“I can tell you that what you’re looking for is already inside you.”
If we were going to break down the top three things we learned from Sex and the City, they’d be:
1. The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. Invest wisely.
2. Girlfriends have the ability to feel more like family than sometimes even your family feels.
3. Dating is synonymous with a new adventure around every corner; possibility and opportunity abound with each new day. A great story after every date, regardless of the date’s success.
I could not agree more enthusiastically with all of the above. When you’re a 30 something single mom living in a small town, life is less Sex and the City, and more Sex and the Country. There are fewer corners around which to find adventures, so to broaden one’s horizons, and invite the possibility of opportunity, you’ll likely turn to online dating and create the space to find adventure.
Between free apps like Bumble and Tinder (which respectively see between 3.5 and 50 million users monthly), and fee-based sites like Match.com (which boasts 12 million unique monthly visitors), online dating has officially become a thing. The stigma of connecting with a random romantic prospect online, then connecting IRL, is effectively gone.
And while some particular apps attract a certain user who shall we say likes to, “Marvin Gaye and get it on”, many legit relationships blossom out of the initial “she swiped right!” And although it still requires a certain amount of chutzpah and bravery to post photos, and describe yourself in 165 characters or less, online dating has become the norm for a lot of our generation’s singles.
I’ve had a pretty good lay of the digital dating land (pun intended) with varying degrees of success, and I’ve put together the top nine lessons I’ve learned from dating online. Maybe my hands-on experience…(oh this is too easy) will bring comfort, hope, or even courage, regardless of what your relationship status says on Facebook.
1. AUTHENTICITY IS EVERYTHING
I have a very clear defined type: the lumber sexual business hippie. You know, the very tall, broad, bearded guy who is funny, creative, and smart as hell, works downtown, but is so good with his hands (yes I did) that he just wants to go to the country and build stuff on the weekends…after brewing your Chemex and spinning the best Otis Redding album. However. Regardless of “your type,” when you meet someone who is confident in themselves, in their abilities and direction, it is so damn sexy that it transcends everything else. Someone might seem perfect in the picture or on paper, but if they’re unsure of – or worse, uncomfortable with – who they are? Hard no. It’s over.
2. PEOPLE AREN’T MEDICINE
If you are someone who feels lonely, and keeps looking to be saved or made whole by someone else, in the hopes that they’ll take that loneliness away, you need to keep getting to know and love you. Yes it ‘s nice to meet new people, and yes, it is good to explore new relationships, and new aspects of yourself; never lose sight though, of the fact that you have to love you fiercely first before anyone else can love you the way you want. Not enough people know this to be true.
3. TALK IS CHEAP
It is so easy to paint a picture of yourself to someone when you’re only having textual relations. It’s easy to convey yourself, your life, your interests one way, the way you want to be seen. But it’s completely different to present yourself the way you are. People grow, people change, people shed layers and evolve into who they want to be. I get it. Personal growth is my jam; I love it. What I don’t love, is the disparity between who someone says they are, and who they are. Show, show, don’t tell. Especially don’t tell someone what you think they want to hear, only to find out later that the you-est you is different from the person they were introduced to.
4. SEX CAN BE INCREDIBLY HEALING
Marvin Gaye was oh so right, right? We tend to overthink things and live in our heads. When we do something physical like work out, get a massage, go for a walk, get phenomenally laid…it takes us out of our head and brings us back into our body. Being able to shut off your brain for a hot minute and satisfying your needs can work out kinks (literally and figuratively) that you maybe didn’t even know you had. It’s a beautifully freeing experience to work out your s*** from wounds past, especially for women, who store emotional trauma in the vagina. When you’re with a partner you trust, lean into the physicality of just being, and the experience of healing – from the inside out.
5. I SHOULD START A SELFIE SCHOOL FOR MEN
Duuuuude, for real. Enough with the pictures of you holding up a fish, posing with your ex, sitting in your car, getting lit with your friends. Compel your future dates with your photos, and convey your personality through them. Spoiler: you might have to put some effort into – gasp – taking new pictures, maybe even professionally, maybe by a pal. Or just enroll in my upcoming selfie school for men. We’ll hook you up.
6. WE ALL JUST WANT TO BE SEEN
I think when it all boils down, all each of us wants is to feel seen, understood, and appreciated. Men and women alike. I have read so many intro blurbs and – unless they’re wildly sarcastic, bitter just beneath the lightly scratched surface, or blank – they all allude to the same thing: “I’m looking for the person who gets me.” When you’re in a relationship with someone who looks into your eyes and sees you in there, it is a beautiful and grounding feeling, and I think that’s something worth holding out for in the end.
7. DETACH YOURSELF FROM OUTCOMES
After we’ve loved, and then got hurt or disappointed by that love, our instinct can be to build the walls up so damn high that no one will ever be let in to hurt us again. However, this affects us moving forward with new partners. Similarly, when we do meet someone, it’s easy to spin out in our heads about “could this be THE ONE?” But instead of being on the extreme I suggest going in with the mindset that every person you meet has something to teach you, and you have something to teach them. A great date is a great date, and a bad date is always a great story. There is no shame in dating casually, and you are allowed to fall for someone, have it not work out, then fall for someone else. Try to ease the pressure you put on you and your date and start appreciating the moment for what it is.
8. YOUR BODY ALWAYS KNOWS
If something feels off, babe, it is. If you get a creepy vibe at all, shut it the hell down. You owe nothing to nobody, so just keep listening to what your body knows is true for you. Committing to drinks on the first date allows you to make a hasty retreat if your date seems odd or I’ll say it, boring AF. If the date starts to unfolds into something longer say if the chemistry is on point then let it be and see where the ride takes you.
9. REALIZE WHEN YOU NEED A BREAK FROM ONLINE DATING
Now and then, take a dating app break. As exciting, enriching, and just plain fun as it can be, sometimes you just need to step back for a minute and breathe; I think it’s ok to believe in the possibility that one day you’ll trip on the sidewalk, and find yourself being helped up by a tall, broad, handsome bearded man who, looks into your eyes and makes you feel like you’re home.