By Shari Lash
Congratulations to all the happy couples who’ve met online. For the rest of us who are still swimming in the pond, looking for love, keep reading. If you’re like me, and your search repeatedly turns up lacking, your optimism has probably gone south. When disappointment, and even astonishment, begins to erode your healthy spirit of curiosity, you probably have dating fatigue and it’s time for a break to reboot your enthusiasm.
We all know what it’s like to meet someone who dashes even our meekest expectations. Tons of stories could fill a warehouse: your date looks nothing like their picture; they disappeared without a trace after days, sometimes weeks, of hopeful communication; they didn’t stop talking about themself, or arguing with you, or complaining about an ex-partner. Maybe they showed up in sweat pants, or didn’t show up at all. Sometimes you hit it lucky but after a few dates the connection falls flat and you’re back where you started. The Internet is an arena where there are no rules. Singles sites serve up a virtual buffet of choices, often reducing what should be a thoughtful exercise in discovery to a contest of attractiveness and income potential. The selection process has become a sampling party for fickle palettes and short attention spans. We are attracted to the variety but before long we’re hungry for something more substantial.
When my response strategy entails “strange, delete, block”, more often than not, that’s when I know being seen in the arena has become more than I can handle. It’s time to break up with online dating. If what I’m saying resonates, trust me when I say hide your profile and take a hiatus. Reflect, recharge, and reset your compass. Instead of focusing on the lack of appropriate, “normal” partners for you out there, focus on the kinder and more empowering reality that you are enough, just as you are. There is nothing you need to do except take yourself offline and try the following:
- Say to yourself, “I am enough”. Especially when someone, for whatever reason, didn’t write back or respond to you. You don’t need to be anything different than what you currently are. When I’m feeling scrutinized primarily on my looks, age, whether I have or want children, and my income, it’s tempting to minimize my worth based on those things. I feel insulted when someone inappropriate contacts me, who clearly hasn’t read my profile, and especially vulnerable when I’m attracted to someone who ignores or dismisses me. Being enough is based on the premise that you are solid about how awesome you are, regardless of how others think or behave.
- Focus on the positive. Another way to rehabilitate your optimism after an unsuccessful run on a dating website is to reflect on what actually worked. Did you have pictures posted that authentically represented you with a well-written profile? If the answer is yes, good for you! You’re worthy of an equally thoughtful match. On your dates, did you discover a great place to go that you would return to with a friend? Did you enjoy the company for an hour even if a second date was never to be? Did you feel good in your own skin when you met up with your dates? I believe that no time is wasted. Neutralize your negativity. Unless there was an issue of safety, the bad stuff will be forgotten.
- Cultivate “kindsight”. In remembering your disappointing experiences do you ask yourself the disparaging question, “What was I thinking!?” If so, try on the kinder question, “What was I learning?” We’ve all made choices that we regret. We’ve all spent time with the wrong person wishing for more. We’ve all spent money foolishly. Forgive yourself and move on.
- Befriend your vulnerability. Deciding to take a break from online dating is usually preceded by frustration and discouragement. Putting yourself out there is sensitive business. Celebrate your open heartedness even if you feel a bit bruised up. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself for enduring unwanted attention and fruitless dates. Even when you have liked someone without them liking you in return, you probably learned and clarified more of what you do want and what you’re not willing to do without.
- Trust timing. If you’re taking a break because nothing has “stuck”, perhaps there’s a reason for that. Maybe it just isn’t the right time for you. Reflect on that. Maybe you’re not really ready to launch into a new relationship. Ask yourself honestly, “What do I really want?” Is it someone else, or is it something else? What do I really need to be doing and where should I be focusing my energy?
Remember, taking a break does not mean giving up. While you may be flying solo for a while, take the time to strengthen your wings. Reconsider your destination and cultivate a more positive attitude regardless of the outcome. When you’ve found wholeness you will radiate wholeness. When you radiate wholeness, everyone you come in contact with will benefit. Like attracts like, and sometimes it can even happen online. Just hold on, clear the cache, be patient and rejoice in your magnificent, awesome self. Someone will mirror that back to you when you least expect it and at just the right time.
Shari Lash is the owner of WholeSTEP. She is a writer specializing in authentic bios and profiles and a workshop designer/leader focusing on self-compassion and transition. She can be reached at email@example.com