Do you ever feel like you’re looking for all the right things in all the wrong places? That’s how I feel about love.
I’m 32, and I’m single. Maybe you saw my article here about what that feels like for me — one part amazing, one part (maybe more) really f*&*ing hard.
On the amazing side, there’s total freedom. I don’t share the remote; I travel where I want, when I want; I get to choose.
But, on the really f*&*ing hard side, there’s the paradox of choice. Limitless options seem to induce the stress of making the “right” decision. There’s a loneliness that can’t really be explained unless you’ve experienced long periods of time without “your person.” And of course, there’s a human desire for touch — physical and emotional — and connection that can’t be replaced by even the most deep-rooted friendships and hugs from your mom.
Since I’ve been what feels like perpetually single for most of my adult life, I can’t help but reflect and think, “Where did I go wrong? What’s holding me back from finding the love and companionship that I desire?”
During middle school, high school, college, and maybe even elementary school, I’ve always crushed pretty easily and loved to flirt. I would daydream about what it would be like if that person liked me back.
But what I seemed to get in return was…
“You’re really cute but…”
“You’re just too young…”
“I’m really into your best friend…”
My younger self overcame this “rejection” with confidence, and I fearlessly let people know how I felt. I even remember asking a boy to dance in the eight grade — yes, I was declined.
In college, I met someone who really liked me back. They didn’t just really like me, they loved me back. We were best friends, companions, and went through a lot together, for better or worse.
After college and about four years of dating, we broke up. This wasn’t just hard, it was heartbreaking. It was the type of sadness that felt empty; like there was a loss. If you’ve had that kind of break up — and I’m sure many of you have — you know how tragic it can feel to lose the person you thought you might spend your life with; the person who just “got” you.
I now know that 23 is so young, and I still had so much life to experience before I could be a good companion to someone, but in the moment and years that followed recovery felt out of sight.
Here I was, 23, full of zest and energy, entering the “real world” single and what I thought was ready to mingle. It was a time when the .com sites like Match and eHarmony were getting amped up, before Tinder helped us hook up and Bumble helped us feel like empowered women. It was the days of set-ups and “old-fashioned” meeting in-person.
After eight years in this game, I’ve had some great dates. Dates that turned into flowers sent to work, incredible dinners, and other details we don’t need to get into here — if you know what I mean.
I’ve also had some really weird ones, like the guy who told me his only flaw was that he was “good at the robot to the average lay-person, but he knew he could be better.” No, he wasn’t joking. He proved it. I’ve had some pretty awful ones that ended in tears induced by unwanted pressure and feeling insecure about who I am.
I wish I could count the number of dates I’ve been on, but that could take the rest of the time I’ve allotted to write this article. I don’t think I was ready for a relationship during the first few years of dating. But for the past three or four years, it’s something that I’ve really wanted. Even though I’ve said I want a relationship and companionship, here I am… single.
I wish I could count the number of dates I’ve been on, but that could take the rest of the time I’ve allotted to write this article.
Like most people, I have emotional baggage that is likely holding me back from meeting “the one,” fear, anticipation of the future, and perhaps a lack of true willingness to be seen, but I also think there’s something about the way we date today; the way we fall in love.
Essentially, we can date from the comfort of our own beds. At night, despite the risks of my cell phone, I sit there scrolling on four different apps. It’s kind of awesome if you’re like me and are too lazy to go out every night, and kind of terrible if you’re like me and if you tend to like people based on their vibe.
I think there’s an element of human connection missing, and something that feels contrived by judging someone based on their curated, “best of” profile. Night-after-night, week-after-week, it’s like one blind date after the other — it’s exhausting.
One night, I sat down with my married friend one night for a few too many glasses of Sancerre, and of course we started talking about dating and how burned out I was feeling.
Her: “Let me see your profile.”
Me: Passes phone
Her: “No. You need better pictures.”
Me: “Do whatever you want.”
Me: “Yes. I don’t care. Start swiping.”
Her: Swiping. “Omg he’s hot. Obsessed. You have to date him. This is your soulmate.”
AH-HA. Lightbulb moment.
Night-after-night, week-after-week, it’s like one blind date after the other — it’s exhausting.
What if I had a ghostwriter for my dating profile? Someone who often knows me better than I know myself or, at least, remove some judgement from my swiping.
As we chatted about it, this idea became more and more intriguing, because I tend to be attracted to the wrong people. Usually, they have a different attachment style than I do. I like men who don’t live in the same city (ahem, country) as me, who don’t really want a relationship, and who are objectively attractive and charming. I talked about this a bit on my podcast with Ty Tashiro, the author of The Science of Happily Ever After.
Perhaps this is self-sabotage or a need to be more open and align my actions with my true, needs, wants, and values.
Because I am drawn to the “wrong” people, I’ve lost sense of my intuition when it comes to men. I trust my intuition and am confident about a lot of things — work, friends, knowing what I like to do — but when it comes to men, I’ve lost all sense of what I like, what makes me feel good, and the ability to enjoy getting to know someone without thinking about the future. This is scary.
You might be thinking, “Don’t overthink it, just go with it, it will happen when it happens, don’t put so much pressure on yourself”, and I get it. I totally see where you’re coming from. But when you’re in your own head, have been dating for so long, and don’t trust yourself, dating gets harder and harder.
So we decided to do it. I gave said friend and one of my best couple friends access to my Hinge profile.
Here’s how it worked: They had full access and could like, swipe, change my profile, and start conversations with the men. They would tell me whenever they matched with someone, and if they started a conversation, they would give them my number pretty soon into their convo.
Really, the only rule was that they had to be respectful and talk to them as if they were really me.
No, I did not fall in love or meet my soulmate — wouldn’t that be amazing!? But I learned a lot.
It is what it is
At the end of the day, meeting someone on a dating app is meeting someone on a dating app. One day, that will be considered the “old fashioned way.” I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s essentially like a blind date no matter which way you spin it, and that’s OK and can even be fun. (If you let it.)
It reduced stress and expectations
Since it didn’t really matter who swiped right, it made just getting out the door to go on the dates so much easier. I didn’t overthink it and ended up having more fun. Sometimes I feel so busy with work, friends, my podcast, and life things that sitting down to swipe gets pushed to the wayside. This made me more of a “yes” person.
My profile got a major facelift
My friends updated my photos to ones that they felt showed a more honest side to me. While the pictures I selected were cute, I think your friends tend to see a deeper beauty in you than you can see in yourself.
The profile section became more fun and witty. While I always answered the questions truthfully, I felt so annoyed with all of the apps and didn’t want to spend the time setting up the profile my answers were pretty lame.
Next time you’re editing your profile, have a glass of wine with your friend and laugh a little.
Swipe right more
There are a lot of really nice, sweet, funny, handsome guys out there. You don’t learn very much or get the vibes from a few pictures on an app. I feel weird trying to show off my best self, so I can only imagine how weird men feel setting up the perfect profile. So give it a shot, swipe right. Go out and see how it feels. You might surprise yourself.
Getting to know people takes time
DUH! Of course it does. Despite knowing this, I, and maybe you too, have an expectation that we’lI meet someone and it will feel like BAM! Lovestruck. Smitten Kitten. Puppy Love. But that’s just not reality. Getting to know someone and falling in love with their best and worst qualities takes time. Don’t write someone off because you don’t get butterflies on the first date. If you’re a novelty seeker and have never experienced any other kind of love, like me, this is a tough one but I think worth it.
Just get out there
If I want to be in a relationship, I need to get out there and go on as many good AND bad dates as possible. Very few will feel like “the one,” but each time you meet someone new, you get an opportunity to invigorate your intuition to know what you like and what you don’t like.
I have a lot of work to do
I haven’t been in a serious relationship in a long time, and it’s going to take work to figure out what a good one means for me. I’ve also realized that I have a lot of work with trust, commitment, and vulnerability to do. I want to do this work, and I think that I’m really ready.
This work, the work on myself, and overcoming my limiting beliefs and barriers holding me back from getting what I say I want will be the differentiator between a successful relationship or staying where I am today.
Married/engaged people love online dating
It was so much fun to sit down with my married and committed friends and go through my profile. In a way, it helps you deepen your relationships with them. When we were doing this project, we laughed, I cried, and we had so much fun. They’ve never online dated before, so I think it helps them have a better understanding of what I’m experiencing and creates more context for my thoughts and feelings. We’ll be chatting about all of this on an upcoming podcast episode.
Doing this with my friends was so fun and is ongoing. Each of our stories with dating and relationships is unique. It can be so easy to compare ourselves with what it looks like others are experiencing in theirs. Learning to embrace our own needs, story, and process is challenging, but I think when we do we are able to create more meaningful, long-lasting bonds. I am a work in progress and so is my love life, but I’m excited to see what happens next.