Hard Truths – A dating primer…

“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality”-      Ayn Rand

So you want to dip your toe in the dating pool and, perhaps, find a potential partner.  I recently re-learned the hard lesson that your success and eventual happiness (should you find a partner) are contingent upon being very honest with yourself and others.  Above all, if you are a grown-ass adult or even middle-aged (as is your fearless scribe) it’s imperative, before starting, that you ask yourself some hard questions.   What are you honestly looking for in a relationship?  What do you look for, or prioritize in a potential partner?  What are “deal-breakers” for you in a potential relationship?  Do you have good, realistic idea of how others perceive you?  Are you self-aware and do you know your strengths and weaknesses? Are you, above all, happy with the life you have created for yourself?

A cautionary tale:  About 8 months ago I created a profile on 2 major dating sites because I felt some ill-defined  need to put myself out there.  My last semi-serious relationship had ended a few years ago and the last of the ancillary “non-serious” relationship opportunities (read between the lines, folks) had dried up over a year prior.  I had been stuck in that familiar Covid rut of working long hours and spending any remaining time I had attending to my kids’ needs.  I hadn’t even had much time to train for powerlifting, which is essential to my physical and mental well-being.  The problem was I thought to myself, hey, on paper,  I should really clean up in this dating thing as  I’ve got a good job, I’m not bad looking, I’ve got tons of interests and I’m not in some unclear relationship status.

So I created two really half-assed profiles and uploaded (only one) photo of me from the summer before the Pandemic.  Yes, you heard me, it wasn’t an old picture, but it certainly wasn’t up to date.  (Dating site veterans probably already see where this is going) As I began to surf the sites I realized very quickly that things had changed since the last time I was on dating sites (about 10 years ago).  For one, there are a ridiculous amount of fake profiles which made trying to find a real profile an absolute chore. And people had, for the most part, lost their sense of humor, at least in my age bracket.  A good 85% percent of women seem to have “No ONS, No drunks, No Liars, etc” in bold in their profiles, as if that incantation somehow magically repels lying, drunk ONS aficianados. All that tells me as the reader is that this person has made some questionable relationship decisions in the recent past.  We all have done so, of course, but it’s probably best to not advertise it to the internet.  Additionally, many profiles read like a laundry of non-negotiable demands which is both good and bad.  One needs to know what one wants but one should also be realistic.  I know, for example, that I really want a McClaren P1, but the reality is that I can’t afford one right now.  I will remain a gentleman and not comment of relative attractiveness of some of the women who posted the “No ONS!!! Must be 1m80 minimum and own a Formula 1 racing team” type of profiles.  And yes, I know from female friends that a large portion of men posting on these sites seem to be demanding hairy bridge trolls, so it’s not a gender exclusive thing.

So, to recap, I posted half-assed, not entirely up to date profiles and when I logged in I noticed a distinct negative vibe in the majority of posts.  I therefore wasn’t providing much motivation for women to swipe right, and I wasn’t inspired by the vast majority of profiles I saw either.  Weird, I thought, I don’t remember it being like this.  10 years ago I posted a profile on 1 dating site.  While my profile wasn’t awesome, I was uber-motivated.  I became pretty good at “cyber chats” and transitioning over to real dates…and I met a lot of women.  I had some great dates(and a few relationships), a lot of average dates, some stinkers and some really weird ones.  I remained on the site for about 3 years total and it was a positive experience.  I was motivated, I knew what I wanted and was up front with the women I eventually dated.  (I was also in pretty good shape at the time, for what it’s worth)

This time, though, I wasn’t that motivated.  I guess I expected women, the right women,  to fall magically into my lap due to my killer (ha) profile and obvious charm when they met me.  Also, honestly, there wasn’t much for me to be motivated about, as I slogged through endless fake profiles and/or profiles from women who seemed to have ongoing life issues.  Nevertheless, I did swipe right on some profiles and managed to go on a number of dates.  The results were underwhelming.  The outcomes fell into 3 categories – A Yes from me, but a No from the lady, A No from me but a Yes from the lady and finally a Yes from both parties but after a few dates nothing got off the ground.  Let’s examine why:

Firstly, the issue was me.  I lacked self-awareness.  I posted a picture that was not quite a year old but I should have taken a realistic look in the mirror.  After many exhausting months of working from home, I had gained weight, there were bags under my eyes and my hair had gotten grayer.  So I wasn’t exactly the guy in the photo, a big strike one.  Also, while I feel I was relatively comfortable in my skin and was able to facilitate conversation, etc I was no where near as motivated as before.  I didn’t have that spark.  Some of the women I had initial hiking or coffee dates with were quite attractive.  (Hard truth #1 – Men prioritize physical attractiveness above all.  It’s important to women too, but more as part of an overall package. That’s just how it is.  The more attractive you are, the higher your “market place” value is).  These women obviously thought “I can do better”.  One of these women actually told me that I looked older and fatter than the picture and she could do better.  She didn’t say it in the spirit of refreshing honesty, shall we say, but I stopped taking things like that personally about 10 years ago.  It was feedback about my profile ,and I learned something useful about her.  (Hard truth #2 – if you can’t take feedback, you’ve got no business dating.  You are putting yourself out there so it will be unavoidable.  Not everyone will be nice or constructive but you should have a healthy enough ego to put things into perpective.  This does not mean, however,  that you should ever accept rude behavior.)

The second issue was, well, with them.  A large number of women showed up looking almost nothing like their pictures.  I’m talking about pictures that were obviously many years old.  See above – this a not a great strategy because it quickly becomes the elephant in the room.  You know that I know that you look a lot older than I thought.  I should say, nonetheless, that some of these women were still attractive.  So the next very important criteria I look for is a) is this person normal (i.e. not visibly a nut-case) and b) relatively fun to be with.  That somebody showed up looking different from their pictures wasn’t a complete deal-breaker.  However, if they then rattled on for ages about how life is difficult and her ex-husband is pyscho, it was hard No.  So after the requisite 20 minutes of coffee and chatting, I would thank them for their time and move off into the sunset.  (Internet dating pro tip – never, ever met for a meal on a first date.  If things end up being awkward (or worse) you are literally stuck).

The third issue was, I guess, with us both.  In a few cases we ticked each others boxes and dated casually for a time. These fell into two categories – Succesful women with careers and kids and less successful women with kids.  I am relatively succesful in my career thus had more in common with first category than the second.  The problem with the first category is that because of our responsibilities we couldn’t prioritize dating – and this was only exacerbated by Covid lockdowns.  Typically there would be weeks between dates.  So things would invariably fizzle out.  The less successful women would often not understand the pressures and responsibilites I have so, in their eyes, I seemed to prioritize work over them.  Which, of course, I was doing especially since it was early days.  Eventually we’d both tire of that conversation so things would again fizzle out.

Something, I realized, was amiss.  I wasn’t presenting my best self and my lifestyle was not amenable to dating.  I realized that in spite of my “on paper” worth that I am currently unhappy with aspects of my life.  During the last several years, like many of you, I’ve been in a continuous “live to work” mode and as a result relationships with family and friends suffered and I had allowed my physical and mental well-being to deteriorate.  It is a problem and, as such, should be closely examined to identify options and possible solutions.  I had tried ignoring it for a few years but that clearly doesn’t work – it never works.  So right now I’m asking myself the tough questions – who am I, what do I value, what do I want to do right now, in 5 years and in 10 years?  What are the best strategies to achieve these goals?

This leads me to Hard truth # 3 – If you’re unhappy with your life and haven’t created the life you deserve, you shouldn’t be on a dating site or even thinking about relationships. Put yourself first, find your purpose, make a plan & achieve excellence. Your life depends on it. Everything else is secondary.  You are not responsible for your partner’s happiness and they are not responsible for yours.  If you concentrate on your excellence you will not only be happier but eventually more attractive in the eyes of others.  If letting life happen to you is a viscious cycle, taking responsibilty for your happiness is a virtuous circle.

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