Dating Digitally the Messy Truth.

Dating has changed in the era of black mirrors. A great show if you haven’t seen it . I digress. Recently having being single again. I made the decision to enter the dating market place. I did have a quick conversation with my therapist because it is intimidating at first and more importantly, I want to make sure everything was still true about the progress I made.

I wholeheartedly believe you need to be emotionally healthy before starting to date. And it’s not always about the baggage. Sometimes it’s about what you may begin to inflict on yourself or people throw at you. And trust me over the years I have had some interesting experiences. Some I still scratch my head about. However you live you learn. And you move on, and that I will write about later.

I want to talk about Online dating. I have used it in the past when I was younger with mild to moderate success. Today we have a plethora of options and more importantly slow the stigma is dying. Which to me is great as we live and breathe technology and I see no difference between this and personal ads. Which if you want to see some you can craigslist. And when do look at them it is kind of scary and confusing.

This time around I decided I will be a bit more focused. Last time I looked at it and considered it by the numbers. That I needed to meet as many people I could to explore as much of the dating scene as I could. While it proved to be both interesting and satisfying to an extent at the end it proved that it was exhausting. I felt I did not devote some women the attention they deserved. And for that I would hope that they were able to meet someone special. And not a guy who was a bit of a flake but tried to be nice about it.

This time around it is different. I decided I would avoid the conundrum of choice and find someone truly interesting and send her a message. Then rely on what dating really is. Getting to know someone you may want to be romantic with. As crazy as it seems that’s the whole point of online dating to some. And I prefer that. Others my want hook ups or more ‘casual’ things. But not to scare of any potential matches that stumble onto my blog. But I don’t think that’s me at all. I want something more stable, fun, and has the potential of developing into a good relationship.

And there in lies the problem. According to The Pew Research Center 32% of internet users agree with the statement that “online dating keeps people from settling down because they always have options for people to date.” Which means if I am focused on actually settling with a woman who is someone I am interested in… what guarantees do I have she’s of like mind? The main problem here is that because we have so many options and we can browse through a store like shopping for clothes. We may never actually settle down because we’re stuck on what-ifs or maybe the next one will be better. However, that doesn’t have to be the end of it. Which I will address later.

Another problem that crosses my mind as well is that Pew also points out in the same article 11% of people who are in long term relationships less that 10 years in length have met online. Meaning the tough part isn’t exactly finding a person who wants to settle it is actually the settling in itself. And if anything now you’re wondering “Cam. 11%? How the heck does someone fall into that. Or why take that risk?” We already have to major issues that plague users of online dating. And they are quite serious. Then what solutions do we have?

Well I don’t know. But what I can tell you is maybe just maybe there is a reason why 11% online is fairing better than the rest. And I think that’s hard to answer. We can never truly put couples who have met in different environments in a true vacuum and see the results. But let’s assume that for a minute. That all people who are dating or married or in a partnership all have had equal inputs. They met and it didn’t play as much as a role. Because we all know it does in some cases. I think there’s answer somewhere.

Allow me to cite Mandy Len Catron, maybe just maybe she can help us with these dilemma. The title of her TEDTalk really says it all about what we’re all thinking. In her talk titled Falling in Love is the Easy Part she goes deep into her own personal experiences and talk about what makes a relationship last. She even cites a study in which a series of questions were asked, and a lab tried to create a romantic relationship to make a relationship last longer than a fling. What is most interesting is her response to what we all want to know “Are they still together” or did they work out.” She argues that looking at her own relationship that what would it really tell them if they were still together? And the answer truly is people are simply looking for a lasting relationship.

What stuck out most to me was when a student approached at a talk about the study not working for him and all it ended up with was being better friends with the woman he was after. And she said it worked. So then what. What generates a lasting relationship? And again she presents this question when asked to relate it to her own experiences.

How do you decide who deserves your love and who does not? How do you stay in love when things get difficult, and how do you know when to just cut and run? How do you live with the doubt that inevitably creeps into every relationship, or even harder, how do you live with your partner’s doubt? I don’t necessarily know the answers to these questions, but I think they’re an important start at having a more thoughtful conversation about what it means to love someone.

In short she says it is choice. We choose the other person, just as she said she choose her significant other. I won’t spoil if they’re together or not. But definitely watch the TedTalk. Anyways back to my original point. So in the end the reason we have lasting relationships and beat the odds. Is that we choose to. We sit down look at what’s on the table and together enter this sometime scary idea. But willingly we choose to work through things. Cry with each other. Get angry and make up with each other. Share the best and the worst times. And that what makes it last.

As for the earlier point about being able to settle. Well it too falls into the same answer about creating a lasting relationship. We have to choose, to focus on just one person. Because putting your energy into it will at least tell you if it’s worth while. Than after that you can choose (and hopefully they will too) to go from the budding friendship to the romance and relationship you want to last. I guess my point is this. Yes, online dating is great 1,000s of people all over the place. You can meet and browse and keep options open. But maybe that’s the problem with dating. Since when did we start treating it like Warby Parker? That’s what makes it messy it’s not supposed to be looked at as a shopping service. Instead of being focused on one person and choosing to take that risk we get caught up. Eventually we meet someone and maybe it fails because we’re constantly dwelling what else is out there. So by effectively not choosing and not settling we’re dooming ourselves to 89% of all online relationships?

My challenge if you are dating online or dating in general. Is choose to be bold, choose to try something different, just make a choice for what you want. And see it through. You never know what may happen. But sometimes it’s choosing to set a course and focus. After all we don’t know what we don’t know.

(Repost) A Hard Topic for Men: Vulnerability

I remember the last time I had a good cry for a beautiful reason. It was my brother’s wedding, after doing my toast…. The sight of him on his special day. I had written a speech and did away with it. I spoke from my heart. The whole time I kept thinking. I’m going to cry. I’m going to sob my freaking eyes out. And I did. The tears couldn’t stop coming and even now I can feel them sitting behind my eyes. I cried because it overwhelmed me with good emotions. Things that felt good. I had opened up my heart in front of a room of friends, family, and loved ones.

Since then I am sure I’ve cried other times from the emotions I was feeling. And as a male, especially a young male. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I was on Reddit the other day and I saw this question from one the users posed to women of the site asking “How do women feel about vulnerable men?” The responses were many responses to me were eye opening to read. However, it really got me thinking. Are men like me in fear of appearing vulnerable in front of women? In front of the ones we love? Or in front of anyone? Are we hard-wired to shy away? If you do reading on it there is a plethora of information. One of my favourite sites to read Psychology Today, they posted it about it and had some interesting revelations. Dr. Emma Seppala wrote ,

Although we may try to run from vulnerability, it is an inevitable part of social relationships. Even outside of romance, vulnerability is something we encounter frequently: calling someone who has just lost a child, asking a friend for help, taking responsibility for something that went wrong at work, confronting a family member about their behavior, or sitting by the bedside of a friend with a terminal illness. Opportunities for vulnerability present themselves to us every day, the question is whether we will take them.

She goes further to cite examples about how we as men try to find pragmatic solutions or try to fix problems in our relationships. That we do avoid vulnerability. And I kept thinking about the “why?” And the depth of what this really is. Being vulnerable in front of someone who you really care about is daunting. I am sure men and women go through it. However, part of me leans towards the fact that as men we learn to face it and try to skate around. But why? Why avoid something that enables us to feel. That enables us to relay emotions and share a social connection at a deeper level.

I am not ashamed to admit I cry, have these feelings I want to share with that special someone. My family, my closest friends, my girlfriend. I am also not ashamed to say I am scared as hell to open up for the fear of getting hurt. However, life is about the risks. It is about the chance that it will hurt us. If you look at it from the position of a romantic relationship, it is important that we look at our vulnerability. That the very moment you’re feeling scared to say what you’re feeling. Or cry in front of this person or anyone in fact. Admit when we’ve done wrong. Raise our hand and say that we’re drowning and need help. Say when something doesn’t make us feel good. Or even grieve in the presence of another soul.

Intimacy is only successful when we are open and honest. Being open and honest allows us to be vulnerable, and that seems scary. Frightening is the idea that I will show my heart and have no assurances of what happens next. And no one likes the hurt or the unknown, sure we can act tough pretend that we don’t care. Yet, the key point is we’re only human. We have feelings; we have hopes; we have dreams; we have these things that everyone experiences. We feel things. And here I am questioning why avoid vulnerability?

The people closest to you, those who love you…. they love you for you. Vulnerability isn’t this evil lurking to destroy you. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “[d]o one thing every day that scares you.” I am not too afraid to even admit sometimes I’m scared myself. Allowing myself to be vulnerable. How do we know we’ll get hurt if we don’t take the chance? How do we know that vulnerability is bad if we’re never vulnerable?  I think it is something we as men (and women too) need to remember isn’t out to kill us. That moment where we are at the edge... that we’re vulnerable.  Why not take the chance and see what happens? Life is too short to hide.