Why I Quit Online Dating

Hearts On Mobile Phone Shows Love And Online Dating

No, it is not because my knight in shining armor came galloping in, stage left, on his white horse, sweeping me off my feet and up onto the back of the horse with one chiseled, romance-novel strong arm, and then off we rode on a sandy beach as the sun set to live happily ever after.

No. This is not that.

Let’s start at the beginning of my entry into the world of online dating. It started with a phone call from my father in November 2014. It was one year post-divorce for me and almost two years since his second wife passed away. It went like this:

“Hey kid! How’s your love life?” Dad says, unusually chipper.

“My what?? Ha ha, oh, yeah, that. It’s dead,” I say, deadpanning as I always do with him. Not expecting much, I say, “Why, how’s yours, Dad?”

“It’s GREAT!” he says with more enthusiasm than I’ve heard in his voice in months. “I have a date this weekend, another next weekend – and we’re going out on Christmas Eve AND New Year’s Eve!” he says, beaming. (I can hear someone beaming over the phone, can’t you?)

“Wow! Dad, good for you!” I meant it. Seriously. I did.

He proceeded to tell me how he had reconnected with a woman from his ballroom dance group, someone he had known for more than 40 years. Her husband had passed recently and they were enjoying each other’s company. Apparently, when a man hits his 80’s, he is a hot commodity if he still has some hair, can dance and drive. I, on the other hand, had only gone on a handful of dates since my divorce and realized each time that I was not at all ready. My friends had been suggesting I try online dating but I resisted each time. My kids needed me. I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t ‘me.’

Truth? I was terrified.
I was married for 19 years and we were together for 22 years. At 45, the mere thought of ‘dating’ was overwhelming. I had no idea what to do. Or how to do it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to. Until that phone call. I hung up with my dad and called my best friend.

“Okay, it’s official – I’m a loser. Even my dad has a date for New Year’s Eve. Talk me through this Match.com thing.”

She did. Almost a year and a half later, I can honestly say – it was a good experience. I learned a lot. I went into it terrified and came out – smarter. I met some nice people, but no ‘matches.’ (Obviously or I would not be writing this.) I went into it thinking…I will enjoy meeting new people, be open to the possibilities, but be on the lookout for red flags, and simply let it be what it will be.

I learned a ton.
How to approach a first date; how to end a date when it went sideways; how to block aggressive, crazy people and not feel bad about it. I learned that I didn’t have to respond to every message I received (but still feel a little bad about it when I don’t). I learned how to read profiles and photos, along with messages, to spot anything, anything at all, that I might have in common with the person who took the time to reach out to me (or anything to watch out for). I looked at every date as an opportunity to learn something and tried to take away something positive from each experience – learn about a new band, a new way of thinking, a great idea, a book, or a lesson, i.e., never get trapped into a seven-hour first date again (let’s leave it at that, I don’t want to be Taylor Swift.)

I learned more about what I liked and what I didn’t. I learned what I needed to work on more and when I needed a break from dating. What my deal-breakers were. I learned that there are a lot of people just like me, with stories and baggage, all trying to do the best they can every day. There are a lot of crazy people, yes, that, too. I learned that there are a lot of people out there with broken yet hopeful hearts.

I tried to look at each date as a nice adult coffee, lunch or dinner. No expectations. I will be myself and see where it goes. 

But it’s not that simple. Not for me, anyway.

While I tried to be open and laissez-faire, there was always a teensy tiny little flicker of hope, especially in the beginning. Maybe…this could…be something? (As I dress up and apply my makeup with extra care.) Maybe…we’ll hit it off? (As I check myself in the mirror before I leave.) Maybe…he could be…THE ONE??

I mean, isn’t that kind of the point? You’re supposed to keep your mind and heart open to the possibilities. Otherwise, you become shut down, bitter, cynical and all of the things that dating advice columnists warn you NOT to do. So I tried. I tried really, really hard.

But online dating is so different from real-life dating.
In real life, you meet someone, feel a spark, then you go out again and see where it leads. With online dating, you are meeting with someone face-to-face to see if there is a spark after exchanging a few words online or by phone (although most dates happen without even a phone call). That’s a lot of pressure. A good text exchange and phone call do not necessarily guarantee a connection in person.

And let’s not forget the pressure.
Online dating gets a little easier the more you do it, like anything. But honestly, first and early-on dates are worse than job interviews. You are both on your best behavior. You are trying to figure each other out. Decide how much to reveal about your story, how much is too little or too much. Spot the red flags. Decide if there will be a second date. Be funny. Flirt. Figure out stuff like who pays and how it should go down (I once had a guy tell me he appreciated me offering to pay my half, took me up on it, then said – I like when a woman has some skin in the game – huh??). Whether you should let them walk you to your car. You wonder – do I like them? Do they like me? Do they like their kids? Is he a good dad? Does he blame his ex for everything from the divorce to his athlete’s foot? Why are they telling me all this horrible stuff in the first five minutes?? Am I missing something (what was that he said about his crazy ex again??)? Can I get over my anti-mustache thing?? Could I learn to like duck hunting/ballroom dancing/country music/antiquing/sushi/fill in the blank? Am I being too picky? Am I being judgmental? Am I settling? Am I talking too much? Am I being swept off my feet or hit by a truck?

All of this over a latte. It’s exhausting.
I try not to overthink it, but it’s hard when you are dealing with something that feels so important – your feelings and the feelings of another person. (This does not apply to players who are obviously just looking for a hookup.) The worst is when you get a few dates in and it falls apart for one reason or another – no chemistry on one side or another; somebody’s not ready; you get ghosted and have no clue what happened. Worse, you find out someone is still married and not technically separated (hello, get on Ashley Madison, creep); is a convicted felon; a narcissist; mean; selfish; a racist; or just plain crazy. Yet you continue to go out on dates, meeting new people, keeping a positive attitude, telling yourself – but this is where everyone is now! How else will you meet someone if you’re not online like everyone else?

I have no illusions that I will meet someone in my everyday life. 
I live in a suburb of Chicago where 98.2% of people are married (or at least it feels that way). I don’t like meeting people in bars (maybe that’s worked for you, but it has not for me). I work from home. I am involved in my favorite activities and groups that I enjoy, but it is a tricky business to date someone in a group you love because if it doesn’t work out, it gets really awkward and somebody has to quit the group or everybody is miserable. Been there, done that. Hitting on people at the gym or over the tomatoes at the grocery store has become slightly creepy and there is this general sentiment that it just isn’t done anymore.

What about other dating sites, you say?
The only other site I’ve tried besides Match is eHarmony and that only lasted for a few weeks. I couldn’t take the rigid, structured back-and-forth communication with matches or the inability to write my own profile. I am a grown up, I can have conversations on my own, thank you (if it worked for you, that’s awesome – it just wasn’t my thing). The last straw was the continual list of matches from one, two and three states away (what algorithm hell did I get trapped in??).

I’ve never tried the free sites – Tinder (hook up reputation freaks me out); Plenty of Fish (horrible user interface and the name – you don’t like what you caught, eh, throw it back in, plenty more where that came from); OkCupid (okay, cute name but still) or any other paid sites because from what I’ve heard, all the same people are on all the same sites and quite frankly, I have not heard great stories and it just seems too stressful to manage. I like to read, think and consider carefully who I reach out to or respond to, so it starts to feel like a part-time job. I don’t want to feel like I am punching a clock, checking boxes or swiping across profiles as breezily as I browse through clothes on a sales rack. It doesn’t feel right to me. Maybe I will return someday. Maybe I just need a break.

For everyone about to say, ah, but you will find love when you stop looking/least expect it…
Don’t. Just don’t. To be fair, this statement may very well be true. But I might get hit by a bus tomorrow when I am least expecting it. I could win the lottery tomorrow, too (if I played the lottery). In my experience, the only people who say that are those who are happily attached and/or haven’t dated since dinosaurs walked ten miles uphill to school in the snow both ways. Seriously. Single people everywhere HATE this line. YOU hated this line when  you were single. Please. Stop. Saying. It. (Single folks everywhere – you’re welcome.)

So I’m quitting online dating for now.
Spring is haphazardly trying to happen now in Chicago. Summer is close on its heels with everything outdoors that I love to do. I have much to be grateful for in my life: great kids; great friends; my health; work that I love. It is enough. I want to enjoy it and live my life fully in the present. I want to laugh and dance and focus on things that mean something to me – which does not include browsing profiles and stressing out over coffee.

That is not to say I am giving up on the whole knight/white horse/chiseled, romance-novel arm/sunset thing. Not at all. (Deep down, we all want that, don’t we? Or has that changed, too?) I am going to ride my own white horse for the time being and hope that someday, I will look over and Mr. Knight will be riding beside me. And I will say, well, it’s about damn time.

I will never give up believing that someday, I will find someone who looks at me like maybe, just maybe…I am magic.

Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell
by Marty McConnell

leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
so arid. don’t wish away
your cracked past, your
crooked toes, your problems
are papier mache puppets
you made or bought because the vendor
at the market was so compelling you just
had to have them. you had to have him.
and you did. and now you pull down
the bridge between your houses.
you make him call before
he visits. you take a lover
for granted, you take
a lover who looks at you
like maybe you are magic. make
the first bottle you consume
in this place a relic. place it
on whatever altar you fashion
with a knife and five cranberries.
don’t lose too much weight.
stupid girls are always trying
to disappear as revenge. and you
are not stupid. you loved a man
with more hands than a parade
of beggars, and here you stand. heart
like a four-poster bed. heart like a canvas.
heart leaking something so strong
they can smell it in the street.

20 thoughts on “Why I Quit Online Dating

  1. This is a heroically, gutsy post that I thoroughly enjoyed. Part of the problem with online dating is that it’s hard to place in our realm of experiences. Everyone knows that when you are unemployed and interviewing for a job, chances are that you are going to take an emotional beating before you find your dream job, but dating is supposed to feel good. However, in many ways online dating is more like interviewing for a job (and interviewing a potential employee) than it is the romantic thing known as dating.

    Clearly, a break from the online dating scene is in order for you, but I hope the moratorium doesn’t last too long. 1.8% of the men in your town are being denied something very special! 😉

  2. I’m newish to online dating and totally agree with you that it’s like a job with the browsing and the messaging etc. I have my first ever online date in 2 days so if you have a top tip I’d love to hear it!

    1. Congrats! Top tip – that’s tough. I hate to sound cliche, but the first two things that come to mind are: be yourself and be kind. I am nervous before every first date, but I always remind me to just be me and let the chips fall where they may. (Of course I try to be the best ‘me’ I can, as we all do.)

      You want someone to really like the real you, so be that. It helps to remember that she is nervous, too. Ask her questions and listen more than you talk. You will see the real person come out and light up when you hit on her favorite subjects. That’s very compelling!

      Have fun!! You’ll do great. 🙂

  3. Wow did this bring back memories of my foray into that world some years ago. All I can say is yuck…I didn’t enjoy a bit of it. It always felt so artificial and contrived. And I got a lot of the people who wanted hook ups, which I definitely didn’t want. And people whose photos must have been from a decade before. And creepy stalkers. And yet a friend of mine had tons of fabulous dates and thoroughly enjoyed her experience. So, clearly it works for some people but I can say without a doubt that it wasn’t for me.

    1. Totally relate to all of the above. Don’t get me wrong, I met some nice people and it can be fun at times. And every time I hear a story of how couples met online, I think – hmm. So I unhide my profile and change my story/update pix yet again lol. I’m curious what you did in place of online dating and how that worked for you?

      1. Ended up meeting my husband through my friend, who is now my sister-in-law! She didn’t exactly set us up, but we were introduced when I was invited to her house for Christmas. Prior to that, I met people through the sports activities and things I was involved in which worked out better for me, with actual face to face meeting instead of virtual meeting.

  4. Hi Christy. I just found myself searching for posts tagged anything like ‘dating after divorce’ ‘dating post-40’ etc. I’m five months separated from my husband after a ten year relationship and I have two little boys aged nearly 4 & nearly 7. I am also about to turn 45. I have now read several posts which seem to centre around internet dating and it’s left me feeling extremely depressed and convinced that I will now be single for the rest of my life. Having read your post though I am coming to terms with the fact that it’s not dating per sé that is rubbish, but specifically internet dating. I did it myself ten years ago (that’s how I met my husband) and I’ve even written a blog post called ‘Why I won’t be internet dating again’ but sometimes it looks like the only realistic option. Or maybe not! It’s a lot of time and emotional energy with not very much back at the end of the day isn’t it? Plus I tend to feel like the people who internet date – even if they didn’t mean to initially – end up treating it like it’s a ‘menu’ for them to choose from which doesn’t sit right with me. Anyway, thanks for this – I am with you on remaining hopeful for the knight/white arm/sunset thing against all the odds 🙂

    1. Welcome back (?) to the wacky world of dating and online dating – at least it gives us good stories, right?? 🙂 Keep your hope alive!! I ended up going back to online dating a few weeks after writing this post, actually, and was considering doing some follow up articles on the experience. I think you’re spot on – online dating is a realistic option and that’s where everyone is, so it’s like a necessary evil. It can be a lot of emotional time and energy spent, for sure, especially when you have kids and work and a life to manage, too. I’ve come to look at the experience a little differently every time I take a break then get back on. I hope I am getting smarter about how I approach it but who knows. It’s definitely challenging. almost grueling at times. It gives me hope that you met your husband that way back in the day – I’m curious if you think the online experience has changed since then? You mentioned the menu mentality for one thing – is that different from how it used to be? I keep thinking – I may not meet my knight on Match, but I’m definitely getting better at spotting the court jesters. 🙂

  5. Oh I haven’t gone back to online dating at this point! Good stories are one thing but I just hate, hate the idea of this whole unnatural set up where you know you’re being scrutinised and compared to tens or even hundreds of other women – I’ll never be that cute, perky 25 year old again! I am still clinging onto the idea of meeting someone ‘organically’ in the ‘real world’! Come back to me a year down the line and I’ll probably be a fully subscribed member of X number of sites! 🙂
    I’m afraid I wouldn’t like anyone to be given hope by my story – although yes, I guess we had 6 or 7 years of relative happiness which beats the average score for an Internet hookup!
    I should point out that I never would have looked twice at my husband’s profile – he had an awful picture and he was up front about having a two year old daughter from a previous relationship which was a huge turn off for me – but he was very persistent and we ended up hitting it off in person so that’s worth keeping in mind.
    From what I’ve read things in the online dating world are still pretty much the same.There were a lot of players back then – maybe I was a bit naïve (and sex-starved!) and kind of jumped into ‘relationships’ way too easily actually believing that a long term thing was possible. Some guys were honest and we genuinely tried to get on but there were too many awkward silences! Some guys were a bit more deceitful. It didn’t even occur to me back then that they might have been seeing other people at the same time but I wouldn’t be surprised in some cases.
    If I do ever get back online I guess I will be a lot more clued up on the whole ‘red flag’ thing. Xx

  6. I would love to meet someone the natural way, too. 🙂 It sounds like things haven’t changed all that much, actually. Another layer of complexity to online dating is actually what you said – dating again after 40 is a different experience than dating at 25. HIstories, heartaches, work, kids, parenting weekends, etc. and how we look/feel about ourselves after all of that, too. Well, I wish you the best in your journey and your search. We’ll have fun riding our white horses in the meantime. I think my ‘prince’ got lost and forgot his GPS at the castle. LOL

  7. Great post Christy! I agree with you there’s something lost in online dating, but I think (for me anyway) it’s partly about being gun-shy after divorce. I know what it is I don’t want, and that tends to color my outlook sometimes (hence the quasi-monastic lifestyle I currently employ). Honestly though, I find it hard to believe that you’re still single. The personality and intellect that come through in your writing are pretty attractive, as is your picture. You know what’s funny… you’re friends with one of my Facebook friends from high school, and I landed here because I thought your picture was cute 🙂 So there are good guys looking (or at least smart ones who use a lot of parentheses). Just sayin’…

    1. Thanks, Brian. I get being gun shy and the quasi-monastic thing. It’s nice to take a break and chill from it all, I’m learning as much from this as dating. 🙂 Thank you also for the kind words – I see we know a few of the same people on FB. Not sure which one is the mutual friend? So…good guys who are smart and have a penchant for parenthesis do exist!! I thought it was a myth. 🙂

      1. Christy, I saw your post on one of Christine D.’s pictures. I actually became FB friends with her recently because of a mutual group that was just started. You’re right, we do know several of the same people. I’ve known Dave G. since grade school, played in a band with Rob L., had an English class with Gretchen G-B, so yeah, small world. Sooo… does that qualify as an organic meet, or a digital one? Perhaps I can add you as a FB friend, strictly as a social experiment, of course 🙂

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