I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging, but I have been on hundreds of dates in the last seven years. I occasionally marvel at my own stamina. If dating were a competitive sport, I would be under investigation for doping. If ‘putting myself out there’ was an Olympic event, I’d be on a Wheaties box. You get the idea.
It might be tempting to conclude there is something wrong with me, and while that is true, that isn’t the problem. I think the construct of dating is the problem. Or, is it what people bring to dating?
For the purposes of this essay I am defining dating as it exists for me; mostly online dating with some real world dates.
Dating’s success rate in delivering relationships is dismal. Sure, there are people who met online and fell in love, but the successes are not the norm.
In my marathon-level years of dating I’ve noticed some prevailing themes that cause romances to derail:
- Creating space. There needs to be room to enter another person’s life. Seems simple, but we engage in all sorts of activities and pursuits that keep others at bay then are mystified when people cycle out.
- The myth of the exceptional mate. The sooner we accept we are all flawed and in need of tolerance and patience, the sooner we can be generous with others.
- Lost confidence. This is a big one in middle age. Divorces and setbacks undermine our courage. Instead of doing the internal work, we default to waiting for a person who is able to power through the gauntlet of gyrations we subject them to.
The problem with dating is that everyone is looking for lightning in a bottle amongst mere mortals. The illusion of choice make the stakes that much higher when we get face to face with another person. This person better blow me away!
“Someone I would be thrilled to do nothing with who would be as equally thrilled to do nothing with me.” Aziz Ansari
I’ve often thought this over-reliance on chemistry is partly caused by the fiction of romance fables we guzzle by the truckload. We inhale in all sorts of ways that love is a perfect person rather than what it actually is: a choice, generosity, forbearance.
'Soulmates’ are exalted, while the couples who work at loving each other without the illusion of a perfect relationship are subjected to scorn. If we accept that the journey to love is an internal one and not on the back of another, then imperfect love seems the only realistic option.
The lasting impression dating has made on me is that we squander opportunity. We live under the delusion life goes on and on, and there is an unlimited supply of wonderful people who will come along. That we can wait indefinitely for that one, magic person to overwhelm all the barriers to intimacy.
It’s just isn’t so.