Can mindfulness and online dating coexist?
Let’s be honest – browsing the wilderness of online dating can feel like sending your ego straight into a land mine field. Not only does online dating encourage a judgmental attitude – it requires it. We find ourselves making snap decisions based on superficial criteria, and ourselves being evaluated by the snap decisions of others. We are at once too good and not good enough. With every profile “like” and unreturned message, the ego experiences a subtle roller coaster of pride and devastation.
And the actual dates? They require the emotional balance of a tight rope walker. It’s no secret that the average person in real life bears little resemblance to their best photo, which happens to be their profile head shot. Is dinner too much pressure for a first date? (Yes.) Is it disrespectful to date more than more person at a time? (No.) When is the right time for sex? (Depends.) In our world of feedback loops and curated reality, intentions and values vary from person to person as widely as the millions of channels on YouTube. Every person is a universe unto themselves, an algorithm of preferred music genres and sex positions. The options for today’s single person have never been more diverse or readily available. Meanwhile, true love is nowhere to be found.
If you are the type of person who values mindfulness and meaningful connection, this routine can be more than a little frustrating. But in truth this is nothing new. Each generation rewrites the dating rules in their own image. Our technological advances have given us a power of connectivity that, while spectacular, is still an experiment. Mindful online dating is possible; we just need to decide how it’s done. Below are 10 guidelines that I created after years of trial and error.
1) Show your true nature in your profile
You don’t have to tell your life story (please don’t), but avoid overly obvious information (“I like to travel”) in favor of more revealing anecdotes (“A book that taught me a lot is…”). This will help filter deeper connections from superficial attractions from the start. One approach I take is listing my Instagram to show women my thoughts and beliefs.
2) Know what you are looking for
Without a game plan, online dating can become a frustrating maze of aimless swiping and dead end conversations. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a long term partner, new friends, or a fun hookup. But it does matter that your intentions are clear. If you want to stay sane, it’s important to know which two or three things, and types of people, you are looking for.
3) Avoid app addiction
Don’t be that guy/girl who obsessively checks their messages in social situations despite having checked them 15 minutes ago. Those sweet nothings will be waiting in your inbox tonight. Set aside two times per day to read and send messages, and practice app abstinence the rest of the day.
4) Be genuinely curious
It’s easy to forget that the person on the other side of the screen is a living, breathing human being. Instead of thinking “what can I get from this interaction?” you will have a better chance of making interesting connections if you slow down, forget about yourself, and actually pay attention to the other person.
5) Don’t take rejection personally
Snap judgements are a reality of online dating. There simply isn’t enough time to give the same focus to every profile. When your message is ignored, or somebody stops talking to you, don’t worry about the reason why. There could be a million things going on in that person’s head that have nothing to do with you. Meet and release every new profile with grace.
6) Set an intention before each date
Pretty much everything (dates, business meetings, etc.) goes better when you set an intention in advance. It can be simple – “I want to share a meaningful connection” or “I want to learn something new.” Taking five minutes to set an intention before a date may not seem like much, but it will give you clarity, purpose, and the power of presence.
7) Use each other (to expand your comfort zone)
Staying home is easy. Meeting new people can be difficult and even annoying. But going on regular dates is a good habit because it forces us into uncharted territory and keeps us open. Try meeting people outside your ethnicity and social niche. Dating is like working out. It can be hard, but we walk away stronger and with a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
8) Drop expectations
Expectations are the quickest path to disappointment. Here’s a newsflash: not every person you meet is going to be “the one.” Instead of trying to fit others into a preconceived role, simply remain in the moment and allow each interaction to be what it is. Your date may not result in a relationship (most don’t), but it can still be a meaningful human connection.
9) Let it happen naturally
When a date goes well, men are usually thinking one thing (sex) and women are thinking another (relationship). Slow down. There is nothing wrong with jumping into sex or a relationship, but trying to rush things from a place of neediness can be counterproductive. Allow the dynamic to unfold naturally. Keep having fun. Obsessing about the end result can sabotage an otherwise good thing.
10) Embrace the break up
Every relationship has a natural lifespan. It may be one date. It may be one month. It may be a lifetime. Attempting to force an unnaturally long lifespan onto a relationship will ultimately lead to resentment, unhappiness, and dishonesty. Even if your desire is to settle down with “the one,” when something is not working it’s important to leave relationships as gracefully as you begin them. Just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean it was a failure. Trust that it served the purpose it was meant to serve.