For many real-time relationship seekers, online dating sites are like bad cocktail parties--crawling with guests whom, by virtue of undiagnosed mental illness, addiction, or just plain bad manners, we would be better off never seeing again.
This does not, however, prevent those who no longer wish to trawl the local watering holes for love from casting wide virtual nets. We hope, this time, amidst the soggy leather boot, rusted tuna can, and weathered styrofoam cup, there might actually be a live one vigorously flopping about.
It only takes just one.
We've all experienced that moment where we realize the party ended about an hour before we left. The lights go up, the wrong people are making out with each other, and your boss, a few too many in the bag, starts telling you about last year's company fishing trip--for the third time!
Online dating is no different.
The first few weeks can be fun. "HunkOLove69" seems like a decent prospect, until you realize he is holding a dead fish and sporting an intoxicated blond on his arm who is probably not his sister. Needless to say, after the seventeenth lackluster coffee meetup with the HunkOLove69(s) of the online dating world, most of us are dying to get off the roller coaster of hope and disappointment.
(Sidebar: Ladies, I strongly advise against messaging or responding to anyone over twenty-five with a username that remotely resembles 'HunkOLove69' and/or whose profile features either exes or dead things. Trust me on this one.)
Here's how to tell when it's time to conclude your current online dating chapter:
1. All profiles start to look the same or you cannot remember whom you met where. When you cannot remember if you hit it off with Billy the bartender or Eddie the engineer, it could be time to step away and reset. None of us is our best self when we are so overloaded with information we cannot fully experience the person sitting across from us. Both you and the people you meet deserve to get the best version of you. A short vacation from online dating can reacquaint you with your best self.
2. You spend more time doubting yourself and your future. This is a tough one. While it is normal to feel disappointed or unsure about what the future holds, if you spend an increasing amount of time questioning whether you have what it takes to sustain a relationship, it is time to pause for fresh air and a new perspective. There is someone out there for you and you are worth the time it takes to meet him or her!
3. You feel jaded. Jadedness can easily creep in when the negative experiences outweigh the positive. When you start hearing yourself say things like, “All of the good ones are taken.” or “All guys/girls online are either crazy or defective,” or anything like this, step back for a few weeks (or a few months) and reestablish a curious mind. Online daters enjoy their experiences more when they approach prospective dates with openness, not foregone conclusions about damaged goods.
4. You experience a noticeable lack of interest in reaching out, responding to messages, or scheduling dates. When you start ignoring or not caring about the entire experience, this is usually a response to feeling jaded (see above). It's time to take the bench for a bit.
5. You're getting fewer and fewer visits and messages. Just as real estate agents see the most activity within the first few weeks of a listing, so too do online daters. We humans love bright, shiny objects. The newer your profile, the more visits and messages you will receive. It is normal to see action decrease significantly after a few weeks. If you are paying for a site subscription, I recommend signing up month-to-month and taking every other month off. Use the offline months to tuck into your own life (i.e., do more of what you love and spend time with the people who matter), rework your profile language, and upload fun new pictures. Changing up your profile and re-listing it after thirty days will do wonders for generating new traffic!
So, what now?
Most clients panic when I suggest they take a break from online dating, citing “What if the right person is out there and I miss him or her because my profile is hidden?” Most sentences that begin with “What if” are fear-based. Fear is not a good reason to continue a process that isn't working for you. Fear leads to places we are guaranteed not to find what we seek, so you are wasting your precious time if you choose to remain online for this reason.
There is no such thing as “right person, wrong time.” If you are meant to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right online, he or she will be active and emotionally available at precisely the time you are; trust fate.
We cannot rush or force outcomes. Simply show up, make an effort, and pause when rest is needed. Have faith in yourself and you will get where you need to go.
Ok. Enough about my thoughts--let's hear yours! When did you know it was time to take a break from online dating?
Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, therapist, and counselor. She offers grief therapy, divorce support, and other counseling services in the Phinney Greenwood area of Seattle, WA.
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4/14/2016 03:00:21 pm
"There is someone out there for you and you deserve the time it takes to meet him or her." Thank you for writing this. I will use it as a mantra. Swapping horror stories with my friends can make the whole thing seem impossible!
4/14/2016 06:29:14 pm
Thanks for your comment, Talia. Even though it is statistically more likely we would NOT be compatible with the majority of our dates, living that reality can feel discouraging. Remember: all it takes is just one! In the meantime, self-care (taking breaks when needed and getting support from girlfriends) is a crucial part of maintaining sanity. If you can, try to avoid drawing fear-based conclusions about your relationship future, as that only leads to self-doubt And self-doubt is certainly no fun. Good luck out there!
4/14/2016 06:28:58 pm
This is so good. I know for me it was time to take a break when I would logon to the site with a sense of dread. All the fun went out of it.
4/14/2016 08:29:11 pm
Yes, Elizabeth. It can definitely feel like more of a labor than a love!
5/14/2016 07:21:20 pm
Dear Dr. Jill-
5/16/2016 02:50:42 pm
You're welcome, Heather. Glad you are trusting yourself to know what is best for you! Take all the time you need--you are better than okay.
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Dr. Jill Gross is a licensed psychologist, grief counselor, and dating coach. Her coaching and therapy practice is located in the Phinney - Greenwood area of North Seattle in Washington.