In 2005 when I was getting divorced, a good friend told me to brace myself for what it is like to date in the 21st century. It was indeed a shock to see that while I was out of the game for 12 years, technology came along and changed everything. People now use multiple online dating services and can queue up as many as 10 dates a week. They also expect instant responses to texts, emails, Facebook messages, or cellular calls. She told me I would have to go on about 20 bad dates before I would meet someone half-way decent. I thought she was joking, but apparently not.
My happily married friends have been quite entertained the past several years with my dating stories. I share the stories with them in the hopes that they will stay together because dating in the 21st century is no picnic. We all joke that my search for Mr. Right has become a quest for finding a unicorn. Well, I will spare everyone here the details of what I have encountered, but I do feel compelled to warn others of some common red flag categories:
1. Married Men for Whom the Ring is Just an Accessory;
2. Rebound Guys;
3. Online Weirdos;
4. Socially Awkward Guys;
5. Control Freaks;
6. GIs (Geographically Inconvenient);
7. Insecure/Needy Guys;
8. Commitment Phobes;
9. Emotionally Unavailable/ Ambivalent Guys;
10. Pretty Boys (aka Players);
11. High Conflict Personalities (“HCPs”); or
12. Poor Communicators.
Ultimately, I believe dating is supposed to be hard, so that when you find that right person you do not take him/her for granted. I believe Dr. Kasl is right in her book “If the Buddha Dated” when she suggests that dating is a journey—and from each experience we learn something about what we need or what we cannot tolerate in our relationships. Dr. Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is also correct in his assertion that without the right conflict resolution skills and communication abilities a couple is doomed.
While it has been an interesting social experiment for me observing all these trends in dating, I have to be honest, I am truly disturbed by what I have seen. Technology has allowed people to expand their options, but it has also enabled people to lose sense of their accountability. Talking to strangers online about personal and/or inappropriate topics has somehow become mainstream. People have a false sense of intimacy just because they are friends on Facebook, or follow each other on Twitter, or text once a day– you have to see each other and spend time together to form an intimate relationship. Furthermore, having multiple people in the mix at once is exhausting and prevents you from focusing on developing a meaningful relationship. Finally, it seems so many are treating one another like disposable tissue these days—but just because you can does not mean you should.
The best advice I can give someone in the dating world is to not take things too personally. If it does not work out with someone, you need to keep moving forward. If there are lots of arguments and problems in the beginning, listen to your gut. Dating is supposed to be fun, if it ceases to be that get out. When it is meant to be, trust yourself that you will know it.
At the end of one of my lectures, a law student asked me whether after everything I have seen and been through, “do you still believe in the institution of marriage?” Without hesitation I responded, “yes.” There is nothing more spectacular in life than finding that special person that gets you– one that you love, trust and respect, and cannot imagine living without. If I never find it again, that is okay, because I at least felt that once. Ultimately, I firmly believe that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.