I’m a 28-year old, successful, woman with what some may consider a strong personality. I’m passionate about what I’m passionate about (politics, health and fitness, my job…) and am not afraid to shy away from that. I have a very bad habit of comparing my situation to the situations of those around me. I’ve tried it all – not sleeping with them immediately, sleeping with them immediately, dating way older than me, dating younger than me, dating my own age. Going outside my normal ‘type’, dating different ethnicities and religions, and then my own… I have been an equal opportunity dater – but it just seems that all these dates fall flat.
I, however, am not alone. Tons of men and women I talk to aren’t getting it right either. Is it something we’re doing? Is it something we’re not communicating? Are we over communicating?
“Many millennials don’t yet know what they want in a partner,” says relationship expert Susan Winters, “they don’t know what type of partnership model they want to create. After all, you’re in a time of exploration and discovery. This is the primary reason for suboptimal dating outcomes in most millennials. Additionally, sex tends to occur far sooner than emotional security has been determined. That means it’s a rough ride as there’s no safety net.”
“Most millennials who are single are single because they need to lower their standards! They need to realize that maybe they aren’t bringing as much to the table as they think, and often times they are looking for the wrong qualities in a partner,” says We Met at Acme host and producer, Lindsey Metselaar.
Despite our current societies romantic issues, the dating pool is larger than ever. Dating apps have made it easier than ever for us to be connected, “I’m so pro-dating apps. I found my partner on one. Meeting in person is still a thing that can happen, but everyone you could meet in person is most likely on the dating apps as well. They definitely maximize our possibilities,” says Metselaar.
But, as Winter says, for every plus there are two minuses, “Dating apps are a necessary reality but nobody likes them. Certainly, they extend the romantic possibilities beyond our immediate social set, but between cat fishing, ghosting, and gameplaying,the anonymity of this technology allows for way too much bad behavior.”
The dating misbehavior definitely doesn’t stop at the apps. Social media is making it increasingly more difficult to be authentic in this dating age. “Social media has been directly linked to lowered self-esteem in millennials,” says Winter. “We can’t help but compare ourselves to the Insta-famous beauties with their amazing travel photos and adoring mates. Comparison with the impossible ideals portrayed creates insecurity. None of this helps bolster the self-esteem one needs for modern dating.”!
This is where that overconfidence comes from (or the façade of one). Using Instagram as a benchmark for your dating standards is a great way to be alone for the rest of your life.
Truthfully, social media doesn’t help,” says Metselaar “It’s so easy to compare your situation to someone else’s, and most likely people are projecting something that isn’t even how things really are! It’s important to keep your eyes on your own page when it comes to dating.”
Modern-aged dating may have the answers (or lack thereof) at our fingertips, but what about dating practices of the past? How have so many found, and kept, their loved ones all these years? What was it like dating a decade ago?
“10 years ago, we had less bad behavior. Nowadays, it’s become a routine part of our dating world. It seems each month we come up with a new term to describe the insensitive, thoughtless, and impolite behaviors we experience in modern dating. It’s become our new normal,” says Winter.
Our overconnected lifestyles may also be to blame. “Dating 10 years ago was probably a lot easier because there weren’t so many channels where they could get in touch with you after,” says Metselaar. “If they were interested, they called or texted. They didn’t follow you, snapchat you, DM you, etc! But more or less, if they aren’t getting in touch with you—especially if there are so many ways to do so—after the date, they aren’t interested.”
But what’s really different? We’re spoiled. “We think we have all these options, so we give people a hard time or get rid of them if they don’t have every single quality we need. That is unrealistic! We need to be more open-minded,” says Metselaar.
And the real, ugly truth is that fewer people believe in love nowadays. We’re so accustomed to accepting the bad dating behavior (or participating in it). But, according to Winter, everyday people still find their way into partnership and commitment.
“I think the dating process is ultimately a process of learning who we are,” says Winter. “We discover what we want through experiencing what we don’t want. We learn our bottom line, and we learn we need boundaries. We learn how to communicate our needs in an honest, forthright and diplomatic manner.”
“We learn how to negotiate, and when to compromise. We learn which battles we must fight, and which issues are of lesser importance. We learn our hot buttons—where we are reactive and sensitive, and hopefully, we find ourselves attracted to partners who bring out the best in us while understanding we are still a work in progress.”
Ultimately, dating isn’t about them. It’s about us.
According to Winter, good versus bad dating comes down to the following two major categories: knowing what you want and if you’re capable of executing what you want. And communication, is it clear, concise and effective?
“Lots of people say they want certain things in a relationship but are totally incapable of being a quality partner themselves,” says Winter. ““Their fears often get in the way and they begin to deflector play games. It becomes easier to blame the other person than to look at ourselves. This makes for a bad date. Lack of owning one’s own deficiencies means they can never be corrected.”
When it comes to communication, we have to really be clear not just about the kind of relationship we want, but also how to work things out when they don’t go as planned. We’re so used to just ghosting, ignoring or playing the victim instead of talking things out.
“If there’s a behavior or event that has hurt us, we need to explain why we were hurt and what could have been done instead. Without clarifying the other options that were available, our partner may not know how to properly interact with us. It’s important to state the preferable behavior that we would have liked to have occurred. This gives our partner the information they need to work with us.”
Moral of the story, we’re not bad at dating. We’re living in uncharted territory, and the only way we’re going to break through is by being honest and authentic. Don’t be afraid to communicate and ask for what you want. Put your foot down when bad behavior arises and be confident in who you are. Set realistic standards and communicate them, be open-minded.”
Feature Image via Victoria Morris