you know what will or won’t work for you in the dating process, especially early on, it can grow attraction with the right person and it can filter out those who aren’t for you. As you communicate what time you are available until, how much you will or won’t talk about your Ex, or what your physical boundaries are—that person is getting to know the real you and you are setting a precedent for your own value in the relationship.
The reason I believe there are advantages to slowing down the dating process, is that I’ve seen many relationships go South when they started fast and furious. In the heat of physical attractions our brains tend to go offline. In not communicating our boundaries in an effort to be easy to be with, people take advantage. Those who are seeking a relationship, right NOW!, are often coming from a more desperate place—-maybe struggling with co-dependency, trying to forget an ex, or wrestling with addictions. So with a slower build towards something serious and lasting, you are more likely to rule out those who won’t respect you and vet those who are able to sustain a relationship for the long haul.
If you’re at the beginning stages of dating right now—consider taking a few actions to slow things down—and meanwhile keep focusing on your own life. Let me know how it goes!
If you struggle to slow things down or would like support navigating any stage of your relationship journey, reach out here for a complimentary session where I’m happy to support you with an outside perspective and new insights for the process.