We’ve all seen the fictional romance where two people have magical chemistry and know they are destined for each other within a matter of moments, committing the rest of their lives to a suddenly-soulmate stranger without hesitation. They just know. Disney was a pretty terrible propagator of this sham for many years. Arranged marriage controversy aside, this idea is bullshit for modern day dating and I take issue with it. As presented, it completely ignores all the hard earned getting-to-know-you personality mixing that goes into making adult decisions and protecting ourselves from bad choices. It also ignores all the times anyone has had that gut instinct at first… and then it turned out horribly. We’re better than this and we know it.
There are some extraordinary stories (I can think of two friends in particular) where they believe they had a love at first sight magical meet-cute feeling and ended up getting married to that person eventually. Both of them are still together and quite happy as far as I can tell. The far greater majority of my married/partnered friends and family came to their lifelong commitment decision after falling in love, sure, but then a rollercoaster of obstacles and trust building as they grew in their closeness. This is going to sound hypocritical coming from someone who supports online dating fervently, but I think our sense of closeness has gotten out of whack. Your goal certainly doesn’t have to be marriage (I know mine isn’t) but finding meaningful connections is a pretty common goal in dating. We need to spend more good, quality time with our dates and then be honest about our compatibility instead of trying to live up to a magical connection that transcends common sense, realizing a little too late that we’ve been swept away with wanting to be Disney royalty. Perhaps I feel especially strongly about this because of how I advise people to see online dating, which is: take it offline and get in person as soon as possible. Live the reality. Make it tangible. Get some skin in the game, literally.
Closeness happens through time spent, plain and simple. Our genetics dictate that we’re social creatures and the majority of us need a consistent in-person connection to understand each other on an intimate level and feel close. We crave it. Video calls are such a wonderful tool for people to meet safely, stay connected over long distances and share their experiences with a visual. I even think long video calls have sparked a lot of curiosity for me in the past and whetted my appetite for potential in-person romance. They’ve also been a crutch I leaned on too heavily to build closeness and make believe the in-person experience would feel the same. Video screens are not the same as sharing breathing space with someone. There is a massive vulnerability to sharing physical space. Video calls allow us to remain in the safe space of our own body bubble and control our expression. We have control over what our counterpart sees, how they see it and for how long. We can lie, distort, make excuses, ignore or cut off a call far more easily than we can hide ourselves and our thoughts in person. I think at some point, video calls hit a wall, a threshold of closeness, and you absolutely have to hold off on any commitment to feelings or life changes until you get to spend some real, unfiltered, see-the-sweat and smell-the-same-air time together.
There are too many stories of people sparking a connection online and then holding off on meeting in person for one reason or another, only to be disappointed when it actually happens. Dating pool, listen to me, I’m telling you right now, this is your command — meet in person. Online dating is an enormously fun way to find others with common interests and sort through matches and get your flirt on. But if you really want to connect and avoid catfishing, put your big kid pants on and make a date. The only excuse I find viable for holding off is that you aren’t in the same city. That’s it. If you’re interested, you will meet up. Simple and true. You can find out very quickly if you’re right for each other once you share some air. And if they don’t want to? MOVE THE FUCK ON. But, but, but… I can already hear the protests. “She’s just really busy with work…” and, “He doesn’t have a car right now… “ and the worst, “I don’t know, they just don’t want to and I feel bad pushing…” BULLSHIT. I think folks might not want to because they prefer to live in the video dream land of the hope-sos and maybes. That is bullshit. Meet in person. Make a goddamn move. Just do it.
Once you finally start spending some in-person time together, the next factor is what kind of time that is. If someone asked me right now about the man I’ve been “seeing” for a few months, there might be an idea of how well we know each other by now given that length of time. Months seems like it’s serious. What if I told you we’ve been sleeping together. Would that mean we’re serious? Neh. C’mon, I’m a modern girl. Sex doesn’t equal closeness or long term compatability in and of itself. What they should really be wondering if they want to know if it’s serious is what kind of quality time we have spent together in consecutive hours, in all different situations and through all the moods and hormone cycles that shape our day to day existence including just hanging out, doing nothing. That is how I perceive closeness. For me, it’s the minutes, not the months, and sometimes it’s the most trivial minutes. The first time I have to go through any bedtime or morning time routine with someone, I learn so much about their habits and I think about our compatibility more than any other time, including sex. Sex is discovered together. Sex, if it’s not great at first, can be worked on and in my experience it usually gets better over time. But grooming habits? Dental care? Toenail length? That shit is there to stay. (And for fuck’s sake guys, keep your toenails short, we’re begging you).
If you’ve done what I’ve asked of you, met up in person, and the connection is there, the journey is yours to find. We all seek out different means of compatibility to fit our relationship goals and whatever phase of life you’re in now, seek out the connections that fulfill it. After a decent history of short term dating prospects, I can say with confidence that finding closeness, even short term, can be really fulfilling. My friends know that I like to revel in my memories of boyfriends past and analyze the role that relationship played in my life at that time. Not every connection may last but I do think we grow emotionally, increase our capacity to love and learn more about ourselves through the vulnerability of dating and finding closeness with others.
I’ve dated men for several months or more and seen them maybe once a week for a casual date and when it ended it wasn’t too painful on either side. We never got truly close. Then there’s the story of, let’s call him PCQ. A hard lesson in closeness. We dated intensely for a month, keeping in touch every day, staying overnight multiple times a week, cooking together, going out in the world together, playing pranks, snort laughing, philosophizing, day cuddling, meeting each other’s friends… feeling so much closeness and desire… and then a break up that was awful for me. That one month counted for so much more in so many ways and when it ended, it hurt. Incidentally, this is someone I was lukewarm about on the app at first, but after trusting my method of meet in person I fell head over heels after date one. We broke up because his former long distance ex surprise-moved back into town and he had a choice — a choice of closeness and connection. The hard truth was that they were closer. They had more time and history and love. It sucked. He knew it. I knew it. However… I wouldn’t take back that month. Not a chance.
It’s all worth it, even the hard endings. So go ahead, get online, get your flirt on and make some connections. Meet in person. Get close. Go forth and date! (And cut your toenails.)
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