Dating online …. What are we putting out there? Are we ignoring red flags?
As a Therapist, I work predominantly in the world of relationships, whether single or as a couple. I'm asked time and time again, Is it true We know at the beginning we just don’t know we know it? Can we know if someone is not right for us?
I believe we can.
When we explore their past and present relationships, all of the clients knew at the beginning what the difficulty was they chose to ignore it or excuse it.
They then usually ask,
Why does this keep happening?
Why do I always end up on my own or in relationships that hurt?
How many times have you asked yourself these questions? I’m sure quite a few times, particularly when your relationships seem to disintegrate in front of your eyes.
So how does it start? it starts with what we believe we want.
I ask all my clients who struggle with relationships to write a fictional profile, I ask them to attach pictures that they would be happy to add to a dating website.
Ok, so I'm going to introduce two fictional characters, Sally and Harry.
Sally background; she is in her middle 50s. she’s divorced two grown children, one at university the other flat sharing in London with friends.
She's at home on her own, has a close group of friends, most are in relationships, those that are not have said they have given up on looking.
Sally works part-time and is involved in local voluntary groups, since her divorce 8 years ago she has dated but with no success, she has been in contact with lots of different guys on a dating website but feels they are either only after sex or want to move the relationship on quite quickly or not at all, she's confused by online dating and doesn’t feel particularly confident in herself or her ability to develop relationships with men online.
Sally says she’s a kind loyal person, a little shy, but can enjoy herself. She's financially secure and wants to travel.
Sally is looking for an outgoing man, who is honest and kind and can make her laugh, he needs to be working and independent, financially.
Harry background; Harry is in the late 50s. Harry is divorced for over 25 years, has one child from that relationship, they have been estranged for some time. He lived with someone for a few years he met her quite quickly after his divorce. He has had a few relationships until his last one where he had lived with her, but it didn’t work out.
Harry wants to find someone with whom he can travel and have holidays, he works but has his own business so can choose how often and for how long.
He likes strong confident women and wants them to be financially secure and independent.
So, Harry and Sally, write their profiles, have attached their pictures and now they have seen each other and ping, they have made contact.
Ok so reading the profiles all seems good; they seem like they're a good match so this should be good.
After some messages back and forth they arrange to meet, Sally is nervous but excited. Harry is nervous also.
The following day Sally calls her friend to say he was lovely, very polite, took her to dinner paid and it was nice to chat flowed easy, he is going to text later.
Harry calls his friend to say she was lovely but won't be contacting her again, she seems too needy, she's looking for something long term and he wants fun.
So how did they both get it wrong, where did they not see that actually, they are probably not a match at all?
This may seem an innocuous dilemma particularly for Sally, who felt it was a good date, but sadly she is heading for disappointment as Harry has no intentions of contacting her.
Enough of these rejections and Sally is likely to start to feel there is something wrong with her, she may start to lower her standard to just meet someone and this is where she is likely to get into difficult relationships that could indeed become abusive.
Harry is likely to feel he is having shallow relationships and he may feel guilt and shame for not ending the relationships with respect and good grace, this could and usually does affect his self-respect and his respect for women.
If you have experienced either of these situations or can relate in some way, the good news is both situations can be avoided.
The really good news is that there is likely nothing wrong with either Sally or Harry. They just struggle to say what they want from their relationships and create boundaries that respect themselves.
Going back to their profile, they say a picture tells a thousand words, well let’s examine their pictures.
Harry loves his travel and his parties, it is clear he enjoys himself, which is amazing and must be lots of fun, nothing wrong with that.
Until you look at Sally pictures, who is a quiet woman, as Sally says a shy woman, she is in her pictures alone so it may be that she likes to travel but maybe to quieter destinations.
Sally says she wanted an outgoing man but what does that mean? Harry is seemingly outgoing.
Harry says he wants independent strong women, well Sally is independent, financially secure has her own house and is not afraid of travelling.
The problem with both profiles is they have not defined what they want, to say outgoing, independent, these are very ambiguous and it is a personal perception of what they mean.
In other words, my definition of independence is likely not to be the same as someone else's.
So the success or way forward if you are dating online no matter what your age relies on 4 things :
The first step is to check out their pictures.
If they say they are home-loving, yet they have pictures of them partying is this what you would want in your life?
Secondly, Know what you do and don’t want. Be very clear without being disrespectful or rude.
For example, if you want someone outgoing, what does outgoing mean to you? If you are quiet but are looking for someone to take you out of your shell, be clear in yourself what that means, is it going wild at a rave, or trying something new like ice skating. Both are outgoing pursuits, however, both have different kinds of personality traits.
Thirdly, if you decide they are not for you as long as they are polite and respectful to you, be the same back, treat them with respect, be kind and tell them that they are not for you, however, you wish them well. How we treat another person with regards to respect is an indication of how we respect our selves.
Fourth and probably the most important of all, do a little exercise on your values, and when you recognise them, set some boundaries so you never disrespect your boundaries.
Go and enjoy, dating online is fun, as long as you stay safe and true to yourself.
I met my husband online and he is the most wonderful person I have ever known, dating sites do work, we need to know what we are putting out there as to what we are attracting.