Relationships: Love & Friendships

13 lessons in life that online dating taught me

Modern dating, especially online dating can be a minefield. It is complex and difficult. But in this post, I talk about 13 life lessons I've learnt from my online dating experiences as well as offering some dating tips for how to build more self-confidence, trust your instincts and get more out of your dates!

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What started out as a social experiment turned into wonderful life lessons for me. 

Part of being all wired up these days is that now we can look for love online, in a rather similar fashion to picking out steak for tonight’s dinner.

Love it or hate it, online dating might be here to stay – at least for a little while. Bringing with it, its own truckload of relationship issues.

Curious to see what the fuss was about and after strong encouragement from friends, I signed up to a couple of websites and apps and went on plenty of dates. I didn’t fall in love with anyone – which didn’t surprise me – but I did learn a lot about romance and myself. Here’s what I discovered:

Get that self-respect

You will meet loads of people whom you have no clue about. So you’ve got to be clear with your boundaries and be firm when someone crosses them.

I’ve ended dates early because a guy was overstepping physical boundaries or starting asking lewd questions.

In the past, I might have been sat there cringing throughout the date and secretly texting my girlfriends to come save me. But nowadays, I have no qualms asserting myself and being firm when I need to be.

You start valuing your time

Dates are – let’s face it – time-consuming. So when you are going on many per week and spend a lot of them sitting there thinking, “Hmm I rather be at home staring at my paint dry than hear him talk”, you start to treasure your time a lot more.

You start taking your time more seriously and you start bailing early as well.

I remember going on one with a really condescending guy who ended every other sentence with “What?? how can you not know that????”. And yes, I cut that date short. You start to realise your time is really valuable and that the time you are wasting here could be time spent doing something else.

Small Talk is now a piece of cake

Well, maybe not exactly that easy, but close.

Now, I’ve never really hated small talk. Yes, I do find it somewhat pretentious at times – depending on who I am engaging in small talk with. But it has never made me feel awkward or anything.

Going on plenty of dates with strangers allowed me to practice my conversational skills, and to practice showing a genuine interest and open-ness in what the person is telling you.

Being light-hearted about love and relationships

You will meet all sorts of people who are on these sites for all sorts of motivations. And yes, some of them are in relationships or may even be married.

You will meet the nasty, the weird, the boring, the awkward. And…you’ll also meet people whom you share amazing chemistry and conversations with, BUT who never call you back or ask you out again. You can spend tons of hours analyzing and overthinking their actions, but you know what? It doesn’t matter.

First off, you might have enjoyed the date, and he might not have. That’s fine. We have different definitions of chemistry. And there could be tons of reasons you have no idea about – he’s married, he’s just looking for a person to have a dinner date with, he’s just got out of a relationship etc etc.

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Instead of analyzing what I might have said/done wrong during the 30 minute coffee date, it’s best to move on and form connections with people who genuinely wanted to know me.

Handling rejection 

Adding to the point above, you might have met someone whom you really felt something with, but after a couple of dates the person tells you they aren’t feeling it (if they are honest) or they just ghost you.

Rejection is never easy to take and it’s always easier to blame ourselves. But we really have no idea what is going on with this person or their lives. I just chalked it up to wrong person wrong time and moved on.

Trusting your instincts

Going on online dates can be pretty scary. I mean, you are literally meeting up with someone you haven’t got a clue about, no matter how detailed their profiles are. As someone who counts a lot on observing people and their body language, this bit about online dating always bothers me. But it provides a great opportunity to hone your gut instincts.

I’ve been on quite a few dates where the people just gave me really weird vibes off the bat. Trust your inner voice. After multiple dates with different people, I can always easily spot when someone is up to no good or is hiding his inner shadiness. And what’s great is – this has transferred to other areas in life.

I once met a guy who, while nice – and was probably the only one I genuinely clicked with – creeped me out by having photos of me in his phone before we first met (he was snooping around my FB page and worst, saved those photos) and edited them in photo apps. Something about the way he spoke about our meeting made it seem like he already saw us as a couple. Just, NO.

Needless to say, he started bombarding me with random texts throughout the day after our first meeting and arranging multiple dates. Any sort of spark I felt just disappeared somewhere in those random emoticons he was sending me.

If things are too good to be true, they probably are

Like the above, trust your instincts. If someone is doing too much too soon and attempting to fast forward the “relationship” when you barely even know each other, that should set off alarm bells. Also, this is a pretty obvious one – but good looks really don’t mean a damn thing.

I once met someone who literally looked like a walking Adonis. Drove a nice car, had a nice physique, good job. Basically whatever seemed good on paper. He also spoke really well and was a great conversationalist. But something about the way he talked just felt off to me.

Barely 20 minutes into our conversation, he was going on rants about his sexual conquests, brothels, ladies’ parts’ and the like. Yikes.

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There are some really weird people out there

When you date online, you open yourself to a wider pool of people that you normally would never mingle with. This is especially so if you are in larger, more cosmopolitan cities.

While it can be fun meeting with people who have jobs that are super interesting, it can also mean opening yourself up to people who have fetishes, have vastly different relationship values and those who aren’t fazed about sending photos of their privates. Yes.

Nothing much surprises me anymore, and these people usually earn a block from me. As long as you are aware of your boundaries, assert them and remember not to entertain people who make you uncomfortable, you’d be fine.

Dating is expensive, so spend your dollars wisely

I live in an expensive city. Eating out is expensive, alcohol is dead expensive. Even if you are just going on one date per week, 4 dates in a month, it can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. So, it makes it all the more important that you are spending your money wisely.

I’m fine paying my share, but that also means I’m not gonna be wasting my coins on expensive dinners with people I barely know. I prefer coffee dates because of this. It’s low-investment – not just in terms of finances, but in terms of time – especially with someone I barely know.

I found it easier to bail on a bad date when I’m having something quick like coffee or ice cream. It’s more difficult to do so when you are stuck waiting for your 3 course dinner and dessert to arrive. Also I find dinner dates to be too overly formal, and adds an atmosphere of seriousness for an arrangement with someone you barely know. Save that for later when you guys are much closer.

Hone your observation skills 

Whenever I went on a date, I was really observing the other party for relationship potential. And you can actually tell quite a bit about the person from how they interact with you.

I tended to observe table manners (though people do impression manage a lot on dates). Also – is the person a good listener? Does he/she show care towards you? Or did he polish off the plate of fried chicken himself even though you told him thrice that you loved it? (True story)

Also, insights into a person’s communication patterns. If he/she interrupts, talks over you, not ask any questions, ignore whatever you just said, these are classic signs of a poor communicator/listener. You’ll be surprised how much of a person’s personality you can glean from a relatively short time together.

People can be very different online

Some people are just extremely good texters. And I can see why. Texting is not spontaneous and you can plan what you say and edit it multiple times over before sending it.

Unfortunately, these great conversations via text sometimes don’t transfer over into real life. Some of the best texters can absolutely suck in real-life conversations, which involve spontaneity, quick-thinking and banter.

I was also wary of people who were too comfy texting and never wanted to meet up. This was why I preferred to arrange the first meet up early on – after a couple of texts have been exchanged.

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I once chatted to a dude for months and he never once bothered to ask me out. He had all the time in the world to type pages of texts in WhatsApp, though. I mean he probably spent at least 30 mins typing all these stuff out. Conversations which could be done in under 5 minutes in person. But he preferred hiding behind a screen. Waste of time.

The problem of too much “choice” 

The problem with online dating is that it can be hard to commit to someone or find someone willing to commit. After all, another available person is just a swipe or like away. This can lead to all sorts of interesting and even downright shady behaviour.

People telling you it’s serious but seeing 10 others on the side or worse: people in serious relationships yet still active on the app.

It also creates a false sense of security and desirability. Oh, didn’t work out with this dude? It’s fine, I’ll be back on the app at 9pm swiping and flirting with 5 others.

I personally think this leads to some people being less invested in their dates and the people they meet. And it makes them less likely to commit seriously to anyone because they constantly feel like there’s a probability that someone better is waiting for them on the app.

It’s time consuming

Things move fast in the online world. If you aren’t going to reply to someone’s conversation (and I’m the sort that doesn’t do so til days later), the person would have already forgotten you and moved on. I mean, they have like 423 other matches to talk to.

The online dating world moves very fast and if you aren’t prepared to spend your time and energy matching with people and chatting to them, then just don’t get involved with it.

This is also why I found the whole thing to be incredibly exhausting and deleted all my profiles. I’ll stick to offline dating!

Your thoughts?

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  1. anonymous

    at 12:44 am

    I was on one of those yet again horrid dates with a man who thought communication meant him gassing on about himself, interrupting me on the rare occasion when I tried to insert myself into the “conversation” while he looked at his phone or looked around the room the second I opened my mouth. All through the date, as he talked incessantly in a very loud voice that pretty much everyone in the restaurant could hear, he kept saying repeatedly, “Are you listening to me? You listening to me? I finally asked the waitress for the check and as he was saying for the gazillionth time, “Are you listening to me,” I interrupted him and said, “Well, I’ve had no choice but to sit here and listen to you.” I got up and walked out the door as the waitress whispered to me as I walked out, “You go, girl!”

    1. Sara

      at 8:45 pm

      Hello1! Ugh, I feel you, I’ve met some of those and honestly they make such bad dates. Not to mention someone who keeps interrupting you and going on about themselves make such poor friends/partners. And yes good on you for walking out the door! Would have done the same 😉 Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. L

    at 12:32 am

    Ah, yes, the “joys” of online dating. Ahahaha boy am I glad not to be doing that any longer. Though, it does at least quickly hone your skills in figuring out what type of a person you’re on a date with, or whether you should be meeting with them at all, and what kind of a person you want to find yourself with at the end of the day.

    Laura //

    1. Sara

      at 11:05 am

      Hey Laura! Thanks for the comment 🙂 Aha I totally agree! Whilst I’m glad to be out of the game, it was a fun social experiment. Certainly helps you hone your skills in figuring out all the things you’ve mentioned. And the best bit is, I actually found out alot about myself! Always an incredible bonus 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

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