In partnership with Tinder.
If you’ve been dating for a while, you’ll no doubt have experienced a rut in some shape or form. For me, the biggest sign that I’m in one is when I’m scrolling through a dating app more out of habit than genuine interest. The faces on the screen become abstract and blend into one, and attempts at witty one-liners on their profiles are more ick-inducing than seductive. It’s not because their profiles are bad or even that the quality of matches is disappointing, but a signal that my current approach to dating is no longer working for me.
When I first downloaded Tinder, I was in my second year at uni. It was 2013 and, with the app being just a year old, word of a new way to date spread through campus like wildfire. Like most people I knew, I was intrigued by the prospect of a new digital playground and signed up immediately, with nothing but an open mind and five questionable pictures to put on my profile.
“When I first downloaded Tinder, I was in my second year at uni. It was 2013 and, with the app being just a year old, word of a new way to date spread through campus like wildfire.”
Cut to nearly ten years later and somewhere down the line, between numerous matches and meet ups, flings and relationships, the relaxed curiosity I had about connecting with people had lessened. Instead, it had been replaced by pressure to match with someone who I’d fall in love with.
Even typing that feels intense and like a huge misstep. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dating intentionally and being specific about what you want, but the longevity or quality of a whole relationship is impossible to determine based on a few lines of a profile and a mutual show of interest.
The proper way to work out the possibilities of a relationship is by dating and, even then, it’s a process. It allows us to consider the various factors of how compatible we are with someone. That sounds super clinical, but it shouldn’t be – getting to know someone should be fun and exciting. Admittedly, it can be a little scary trying to figure out how someone new fits into your life, but the anxious anticipation of how it could blossom is part of the beauty.
“The proper way to work out the possibilities of a relationship is by dating and, even then, it’s a process.”
So, after a short dating hiatus, I went back on Tinder with a new outlook. I wouldn’t be frantically swiping in search of the LOML or trying to spot a life partner amongst a sea of potentials – I’d simply be seeing who looked like a decent person that I wanted to know more about. This didn’t mean I dropped all expectations and scrambled towards every and any advancement. I definitely had an idea of what I did and didn’t want and sought out matches based on that but, while doing so, I was able to distance myself from the stressful pursuit of ‘the one.’
It sounds so simple, but having such a straightforward approach was a reminder that, when it comes down to it, dating isn’t meant to be complicated. Over time, I’d formed the opinion that if a date didn’t work out it was because of something I did or it was evidence of me not being good enough in some way. In reality, dating is what happens when you meet someone, spend time together and figure out if it works or not. If it doesn’t, it’s because we aren’t aligned in some way, not because of a personal failure.
With that in mind, spending time on the app felt lighter and more enjoyable and I soon matched with someone who I was instantly curious about. He was cute, the chat was good and we met up. Our first date was one of the best ones I’ve been on in a while, which was largely because of how easy things felt. After weeks of talking, I was definitely a little nervous to finally be meeting up with him, but it surfaced as excitement rather than fear. By the end of the night, my brain was firing a million little signals declaring that I was into him. Before, this would’ve been my cue to fall back into my obsessive tendencies. But I was able to balance my excitement about seeing him again with patience to see how things would unfold.
“Our first date was one of the best ones I’ve been on in a while, which was largely because of how easy things felt.”
I did see him again and a whole lot more after that. We dated for around three months and it was pretty great. As well as things were going and as much as I was enjoying his company, I was able to avoid slipping into the pressure of immediately trying to call what would happen with us or how far things would go. Being free of that allowed me to fully enjoy the process of getting to know an interesting person and to appreciate the joy in that, which I haven’t been able to do in a long time.
When I’m in the midst of a dating rut, the disconnection from that joy and hopefulness is exactly what strips the experience of any satisfaction. Wanting to meet someone but being fed up with the process of doing so is frustrating but completely normal. In those moments, I’ve felt it so helpful to take a step back and recalibrate – trusting that when I’m ready, going back to dating with a fresh perspective will make things a lot easier.