There was a time not too long ago when a boy asked a girl out on a date and they both knew what the rules were. The boy asked the girl for her phone number. The boy asked the girl out at least several days ahead of time and the girl either accepted or rejected. The boy paid for the date (movie tickets, food, drinks, etc.). The boy picked up and dropped off the girl in his car. The boy opened her car door and helped her out of the car and he opened doors for her. By the end of the date both had an idea how the date went and how they felt about each other; whether or not there would be a second date. Maybe they kissed on the first date, or not. He went home. She went home.
No, this was not the 19th Century. This was just a few years ago in the 20th Century. My, how times have changed. In the 21st Century it seems to be no-rules-dating or at least nobody knows what the rules are anymore. A few years ago, my wife and I were waiting for a table at the Miller’s Ale House. She left to go to the Ladies Room and when she returned she profusely thanked me for marrying her. Needless to say, I was quite happy to hear that, but I was puzzled why she mentioned that now. She just gestured towards the bar and the many tables filled with single people trying desperately to connect. I understood immediately. Yes, it is a jungle out there. Dating.
Here are some of the changes. Not only is it not considered safe today for a woman to give her number to a stranger without getting to know him, but with dating apps, Facebook, Instagram and other social media, one would hope you can learn something about the other person more directly. Of course, there is a reason Facebook is nicknamed Falsebook because everyone wants to paint the best picture of themselves and their life. And, of course, is it safe to use a dating app with all their claims of successful loving relationships and marriage in the wings? Can you really know anything about another person through a profile, a picture (if it is even real or current), and texting? The sex offenders I used to work with were on dating apps, as well as some very nice people. How do you tell the difference? The sex offenders did not look or sound like stereotypical creeps. On top of that our selection process is brutally reduced to a swipe, a wink, a smile…or not. I have many depressed people that come to me who are hurt by the constant rejection inherent in dating apps. It’s all about looks. Or sex. Even when it looks like you are having a nice conversation and getting to know someone via text, IM and phone, they suddenly disappear with no explanation. Ghosting. They never give you the courtesy of explaining why. Just gone. How rude!
Let’s hang out…. I can’t tell you how many women are frustrated by that question. What does hanging out really mean? Is he showing interest in me? Is he asking me out? Does he just want to be friends? Is watching a movie on the couch together just a pretext for sex? Why doesn’t he have the courage and confidence to just ask me out on a real date? Take the risk?
Let’s say you get to the point where you are willing to meet someone in person. You drive to Starbucks or a place for lunch or a place for drinks, and they arrive in their car, and you arrive in yours. Is this a date? Who pays? Should the guy pay for everything? Should the woman? Should they split the tab? This little question has caused a lot of tension in first meetings, especially if it is not addressed. One woman friend was taken aback when the guy did not even offer to pick up the tip or split the tab. On the other hand, many men rightfully feel that always having to pay for every date can be quite a financial burden. And, they point out that most single women today are working as well, sometimes with salaries larger than the man’s salary. What is fair?
Finally, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Sex. Some apps like Tinder have a reputation for just being sex hook up sites. Still, I know couples who have successfully met on Tinder or Bumble, and it wasn’t about sex for them. For adults, there is nothing wrong with a hook up site if that is what they want, but all too often even serial hook up artists of both sexes are secretly looking for something more. I get them in my counseling office and underneath the bravado and no commitment stance there is just someone afraid of getting hurt, but secretly hoping that the next person will be someone who really cares and that they can connect with. I point out that one-night stand sex is not the way this usually happens.
But, let’s put aside hooking up for the moment, and focus on what many people are looking for on dating sites—the potential for a serious relationship. Many women complain that they are having nice conversations with someone, either online or in person. Things seem to be going well. Then, out of nowhere comes a sexual joke or innuendo or a request for pictures. When the woman sends more pictures of herself, he asks not so subtly, “No, I mean any other pictures?”. The women are so frustrated. Really? That is all you can think about? You don’t want to get to know me—my intellect, my personality, my sense of humor, my hopes and dreams? The amazing person I am. You want sexting? That seems to be the #1 turnoff for women in initial dating interactions. The sad thing is that many men keep up this behavior even if it is off putting to many women, because every once in awhile they will get an insecure or confused woman to respond or give in.
My final comment has to do with insecurity. I hear so often from the people I counsel that another big turnoff is if the person is too insecure or needy. Sometimes this is clear on the first date by their self-deprecating statements or pushing too hard for your acceptance. Sometimes, you’ve just met someone and the next morning there is a sweet little text wishing you “Good Morning.” That feels nice, except by the evening, you’ve received twelve texts and messages from everything to inquiring about your day to sending cute little memes. And, if you don’t respond fast enough, you can tell they are disappointed or hurt. They don’t seem to get the message you are working or might be busy. Or, too much too soon.
So, as we mentioned, no rules and it can be a jungle out there. Look for next week’s blog in which we provide tips for successful dating as well as ways to sabotage a new relationship. So, welcome to our Brave New World and you are the dating warriors trying to make sense of it.