If you follow my Instagram stories, you will know for a few weeks I was very candid about my online dating experiences before and after posting my Single and Ready to Mingle (from the comfort of my living room) blog post. I chose stories instead of blog/static posts so I could make sure none of the men featured would see them (or if they did, I would at least know about it).
I went on five (and a half) first dates in a pretty short timeframe. The half date was from someone I knew outside of the dating space but had never spent 1:1 time with. More of a “getting to know you, not sure about dating you” hour at a bar- we paid separately, and he didn’t show any interest in giving a real date a try. Was that a date? Maybe- we will call it half of a date.
Since there were five first dates, I figured I’d summarize my month of online dating into 5 things I learned while putting myself out there for the first time after divorce.
1. Just because he is a “nice guy” and I am a “nice girl” doesn’t mean we will hit it off.
I’m happy to take food leftovers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want your leftover men. Don’t trash your previous dates and then try to set me (or another friend) up with them. When I announced that I was dating again, I had a few situations where one of my friends had either made fun of or just talked poorly about a guy they had gone on dates with (and sometimes still using as an FWB) then made the suggestion that we might hit things off. I get that I need a “different” kind of man than a lot of women. I’m uniquely me, and I’m fairly unapologetic about it. I spent years trying to be the person who was “best for my relationship” instead of the person who was “best for me” throughout my marriage. This does not mean I want to date the “nice guy” you have nothing in common with, but you’re still keeping around to sleep with sometimes. (Or that he will want to date me.)
2. I hate being interviewed, and please don’t label me as a “divorcée.”
One of the worst dates I went on wasn’t the guy who wouldn’t let me get a word in, but it was the one who made me feel like I was being interviewed. I’m an open book, I don’t dance around questions or try to craft the perfect answer. If you ask me a question, make sure you want to know the answer. I even stopped and asked someone why he wanted to know the things he was asking me about on our first date. It wasn’t that I wasn’t open to sharing, it just felt like I was going to get a performance review at the end of our conversation on my readiness to date. Both this date and the man who confessed to me being “the first divorcée he had been attracted to,” totally rubbed me the wrong way. My marriage and eventual divorce is a defining part of my story that makes me who I am today- I recognize that. It took up my entire 20’s. However, it is not my whole story and not really what I want to focus on during a first date and getting to know a new potential love interest. I didn’t separate from my marriage yesterday; I have spent the last few months redefining myself while setting my intentions, priorities, and goals for the present and future. But sure- ask away- I’m not going to hide it or dance around it. However, if you want to date me, I’m going to need you to see the woman that I’ve become since living life on my own terms after the separation.
3. For me, direct is respect. That isn’t how the rest of the world operates apparently.
I had multiple guys (even some that never made it onto my calendar) comment on how intrigued they were by my directness. I was a little self-conscious about that comment after the second guy mentioned it. I don’t know what I’m doing in the dating space, but I do know what I’m looking for in a man even though I’m a little more flexible about what my ideal relationship looks like. When I see a red flag, I’m not going to pretend to be color-blind, no matter how early it is. Apparently, this isn’t something that people do when online dating – oops.
There was one big red-flag one that I was on high alert for- a man wanting kids in the immediate future. I understand that I have a lot of life ahead of me, and my position on this topic may change as I get older, but I’ve never truly wanted children. If that changes as I get more life experience, that’s one thing. Still, I don’t see it changing in the next year or two, so it doesn’t make sense for me to start something new with a partner who only wants a relationship so they can start a family ASAP. I used to always assume that I would have kids because that is just how life goes. I was a camp counselor, early childhood education major, got married young, and I knew I would be a great mom. I’m just not interested, and the more I see how my friend’s lives have changed after having kids and the direction the world is moving in, the less interested I’ve become. So, when a guy kept sending me pictures of their nieces and nephews, I just came out and asked him about his intentions. It lead to the most real conversation with a stranger on the internet that I’ve ever had. Ultimately, he still wanted to meet me after everything as out there for both of us. I don’t want to waste my time, but I also don’t want to waste someone else’s time and have them resent me for it. The guessing game isn’t good for either party.
4. I don’t understand ghosting, but I do understand why it happens. Breaking up with someone you aren’t even in a relationship with is still hard.
I went into this not wanting to be that person that “ghosts” anybody. Getting ghosted was one of my biggest fears with dating in 2019. Since I was only playing the online dating game for a few weeks, there weren’t too many opportunities to “ghost” or “break up” with anyone. I’ll admit it, there were a few guys I may have mildly ghosted as things progressed smoothly and quickly with someone else. No one that I had met in person or had long drawn out conversations with. Or anyone who had transitioned off of the app and into text messages. Direct is respect- but when there wasn’t enough substance for me to be direct about, I just let the conversations die. It was easier. Maybe not the nicest thing, but I hope that the feeling was mutual that I was just another profile to make small talk with, and things weren’t exciting enough to pursue on their end either. (Am I an asshole for that?)
The men that I had gone on dates with got the direct response when they inquired about another date. This is where I drew the ghosting line and thought they deserved to know that while I had a good time (with most of them), things just felt more natural with someone else. I’m better focusing my time and energy on one person when it feels right.
There was one that took this news a little harder, but even he at least appreciated my directness and that I didn’t lead him on while my feelings for someone else were growing. He was also the one who was hardest for me to let go of, but it was 100% the right decision and I even wish I had done it a day or two sooner. I understand this isn’t what modern dating is all about, but I’d rather be able to say I tried, and it didn’t work out than to ruin what feels like a good thing by trying to keep my options open instead of investing in what is in front of me.
5. With the right mindset, online dating is fun.
I love meeting new people. I love seeing how people present themselves online versus how they are in person. I’m pretty good at connecting with and getting to know people online since that is literally part of my job. Because of these skills, I didn’t have a single horrible date, but I did have some that ended with the knowledge that our romantic compatibility would be weak at best. My friend told me to look at online dating as a social experiment. That mindset kept it fun. I was unapologetically myself and went in with low expectations and ready to accept the fact that I am not the woman for every man. That doesn’t make either one of us “bad,” just not the right fit. I would rather be alone than to try to change myself or my values just to keep a relationship- I wasted too much of my life doing that already.
“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.”
― Steve Goodier
I didn’t expect to find someone so quickly. I’ve become comfortable being alone and enjoy my own company. I was looking forward to at least a month or two of failed dates, lessons learned, and quality social media content. I’ve been criticized for not keeping my options open longer, but it very quickly became I didn’t want to miss out on spending time with him to see someone else. It’s just felt natural and right. I’m so new to relationships that I’m not sure if this is just how every new relationship feels or if I’ve genuinely found someone as special as this feels. I waited a long time after separating from my ex to put myself in a position to find something real, because I didn’t want to find someone I wasn’t ready for. I feel prepared for this, and he feels like what I was hoping to find.
Ultimately, even if we don’t survive beyond the “new relationship” nothing but good-vibes stage, it will have been worth it just to know how it feels to be treated right by someone who understands my energy and drive. I always feel lucky that I get to be by his side, and I’ve been loving getting to know him. I get messages every day with friends noticing my bigger smile and bright light in my eyes when I’m with him. We have had a bit of a fantasy bubble the last few weeks, with both of us having PTO for the holidays. This is the beginning of “real life” going back to our long work weeks and routines. I don’t know what to expect, and I even hesitated writing about it, being afraid to jinx it. I’m trying to keep expectations low and optimism high, because damn- I’m just happy.
Yesterday was apparently Single’s Sunday– the busiest day of the year for online dating sites. For us, it was the day we deleted our profiles after they had been ignored for the last few weeks anyway. We’ll see where it goes from here.
“Take risks! That is really what life is about. We must pursue our own happiness. Nobody has ever lived our lives; there are no guidelines. Trust your instincts. Accept nothing but the best. But then also look for it carefully. Don’t allow it to slip between your fingers. Sometimes, good things come to us in a such a quiet fashion. And nothing comes complete. It is what we make of whatever we encounter that determines the outcome. What we choose to see, what we choose to save. And what we choose to remember. Never forget that all the love in your life is there, inside you, always.”
― Linda Olsson