In my recent dapple in the world of dating apps, I matched with a man on Bumble* (*for those who are in the dark with dating applications, it uses the same swiping technology as Tinder, but the woman has to make the first move within 24 hours or love is lost forever).
When I told him about my business as a relationship coach, he made a joke about whether 'being on this app makes me less credible'.
At first I laughed at how up front he was. But as I thought about it more, these feelings progressed to anxiety, hurt and then, shame, because that exact thought had in fact crossed my mind as well. Shame isn't an easy emotion to bewith, so at the time I just pushed it aside and did it anyway. But after his comment, I realised that I still held some apprehension and shame around using dating apps.
So why is there still so much shame around online dating?
I believe it is because of an unofficial rating system that classifies the chance encounter as being better than, meeting online.
The gold standard for the 'how we first met' story in our culture is through a chance encounter, love at first sight, chemical-fireworks-esque attraction.
This is the love that is portrayed in films, popular culture and Western media, and for the majority of us hoping to some day find ourselves in a monogomous relationship, this is perceived to be the ultimate.
If chance encounter is the gold standard, I would say the 'silver' standard is meeting through friends/a set up. This is considered a little better that meeting on an app because you meet in real life for the first time.
And then, there are dating apps. I have used them, and I'd be willing to bet almost everyone with a phone born post 1980 has either used, or thought about using dating apps (it aint just for the kids these days!. But despite the high proportion of people now meeting through these apps, there is an underlying belief that you are somehow tempting fate by bypassing the 'chance' encounter and meeting online.
But does being on a dating platform make you lesslikely to find a suitable mate?
In his book Essays on Love, Alain de Botton explores the concept of romantic fatalism. This posits that there are no such thing as coincidences in love, and that the people we 'fall' in love with are 'meant for us' specially created like individual snowflakes by some being greater than ourselves to perfectly match our unique genetic code and conditioning.
And I believe that it is THIS IDEA which is causing all the shame around online dating.
Because what other way could it possibly be? What else can explain the strong chemical reaction that occurs when two strangers meet for the first time, and the intensity of emotion that blossoms as a result of this?
Alain de Botton writes that we have confused the idea that we are destined to lovewith the idea we are destined to love a particular person.
The people we fall in love with, especially if it is a hallucinogenic intense love based on sexual attraction, are usually only compatible with us at a particular point. To be in this kind of love is to be in a mutually exclusive illusion of perfection in the other person.
The belief that love is fatalistic is deeply embedded in our psyche as a consequence of a cultural conditioning, starting from a young age with Disney princesses, and confirmed again and again through the media we consume as adults.
I have been diving deep into my unconscious patterns around relationships for a while, and these stories still play out for me when I meet someone, or hope to meet someone. But with awareness that they will always be there - I now have a choice whether to listen, or create my own story.
To start to unlearn our conditioning, we need to believe that we can consciously create our reality. Here are some journaling prompts to help you explore this further:
1. If you could have everything you want in a relationship, what would that look like?
2. What would having this relationship or person in your life do for you? How would you feel?
3. What do you see as your strengths in relationships, or your most loveable qualities?
Whether you meet someone by a chance encounter, through work or friends, or online, give them the presence that you would want, even if you are not interested in something further. The partner you are looking for exists. I know this because, otherwise you wouldn't be able to imagine it (and they might possibly be even BETTER than you imagined).