The Dating ‘Apocalypse’

You’ve probably heard of the “Dating Apocalypse,” and how it leaves every single person out there frustrated, confused, and discouraged. But it’s is a lie, dating is alive and well. Dating is THRIVING, which contributes to said singles’ frustration. It’s dating exclusively that’s the frustrating part , or at least in this city. And while London might be an on-steroids version of the “Dating Exclusively Apocalypse,” anywhere with apps and liberal values will be affected.

Let’s first take a look at all the reasons why the system is broken (note: this is a handy summary to share with grand/parents, colleagues, and anyone else who “can’t understand how [you’re] single!!!”. We’ll then all laugh nervously and discuss how to maintain sanity while partaking in the social experiment that is dating. in. 2017.

1. The “Paradox of Choice”
A decade ago, Psychologist Barry Schwartz gave a seminal TED talk on “The Paradox of Choice.” If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s still one of my favs. The gist: when we’re faced with too many options, we become paralyzed in our decision-making process. Should we actually make a choice, we end up feeling dissatisfied because we question whether we made the “right” one. For example, you go to buy a box of cereal and have 30 to choose from. Overwhelmed, you labor over which cereal to go home with, finally choosing the Cornflakes fifteen minutes later but stressed AF throughout the decision-making process. You get home and wonder if you should’ve chosen the Cheerios instead. The next morning you eat your bowl of Cornflakes skeptically, resentful to them for getting soggy faster or being less social at parties than you imagine a bowl of Cheerios would. And a couple days later when you pop into Tesco to pick up toothpaste (which also take 15 mins longer than it should), you pick up a box of Cheerios

Now replace “Cornflakes” with “David” and “Cheerios” with “Charles” and “the cereal aisle” with “Your relationships” and you understand the destructive effect of dating apps on commitment and satisfaction. AND imagine you could access the cereal in Germany or L.A. or Brazil as well (coughTindercough)!

Once upon a time, proximity was the primary way people met: we lived in the same building, ran in the same friend circle, or worked in the same office. Now, we not only have access to an endless supply of options in our city, we truly can date anywhere in the world. A weekend visit to Paris? Put it on points! That Aussie guy you met surfing in Bali? Skype sex!

2. Phantom daters in the online pool
If someone’s on an app, it means they’re committed to trying to find someone, right? Wrong. Apps are an emotionally unavailable person’s dream. You can titrate your vulnerability (yep, yours truly over here), seek distraction from your uncomfortable feelings, and instantly find reassurance of your desirability…then forget the app exists when you feel whole again. So for those of us who are frustrated because we don’t know where that girl we had that long talk about politics with disappeared to, or that guy we matched with who won’t respond, they’re probably still getting over their ex or are now busy with work or are seeing someone else or just aren’t that into you but wanted someone to talk to when they were feeling lonely that night.

These “phantom daters” create the intermittent reinforcement that keeps us mind-fucked and “dating defensively” (which I’ll explain shortly). We become conditioned to feel anxiety, distrust, and pessimism around dating because the “phantom dating” experience creates the illusion of connection–that inevitably unravels and leaves us a little more disconcertingly unfazed each time.

3. “Defensive Dating” out of uncertainty that actually perpetuates the cycle
The strategy is to date multiple people at once to protect oneself from the anxiety of “all your eggs in one basket” abandonment. We used to assume a mutually identified connection with someone meant things would progress. Now, because we have limitless understudies at our fingertips (literally), there’s no security in said connection; thus the defensive dating strategy diversifies our portfolios.

The problem with this strategy, though, is it perpetuates the cycle. Why? GRE refresher time! “If Megan is dating three people, and each man Megan is dating is dating two other women, how many people stand to get hurt should things progress to an exclusive place with any of the individuals involved?” And what does each rejected party take away from the experience? Anxiety, skepticism, guardedness, and… yep… more “defensive dating” as a way of navigating the minefield.

4. Other-oriented perfectionism (unrealistic expectations)
Because we’re a generation of individuals who’ve been taught to “never settle,” we’re all waiting for unicorns. We might meet someone with whom we have an amazing connection, similar values, and unbelievable sex, but their grammar isn’t perfect or they’re a terrible cook or they have an itsy-bitsy freckle next to their nose that you find suuuper distracting. Not only does this prevent deepening of the “situationship,” it has a boomerang-back-to-the-unlimited-supply-of-alternatives effect.

5. Dissolution of religion
Organized religion is so last century, and anxiety, divorce, and ambivalence about marriage are totes on-trend. Some studies actually show divorce rates are higher in Christian marriages than atheist ones, but that’s because you have to actually get married to get divorced (and atheist couples are less likely to get married than Christian ones). Religion is rarely the sole impetus to seeking an exclusive relationship, but there’s no denying its influence.
6. The liberation of women
I’m not complaining about this over here, but it’s worth mentioning. While the wage gap and many other forms of inequality are DEFINITELY STILL A THING, women are no longer forced to marry to survive. We’re now allowed to earn an income of our own, both legally and culturally, thus one major “need” to partner is now irrelevant. And this allows us to be choosier and less committal.

7. Children-of-divorce with resultant attachment issues and skepticism around relationship longevity/monogamy (I am a guilty party in this one)
The aforementioned dissolution of religion and liberation of women skyrocketed our parents’ divorce rates and produced a millennial generation of attachment issues, marital disenchantment, and relational skepticism. Not every child of divorce is going to be insecurely attached, and not every child from an in-tact family is going to be securely attached, but the correlation is real.

Well, this is bleak. What do we do about it?
Similar to the psychological struggles people bring into my office, knowing the “why” doesn’t necessarily equate to resolution. We can’t easily revert to a time when we didn’t have a date vending machine at our fingertips – to a time when people weren’t so disposable.

But there are a few things we can do. And trust me, I highlight these “best dating practices” to cultivate integrity in my own behavior alongside a call to action for my fellow singles. Self preservation-driven or not, it’s up to us to fix the broken system:

Make it clear on your profile and in-person whether or not you’re looking for a relationship in the near(ish) future. If you’re healing a broken heart or a workaholic or emotionally unavailable and not looking for anything “real” for another reason, no judgment, but be explicit about it. You’ll prob still attract a bunch of people on a mission to “change” you, but at least they’ve signed the waiver.

Recognize beyond a certain point, more choice=greater frustration and less satisfaction. Sure, you may wanna keep a couple prospects around in initial stages for comparison (and diversification) purposes, but after a few dates with someone with whom you see potential, stop swiping for everyone’s sake.

Accept that everyone has flaws. You’re looking to be with a human, and humans are imperfect. Anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship knows there are times when you feel so annoyed or repulsed by your partner you can’t imagine ever having sex with them again (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about). But remember the idea that you’re always going to want to tear each other’s clothes off or never need time apart is just another lie media tells us to believe we’re failing at life. So stop focusing on flaws and keeping yourself chronically dissatisfied.

Remember: It’s not you, it’s the system.
Accept that people will ghost you. They won’t always look like their pictures or be as witty as they were when they had several minutes to craft their banter. They’ll bail last-minute, take forever to respond to texts, and date multiple people unbeknownst to you. You will feel anxious, rejected, jealous, disappointed, and pissed off. But try. not. to take it. personally. None of this is about you, and we’re all experiencing the same shit-show.

Get therapy. Everyone should get therapy. Yes, usually none of this is about you, but we all try to heal our childhood wounds in our relationships. I, for example, tend to sabotage or run from things before they progress into a place of seriousness where I could hurt or be hurt.
I love to date seemingly unbreakable assholes on whom I’ll never fully rely, or “wounded” peeps by whom I feel needed and can trust will NEVER LEAVE ME.

When you experience the inevitable anxiety or rejection of dating, try not to react mindlessly (i.e. jumping back on the apps or throwing yourself into work). If we wake up to it, dating can actually be an opportunity for serious spiritual and emotional growth.
Taking advantage of these “opportunities for awakening” allows us to dig into some of our unresolved shit and practice different ways of coping with uncomfortable feelings (for example, self-compassion vs. numbing).We have the power to change the culture of dating, but in order to do so we have to learn how to wake up in these moments.


Please Stop Falling In Love With Me 

I don’t need you to tell me you love me, everyone else does it for you. But I can confidently say that you will have never had anyone telling you that I’m in love with you.

You’re sat in front of me, you’re not saying anything, just looking at me .. Until eventually you roll your eyes and sigh the words .. ‘You’ I can sit here and pretend I don’t know what you mean, but I do … Because I’ve had this same reaction from guys before, but I know exactly what is means when you say it. It means that you’ve tried to stop yourself having feelings for me, you’ve tried for years. But here we are, four years later and back in the same situation. You’re in love with me but you’re with her and my feelings are still non existent.

But I’m not sure if I’ll ever be in love with you, I’m looking for the same stomach knotting feeling I used to get when ‘he’ kissed me, touched me or even looked at me. I miss being obsessed with someone and I don’t know if I’ll ever feel consumed by my body’s reactions to you like how I felt with him … I want magnetic and that’s not what I have with you.

I miss feeling goosebumps appear on my skin as he touches me, that doesn’t happen with you. You aren’t like a drug to my body, because I still feel in control of my actions. I never felt like that around him.

I know you’re as taken by me as he was, but I can’t reciprocate that to you … So this is me acknowledgeding to myself that I need to block you out for a while, because I don’t want you to keep falling for me when I have my feet firmly in place on the ground.

I want something uncontrollable and magnetic … Like I had with him. But that will never be me and you.


Change Is Good

I’ve always been curious about how our brain has the ability to change the way it sees people. One minute you can love someone and the next you’re disgusted by them.

Or … What makes us suddenly see a friend as something more?

let’s not be naive, being hurt changes everyone, it makes us think differently and want different things in life, or different people ….

I’m lucky enough to have grown as a person from every difficult situation I’ve found myself in and although over time our feelings change, I think we also have to change as a person to accommodate them and feel like we’ve come out the other side of a crappy situation.

I would never want anyone to be the reason for their own self defeat, but I really believe that if we don’t mature emotionally then we will never grow as people. The sooner we realise that we should take responsibility for our own emotional wellbeing the better. We can’t look for our happiness in someone else and I know that’s where I’ve gone wrong previously.

I have never been as happy with myself as I am right now, taking time out to focus on myself and my career has been the best decision I have ever made, even if it was pushed on me by someone else.

We need to remember that not everyone changes for the better, but we can’t take responsibility for someone else’s coping methods. Change is inevitable, but making the right kind of change is down to the individual.

Make sure you change for the right reasons and in to someone that you are proud to be, using others to help distract yourself from your own downward spiral will never end well.


Dealing With Poor Relationship Manners  

How do you deal with controlling, clingy, sadistic and selfish tendencies in people, without losing your own mind? How do you escape from conflict without victimizing yourself or turning into a monstrous mirror of the person who pushed all your buttons?
How do you remain pristine, unaffected and zen-like?
By being emotionally intelligent.
The importance of developing emotional intelligence has been grossly undervalued in our society, which prioritizes conventional notions of success. The result of this is a huge population of emotionally immature people who simply do not take responsibility for how they feel. They have not learned healthy coping mechanisms as children, which extends into adulthood and even old age.
As a result, they are not accountable for the consequences of their actions.
How can we learn to become more emotionally resilient, and develop a strong sense of integrity that is not dependent on external circumstances? By making our own decisions, and letting other people live with the consequences of their own.
Anyone can snap their fingers and retaliate, but it takes a rare strength to exhibit grace under pressure. Be calm, collected, polite and dignified. Sometimes people will instigate or provoke you on purpose even though they are at fault, so that they can turn it around and blame it on you. You are the only one who has power over your own mental and emotional health. Learn to be emotionally and mentally independent.
If a person is being manipulative, insidious or emotionally abusive, to get you to do what they want, then don’t get mad and play their game, simply call them out on it. If your ‘bae’ is telling you that he or she doesn’t want to be in a relationship, or stands you up or doesn’t return calls, then give them what they want, and walk away.
Truly secure people don’t explain why they want respect; they simply remove their attention from those that don’t deserve it.
Most people are unable to talk with their actions, because they were simply not taught this as children. So surprise the little tantrum-throwing child in them, and let them bear the consequences.
If you don’t react to their volatile behavior, then it will hit a blank wall and ricochet right back to them. If you take a deep breath, simply state why you are displeased, and then disengage by communicating with your actions, this will get to them so-much-more than screaming, arguing, crying and convincing them to see your point of view. This is beneficial for the both of you as a valuable lesson. You learn to get comfortable saying no and develop stronger boundaries; and they learn to take responsibility for their own erratic actions.
The only way to escape this vicious cycle of action-reaction is to step out of the line of fire, and let them walk through it instead. If you let them walk through their own blazing inferno, they will realize that they are just as painfully human and prone to imperfections, and they will change. This is because they have been forced to solve their own problem, rather than expecting someone else to do it for them.
Everyone wants to change other people, and everyone’s ego keeps getting in the way. Instead, change your own approach, and give them the freedom to let them change themselves. If you don’t do this, you will have to suffer the consequences of their bad behavior, by your own bad decision of not making them responsible for it.
You will end up feeling like the dysfunctional, unstable and irrational one. You will be giving them a justifiable excuse to drag you into their emotional turmoil, and blame it all on you. Your self-esteem will suffer, and you will start to doubt your own sense of self-worth.
Don’t play a cheat at their lousy game. Leave them to it.