THE OTHER DAY, I was procrastinating on Reddit (sue me) when I came across a post complaining about the sorry state of modern dating, and how boring and hard it was. Curious, I googled this to see if it was something commonly felt and there were dozens of articles repeating the exact same things over and over again.
‘Modern dating is shallow.’
‘Apps like Tinder and Bumble only work for good-looking people.’
‘People only care about sex, they don’t care about connection.’
‘Women only want the top 20%!’
‘Men no longer want relationships!’
In response, I wrote a short post of my own that outlined my views on dating. Namely, that it wasn’t boring, it didn’t suck, and it’s the same as it had always been. Some people loved it, some hated it, and one even accused me of preying on chronically depressed people. Like Therapist Dracula or something.
Eat your heart out Bram Stoker.
But despite all of this, I didn’t really feel like I’d said everything I’d wanted to say. Why do people find dating so hard? This doesn’t seem to be just a 2018 thing. Everyone from there’s 20’s to their 40s seems to be having a hard time.
So I adopted the tree pose, did some navel-gazing, and settled on something approaching an opinion.
And that opinion is this:
You make dating hard for yourself, and the time you’re in has nothing to do with it.
Whether you lived now, in 16th century China, or the Garden of Eden – It’d be just as hard if you made the same fundamentally wrong choices you make now.
IS MODERN DATING ACTUALLY THAT HARD?
You can go about dating in any way you want. You can hit up nightclubs relentlessly, you can chase people down on the street, you can do it entirely online, or you can meet everyone at your silent meditation retreats.
There is no way you HAVE to go about dating.
However, there are things you CAN’T get wrong.
I believe it’s these things that account for 99.999999999999% (read: all) of the complaints about modern dating. Because when you really think about it, modern dating is better than it’s ever been.
Let me explain (and tackle some myths):
‘Online dating has made it worse’
A huge part of dating, and finding a person you have chemistry and compatibility with is determined by odds.
The more people you meet, the better your odds.
Not only this, but your results are also determined by the diversity of the pool in which you look. For example, if you spend all your time in high-end night-clubs, you’ll meet a lot of girls who frequent that spot – all the time missing out on the fact you’re better suited to someone who earns a lot less and volunteers at a soup kitchen.
Online dating helps tackle both of these head-on. Not only do you have access to way-way-way more people, but the diversity you have access to quite literally boggles the mind.
In other words, online dating has made it far, far easier, and far, far more likely for you to meet someone who’s great.
It’s up to you how you use it.
‘People are shallower than ever’
Rich can date poor, black can date white, nerd can date cheerleader – that sounds a lot less shallow than it used to be. Hell, in the past shallowness didn’t even come into it – some of these things just weren’t allowed.
People now have more freedom of expression than ever before. This means you’re meeting the person that most accurately reflects them, instead of someone clothed in tradition or custom.
Sure, online dating might accentuate the importance of looks and lifestyle – but these are both fundamental things you should be taking care of anyway.
You’re always going to have people who are more inclined to value shallow traits, but that’s just how some humans are. If you really think about how society HAS BEEN as opposed to HOW IT IS, you’ll probably realize that people have far, far more ways in which to express their own attractiveness and personality, and people are connecting on those things.
Instead of it being courts and ballrooms, peasants and barn dances – it’s now hipsters, gym-rats, travelers, partiers, entrepreneurs, sports enthusiasts, bookworms, film buffs, and on and on until infinity.
These aren’t just interests, these are social interests that people can now connect over. The very fact society is like this suggests the opposite of shallowness. If anything, it shows people have more of an understanding of what’s important to them and what they’re looking for in others.
‘People aren’t interested in relationships’
People’s needs are the same as they’ve ever been. Sure, we all want sex. But we all also want connection and intimacy. I’ve met far, far more people who are interested in the latter. Our brains are literally wired for it after all.
When people say ‘people aren’t interested in relationships’ what I normally hear is: ‘I’m not very good at screening my partners.’ When we know our values and boundaries and prioritize those over feelings of chemistry, we tend to get pretty good at finding people who mirror what we’re looking for.
When we don’t, we get constantly swept up in relationships that are never what we truly wanted. And as a result, we blame everyone else for a mistake that was always ours.
Neediness is the cause of almost all your woes.
WHY IS MODERN DATING SO HARD?
There are certain things in dating you just can’t get wrong. If you do, you’re going to make your dating life a shitload harder, and you’ll be days away from writing a Tumblr post about how everyone these days sucks, and you’re just an ‘old soul’. If only you’d be born in the Renaissance.
But your post would be a big old bowl of bullshit.
Because when we make wrong choices in dating we make it harder for ourselves no matter what our circumstances are.
YOU AREN’T RESPECTING PROBABILITY
Life isn’t a Hollywood movie. You’re not going to be doing a cute little shimmy at the bar and bedazzle the love of your life intro storming across the room towards you.
That doesn’t happen.
What does happen is that you meet a bunch of people who suck and few people that don’t. And the more you sift through the people that suck, the more you meet the people that don’t.
This is why when people claim that modern dating sucks, the first thing I hear is ‘I don’t meet enough people.’
As hard, and as cheesy as it is to believe. There is someone for everyone. If you’re into Magic Cards, Rock climbing, and playing video games into your late 20s, there’s a whole bunch of people out there who find that cool and endearing (I.e. me). But despite this being true, that ‘someone for you’ takes a lot of effort to find.
You have to get off your ass and do something. You have to talk to a lot of people. And you have to ask out a lot of people. Or it’s not going to happen.
Not doing this means dating is always going to SEEM much worse than it is. You’ll be meeting very few people, and the ones who do will most likely suck.
Not a great combo.
YOU EXPECT THINGS FROM OTHERS YOU DON’T EXPECT FROM YOURSELF
If you want to have deep, intimate, engaging conversations with someone, where you disappear into each other’s eyes and wonder how you’ve been so blessed to meet someone like this – then first you have to develop that kind of relationship with yourself.
If you don’t know what your values, boundaries, strengths, weaknesses, mistakes, and ambitions are, and if you’re not comfortable with the vulnerability of expressing those honestly – then ALL of your relationships, whether it’s day 1 or day 1000 are going to suffer as a result.
The hard work starts with you.
Now I’m not saying you need to become a raging narcissist. I have a friend like that and he’s just unbearable. What I am saying is what those white-robed Ancient Greeks used to scrawl on the walls in Delphi:
When you know yourself, your relationships with others increases. This is for multiple reasons:
- Because you know what your values are and you enforce your boundaries, you naturally get rid of people who aren’t right for you.
- Because you’re open and honest about your emotions and vulnerabilities, people are more likely to be open and honest about theirs. As a result, your connections deepen.
- Because you’ve done all this hard work with yourself, you’re probably pretty happy. So you’re not coming at any relationship looking for anything but the icing on an already well-baked cake.
All of these revolve around one central devil:
When you value the opinions and emotional validation of others over your own integrity, then you’ll never have the relationship you truly want.
Your connection with others is only as good as your connection with yourself. If that connection is validation seeking and needy, then they’ll all be.
You can either take responsibility for this or walk around wondering why everyone else isn’t up to scratch.
YOU’RE ALREADY BORED
Dating is just the icing on the cake. And if your cake bores the shit out of you, then no amount of dating is going to help – and actually, it’ll make it worse.
Before you can be happy with your dating life, you’ve got to be happy with your own.
There is no trick, technique, or radical social change that will eliminate this fact. I harp on about this a lot, but I think this is fundamental to dating, and arguably the biggest determinant of your results.
If your life doesn’t take care of your basic needs and promote good feelings within you, then it’s unlikely you’re going to meet anyone who will. At best you’ll meet people as down on their life as you.
You don’t get sparks from two wet sticks.
Now I’m not saying your life has to be frolicking-in-the-fields happy. Everyone feels down now and again. Hell, a lot of people who have happy lives also struggle with depression.
All I’m saying is that you have to find a life that works for you and that genuinely meets your needs.
This takes an enormous amount of courage and honesty. You have to really look at your life and ask yourself whether the elements within it are really helping you, or if in actual fact they’re harmful.
Because if you’re anything like me, you’ll have convinced yourself that a lot of the things that are bad for your happiness, are actually things that make you happy. But despite what you might convince yourself, you can never make a ‘heaven of hell’.
YOU AREN’T AROUSING
If you aren’t comfortable sexually expressing yourself, it’s going to be a lot less likely that anyone will be turned on by you.
In which case, your dating life will always be a bit sexually flat.
Sexuality is reciprocal. When it is accepted, people are aroused by expressions of desire and sexual interest, and it, in turn, promotes expressions of sexual desire back.
When it isn’t, you quickly find out whether or not that person is into you. Aka, you’ll get rejected.
Dating is a sexual process. It’s not your standard social occasion. You’re spending time with someone you want to get to know and want to sleep with. The more you allow yourself to be honest about this, the more your dating life will come to reflect this unique experience.
The less you do, the more mundane it will seem, and you’ll be left wondering ‘why didn’t I just hang out with someone I know?’ Or ‘I’d rather spend time with my friends.’
Your sexual confidence is your responsibility. Everyone feels nervous about expressing sexual interest. Everyone worries about being rejected, and they feel compelled to hide their intentions to prevent that rejection.
But this is the opposite of what you have to do if you want a better dating life. You have to slowly learn to take risks. To make yourself vulnerable with your sexual desire.
Because if you don’t, you’re right – you may as well be hanging out with your friends.
YOU PURSUE TOXIC VALUES
Your dating life is as toxic as you design it to be.
If you pursue the wrong values in yourself and others, then you make a bigger mistake than not knowing your values at all.
A toxic value is any value which provides you with a false sense of fulfillment, almost always at the expense of what you truly value.
For example, if you think you value sex and looks over honesty and respect, you will continually chase sexual validation from good looking people, at the expense of your own happiness and integrity.
When this doesn’t work, you’ll often double down on that toxic value, and try and chase a bigger hit.
Likewise, if you value the turbulence of romance over compatibility and trust, you will constantly end up with people who are exciting in short bursts but then treat you like shit in the long run. And as soon as they’re done you’ll jump onto the next one.
You get toxic results from your own design. If you don’t do the groundwork of understanding your values and boundaries, and even more so, having an understanding of what motivates your toxic values (i.e. neediness, narcissism) – then you are going to have a dating life that is much more likely to be riddled with toxicity.
That’s how it works. Toxic people attract toxic people. So do the right thing and pick better values to chase.
YOU AREN’T TAKING CARE OF YOUR LOOKS
People care about looks. Sure, other things matter, but looks do always matter too. There’s no ifs or buts.
And before you go shouting about modern society, Instagram, porn, and marketing being to blame – beauty has been worshipped in our society since we early homo sapiens saw their first pair of tits, washboard abs, and chiseled jawline.
We like to look at hot people. It’s part of who we are.
For some of us, that might seem like a bummer. But here’s the caveat:
Whilst not everyone is Brad Pitt, everyone can take better care of themselves.
Everyone can make the decision to take better care of their appearance, and, to steal a line from Socrates: ’see the strength and beauty of which their body is capable.’
This isn’t just a good idea for your health and general self-confidence, but it’s also just a no-brainer.
Sure – I don’t like the fact that people value this as much as anyone. If I could roll out of bed and look a million dollars I would. But the reality is, I don’t.
I have to take care of my grooming, dress well, get a good haircut, and not eat like shit. And, to be honest, it isn’t a lot of work. It’s just basic self-respect.
It’s taking care of yourself.
And if you aren’t doing that – why the hell not?
YOU AREN’T REALLY TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
Every single point involves taking responsibility for the kind of life you actually want, and like most people, actually need. Everyone wants to have a good dating life – that’s how we meet people and get our all too human needs for love and connection met.
But you don’t get a good dating life for free. You have to take responsibility for your own life, and develop it into something you’re happy with.
And in doing so, all your complaints about dating will cease to exist.
Because when you’re saying dating sucks and it’s hopeless, what you’re really doing is absolving yourself of any responsibility. If something is hopeless and out of your control, what can you possibly do to change it? You may as well be a prisoner.
At least, that’s how it seems.
But not only is this untrue, it’s also not the worst part. The worst part is not that you’re telling yourself it can’t be done.
You’re actually telling yourself that you can’t do it.
That you can’t create positive change in your own life.
The reality though is a little different:
Making your life easier is always a choice you get to make.
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