Hi everyone! I’m beyond excited to share another guest post all about love love love in the 21st century. Thanks so much to Mari for sharing her beautiful story. Go ahead and check out her blog, Mari On The Map for her amazing travel post and tips. Give her a like on Facebook and follow on Instagram while you’re at it, too, to check out some amazing travel pics. You won’t be sorry, promise! xo Sam
When I started online dating at the end of 2015, I was not in a good place. I had recently been dumped out of the blue after a trip to Italy on which everyone thought I was going to get engaged. Then suddenly, it was over. On a Thursday night less than one week post vacation, my live-in boyfriend sat on the couch next to me and said, “I want to break up. We don’t want the same things. You want to get married and have kids, and I don’t want that.”
This was baffling to me because we had discussed both getting married and having kids. At no point during our relationship had he indicated that we weren’t on the same page. But here we were, a change of mind, a change of heart, and a change of relationship status. He left the next morning to stay with a friend and was completely moved out by Monday night.
It was as if our one-and-a-half year relationship had just been erased.
This was not my first relationship “failure,” but at 31 years-old, I didn’t take it the same way I had taken past breakups. My biological clock was ticking, and I knew I had to do something radical to find my guy before I missed my chance at having a family. So after a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I took the leap and joined every online dating site.
Okay, maybe not every site, but I was on the big five: Match, Tinder, Bumble, eHarmony, and Coffee Meets Bagel.
I turned to friends who had varying levels of success with online dating to ask how to set up my profile, so no one walked in to meet me disappointed. I had decided from the beginning that I wanted to be honest about who I was and what baggage I was carrying around since I no longer felt that I had the luxury of time. So my profile proudly displayed all of my “negative” traits including being a fur mom to two cats (the horror!) and the fact that I wanted a family. I chose only photos that had been taken within the last year. I gave a laundry list of things I need in my life, and things I’d be happy to do without.
My online single persona was born.
But during the first month of swiping right and left, I let a lot of my dates pick me. While I played an active role in superficially choosing who I said yes or no to on the apps, if a guys said yes back, I basically was game to meet him. And if he wanted another date, I wasn’t putting up much of an argument. I made the mistake of assuming that he had studied my profile as I had his, and that we were on the same page. This led to a lot of first dates with complete losers, including guy who told me I had a “fat ass” because I wouldn’t go home with him, guy who told me he was on a date with me because he “no longer dates really beautiful women,” and guy who yelled at the waitress when she assumed he was picking up the entire tab.
Clearly I wasn’t getting any closer to finding my man.
I lamented about this to my sister, who happens to be a psychologist, and she helped me devise a plan for online dating success. It included, at its core, a switch from being passive about who I was dating and, as a result, wasting my time, to taking a fully active role in choosing who I would date and determining early on if we were compatible. I’m talking compatible on the 100s of levels they talk about in those eHarmony commercials; compatible to the point that we are on the same page, have the same feelings, wants, and needs for the future; compatible so that our goals, values, and dreams are aligned. This was a tall order.
You’re probably imagining the lists of generic, superficial non-negotiables that we want as naive teenagers (and even more naive 20-somethings): this color hair, that height, good dancer, no body hair (a friend of mine actually had this on her list!). The list I made had none of that.
To make my list (that spoiler alert: found me a stellar partner!), I had to dig deep. I had to think back to every moment, big or small, in a past relationship where something bothered me or a fight happened. Then I had to dig at the root issue. Why had that fight happened? What was the value that my ex and I weren’t aligned on that caused that fight? What does it say about the values I am looking for?
My list was about 10 items long, and I ranked them in order of importance. It included things like:
- Emotional intelligence—the ability to identify an emotion and talk about that emotion. Sounds simple, but many people can’t do do this. I grew up in a “feelings” house where we spew our emotions at each other, so I need someone who is comfortable with this emotional download and can offer the same.
- Financially aligned—I don’t care about buying a house, but I want to be able to spend my disposable income on travel (I am a travel blogger, after all!). It’s essential that I date someone who wants to invest in the same things I want to invest in.
- Enjoys spending time with his/my family—I spend a lot of time with my family, and we are all over each other (figuratively, but there is “no space between us”). I need to be with someone who values family the same way, so they aren’t resentful or annoyed that we have to go see my parents “again.”
I studied these values. I started to get serious about my offline persona, the me I was in real life, and what I actually wanted from an in-the-flesh human mate. I prepared myself to ask leading questions to get my date to reveal these values both in the chat stage and on dates. Trust me, you can’t exactly ask someone, “are you emotionally intelligent?” and not be seen as a weirdo, especially in this age of it being cool to be “laid back” and not care (a topic for another day!). I also had to make peace with the fact that I was embarking on a marathon.
Finding the right partner isn’t about going out on a lot of crappy dates. It’s about going out on only a few quality dates.
I started weeding people out in the email and chat phase like I was lighting a wildfire, including a guy who told me he had never been on a plane (clear red flag that we aren’t aligned!).
Then I matched with G. It was a cold rainy Sunday afternoon. We had immediate chat-chemistry and talked incessantly for the rest of the week. By the time our date rolled around on Friday, I was nervous but ready. I’d love to say that our first date was perfect, but it wasn’t. He was obviously nervous, and I can come off as a little intense when I’m excited. We ended the date with a lot of uncertainty.
The next day, I threw caution to the wind and texted him to ask what happened—we had really connected that week on chat; we had chemistry; I could already tell we were aligned in many of our values, so why did our date flop? And because and only because G was consciously or subconsciously on the same page as me—that being honest about what we wanted was the only way to have success in online dating—he replied and told me what happened: He said he got really intimated when he saw me, and he was exhausted from a business trip—not a good combination. We agreed to a do-over, and our second date was magical!
From there, we continued to infuse honesty into all aspects of our dating journey. It led us to long, intimate dinners early on in our relationship where we really put it all on the table and talked about our values and what we wanted. Building this foundation in the beginning is what set us up for success and helped us weather some of the most stressful moments in any relationship, including long-distance dating, being laid off from a job, enrolling in and starting grad school, and five apartment moves—all in the course of less than two years. Today, we’re still on cloud nine from our engagement in the Maldives, while planning our wedding in Marco Island, Florida and our honeymoon to the South Pacific. We still easily get through life’s disagreements because we are moving through life together. When one of us gets worked up, the other one is calm. He’s the first true partner that I’ve ever had.
We might have met through Tinder, but we’re together because of us—because we put our honest selves our into the world and life reflected back a true match.