How to take charge of your dating life (and ditch the apps)

One morning, I woke up and it was like my heart was talking to me. It said "Lauren, you're really done with this dating app shenanigans. Give it a rest."

And secretly, I was relieved. It was like someone gave me permission to be almost 30 and single! And that someone was me. I had bought into the idea that online dating could produce opportunities I wasn't able to create, but I found something else entirely.

Instead of creating opportunity, it manufactured insecurity.

  • I pursued the kind of men who weren't ready for a relationship.
  • I carried on passive, uninteresting messaging exchanges to meet men
  • I felt powerless to attract the kind of man I wanted to date

I lost control over what I wanted, but it was so subtle, I hardly noticed it was happening. Because I didn't understand the insecurities this cycle of passivity was allowing, I stayed the course. Despite the fact that what I found on dating apps frustrated me, I didn't allow it to frustrate me enough to change what I was doing. I was beyond tired of being treated like a swipe-able option on someone's screen, but I did nothing to take notice of the opportunity all around me. I was a consumer of dating. 

Tip: Did you know that potential dates can be found in line at Starbucks, the grocery store, even....while waiting for the bathroom?

I complained about the flakiness of other people I'd dated to my friends, but treated men on the app like casual options I could respond to (or not) at will.  I felt bored by the sameness of men's profiles and wished they would put more effort into making conversation (or just stay in one), but lowered my standards when they asked for the date, simply because they showed interest.

I was investing mediocre and got exactly that: mediocre. Begrudgingly, I wasted many nights of boredom and thumb power on this modern dating practice and here's what it taught me:

 

People who are not in command of their lives blame circumstances for their problems.

 

 

Lesson: Take charge and do something different.

I blamed dating culture, the weather, anything to escape the haunting suspicion that maybe, just maybe, there was *something I could do differently.* And then I got sick of listening to myself talk, because complaining does nothing to improve your circumstance. If anything, it worsens it. It drains other people, and it kicks your motivation for change right out the door.

I know ladies. The modern dating world has changed. But if we are the resilient creatures I know we are, we can adapt. And that's what this blog is all about.

Because I was not in command, I acted like a powerless person.  I went on dates I already knew were going to flop. I catered to the schedules of guys who told me "just wait a few more months when I'm done being busy at work and I will attend to your needs." Spoiler alert: he stayed busy. I even tried to smooth out the stress of one online date's endlessly dramatic life until I discovered *gasp* that yes, he was the source of the drama! 

It's all about that....boundary.

And all of this can make a girl mad. Even bitter, because you know you deserve better treatment. And you do. But you should also know the art of setting boundaries will in fact, set you free. Amen. Let's take it back to basics for a second. 

Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a book called Boundaries, that is in my mind, the bible on relationships. Because what are relationships, but learning one another's boundaries! Here's one of his best quotes: 

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom. Taking responsibility for my life opens up many different options. Boundaries help us keep the good in and the bad out. 

And there you have it. Frustration often stems from our own unwillingness to set boundaries with others. This is the feeling of frustration you get when you agree to do something you do not want to do, out of the social pressure placed on you by the expectations of other people.  

Boundaries, like Dr. Cloud says, define us. They show other people how to treat us, and if we don't define that for ourselves, someone else will. People who have no boundaries are among the most frustrated on the planet, because someone else is constantly setting the pace for your life, and that is frustrating, but also, your fault. Step off the social treadmill and choose what you want, for goodness sake!

Show that you have standards, and you're not afraid to use them.

Think about it this way. Taylor Swift has standards. She doesn't play at the county fair anymore. She packs sold-out arenas worldwide because she knows her worth. Standards work the same way, they reinforce what you already know about yourself, and communicate that through your behavior.

Have standards for what you show up to in life. Time is the most precious resource you have, and it feels silly to spend it with someone you've had zero face time with until your first Bumble date. I used to think that dates were for discovering attraction, but I'm convinced, now more than ever, that a date is for exploring the source of a preexisting and confirmed attraction.

Standards set you up to act your best around men who operate on your level. Stop wasting time playing at the county fairs of the world when the Madison Square Garden is like..."Hey, over here!" Also, let's face it. If there were more people with standards, there would be less toolsheds in the world. So we have a part to play! Toolsheds would not get away with their toolshed behavior if others refused to tolerate it. It's those of us who are tolerant of it, that perpetuate the problem.

Reject the advice that dating is a number's game. This isn't the lottery (phew).  

Maybe you've heard the someone say as dating advice: "It only takes one!" While that may be true, it's also true that it only takes one to ruin your life. Yikes. So, what I propose is a compromise on this view. Dating isn't a numbers game from where I sit. We aren't herding the masses through our doors looking for the right one. We aren't TSA. You can keep your travel shampoo. Nobody has the time or emotional energy for that, and if they do, they will soon find themselves disillusioned and closed off to love, because real love doesn't come to those of us with clipboards and x-ray scanners trying to herd a bunch of men through a lie detector.

While there's some science in the approach of dating, making a true connection with someone creates this lingering sense of mystery that's unmistakable. It's addicting, and when it happens to you, you will feel like you won the damn lottery.  

I recently had someone tell me that he spent 10 years on Match.com before meeting his wife.....and I almost...passed...out.  I don't know about you guys, but I don't have that kind of stamina for dating apps, but I do know I could meet the same amount of guys I dated online, through social connections, and lead a great life without the pressure of vetting them all in the 2.5 seconds before I swipe.

You can do your thing with online dating (this is just my opinion) but let me be clear: if it is not delivering the results you want, then create them!

What do I mean? Being present in the everyday places you find yourself, for starters.  Look up from your phone in the Post Office line and compliment a guy's bicep's in front of you (even if he is just holding a box and they're unnaturally accentuated). Make it a point to introduce yourself to you're friends friend if they're not doing it for you. Go to an outdoor movie and throw a picnic blanket down next to someone. Borrow a wine opener from a neighbor you haven't met yet (even if you have one at home). Make up an excuse.  Ask for gum. Ask for help picking a movie at RedBox. Be something other than invisible at the grocery store!  Tell me if you've tried any of these tips and what works best for you. I'm not perfect. I need these tips just as much as you do.