The scariest thing about my break up was when I came out the other side of this 10 year long relationship, the landscape of dating had changed so drastically I didn’t even know where to begin. All my previous relationships including my last had occurred through working together or meeting someone through mutual friends. Also my lifestyle is so different, I work from home and also work within a fairly female dominated blogger industry, all my friends are settled down married with kids, we’re not out every weekend in pubs and bars and so I’m just not in a position to meet many new people anymore. Add to this that the way people date is just so drastically different now. It’s a digital age, right? And despite the fact this is great for me as I make my living and share my life online the prospect of dating apps and meeting people online freaked me right out. I didn’t even know the rules to starting to use online dating apps? Which apps to use? What was I even looking for? It was a minefield.
After my marriage officially ended in June I tentatively downloaded my first dating app in September, Tinder. For many that might sound too soon, but for me I’d lived like a single woman for 8 months by this point and so I believed I was ready.
I had no idea what to do.
I’ll be honest the first thing I did was pursue previous existing relationships. Ones that had never materialised into anything because either I was with someone, or they were. I did this for many reasons. Safety I suppose. They were people I trusted, people I already knew liked me and knew me, the real me, in real life. I didn’t have to create a profile or pick my best photos. And in that respect, it was easy and familiar. But they were short lived and didn’t go anywhere so when I eventually decided to take the plunge and start using Tinder I knew I needed advice. I wasn’t in the market for anything serious (I’m also not someone in to hook ups fyi) so Tinder was perfect. I reached out to a blogger friend of mine, one I knew had experience of apps and in fact used to write about dating and sex. She gave me some quick pointers over Instagram DM’s and so I started swiping.
My initial experience was fun. There’s a reason these apps are addictive. That game like element of swiping with the triumphant “Match” screen when someone had also swiped right for you. I enjoyed it. Those first few days were great. I was excited at the prospect of flirty and casual messages and a bit of banter that I’d not had in so long and also the prospect of dates and first kisses etc. Oh my mind ran away with itself thinking what a wonderful and fun experience it would all be.
But I soon had a crash to reality.
That weekend my beloved dog Eddie was taken really ill. I spent most of the weekend sat in the vets surgery in tears as my little dog struggled to walk and it looked like he might have to be put down. In those moments of sitting there on my own I realised there were things an app like Tinder and the types of chat I was having would never give me. It couldn’t give me support in these more trying and serious moments. The guy in my Tinder dm’s wasn’t going to want to chat about my poor dog and would be unlikely to offer any kind of real support anyway. And neither could my ex. Of course, we spoke about Eddie, but he would never sit next to me and hold my hand like he had done in the past and I honestly never felt more alone. In that moment what I wished for wasn’t the fun drinking and dating lifestyle with a guy but someone to support me with a hug or a cup of tea but I knew that reaching that stage in a relationship takes time and it would be a long time before I was back in that situation again. I also knew that I wasn’t even in a place where I was ready for that kind of commitment or intimacy. A catch 22 if you will. That initial feeling I’d had of excitement at swiping and feeling sexy and attractive had gone in an instant. I went from being a confident woman to a blubbering wreck and I knew in that moment that Tinder was no good for me and it couldn’t give me what I probably needed right then.
Did I delete it, no. I probably should have done, but I just thought it was a blip and when Eddie made a recovery and I started to feel happier again I kept swiping and in fact added Bumble to my dating app downloads.
The thing about online dating is, its hard work! Honestly, I’ve never known anything like it. Previously when I got together with people it came from spending time together in real life. You learnt who they were, what they liked, what they looked like, how they laughed, what annoyed them, all this was learnt naturally and organically through time spent working or hanging out and eventually if attraction developed things would move on to a kiss, or a date or however it progressed, but it just did! And you were confident that they liked you for you because they’d got to know you, they’d seen you in real life and knew exactly what they were getting themselves in to, as did you.
But online dating is so different. In online dating you have to be witty and interesting and basically the best version of yourself. That’s what your dating app profile is, a showcase of you. You pick your best photos, your funniest jokes and write a bio that you hope will entice people in to swiping or matching with you. And you have to learn things by asking clever questions in messages, driving the interaction along rather than being able to let things happen naturally. Whilst to begin with this was exciting to me to get to start all over again to have that new dating feeling where everything is fresh and fun I just didn’t have the energy to be on top form all the time. Because the truth was, I wasn’t on top form. I was struggling with a break up and the divorce proceedings that followed and with feelings of betrayal, hurt, and thoughts that I’d never be with anyone again. It’s scary. To go from being married that long, to knowing someone inside and out, going through some of life’s biggest events together to then have to start again. On your own. To feel conflicted because despite the fact you are permanently separated every message or interaction felt like a form of cheating
I just didn’t feel like a very confident single lady, or maybe I was still in that sitting in your pants eating ice cream stage of my breakup. Who knows but I think in hindsight I wasn’t emotionally ready for dating apps.
When you start dating you are trying to persuade someone that you are great person to be with. You wear your best outfits, you give your best chat.
And yet all of that just sounded exhausting to me. Starting again. Slowly revealing those maybe more negative sides of yourself and hoping as the feelings grow those things won’t matter and they’ll eventually accept you for you are. Your messiness, your inability to be on time for anything, that you can go to bed in your scruffy t-shirt and shorts, lounge on sofa in your joggers and know that they still think you are gorgeous. But all this takes time. You can’t start off with being this comfortable. And the prospect of this long road ahead terrified me.
Plus I just took everything too personally. A guy unmatching or ghosting hit me hard, knocked my already low confidence. Each time felt like a rejection. You have to be thick skinned to date online, trust me. But if the truth be told you shouldn’t take it personally, they don’t know you. They see a couple of photos and a profile and that’s what they’re judging you on. But as match after match failed to make a date I beat myself up worrying what I was doing wrong all the while joking about it with friends how funny my dreadful dating life was, sharing my disasters on my Instagram #DebsOnDating, when in truth I was scared this was what my future looked like, disappointment after disappointment.
And so back in late September 2018 I stood in the pouring rain under a tree, whilst throwing the ball for a sopping wet but happy Gus, scribbling my thoughts into a massive note on my iPhone, hoping to capture them in that moment so I could share them here on the blog and not feel so alone, so lost in this sea of modern dating. And because I know there are so many women out there who are going though, or have been through the same thing. The number of Instagram messages I got on this topic convinced me that dating online would be hard, but that it wasn’t hopeless.
And so, I carried on swiping………………
Part 2 coming soon.