So, online dating. I love to bitch about online dating. I love to write funny, irreverent, and sometimes very strange profiles just to see how people react and what kind of person is out there. I don't know why it strikes me as funny, and maybe it just indicates my own fears and quirks. But I think it's funny and that's that.
No one reads your profile anyway. How do I know? Because when I created a fake profile with a picture of my hamster looking for a woman, at least until it violated the dating site's rules and they removed my cute picture, I received a few messages like these:
"Wow! You spark up my entire thinking faculty. I am ready to stop searching, and who knows, the rose in my heart could be yours (lol). I'm J, I'm new on here, write a note and I'll reply back instantly.Just you may wish to email too.you on my mind."
"I was searching through and i saw your profile ,and am quite fascinated by your picture, smile and happy face..i will sure love to meet a cute woman like you, i'm a man with joyful character, optimistic, respectful, sensual.i will like to chat if you don't mind... "
"Good day Dear, Am sorry for interrupting your evening with my message. How is work with you this week and I hope you had a stress free time at work and your family is doing good? Am d. I am new here and am so glad to have come across your profile. I didnt just click on you by coincidence, I believe everybody has that place in their heart that requires that special warmth feeling and nursing. Its my pleasure to appreciate your beauty and personality cause I know its something you hear everyday but I have got to say it again and I hope it gets to your heart. I think the personality and the soul is what makes a person beautiful, not only physical appearance. I am interested in you and would like to know more about you, pls feel free to ask questions and you can text me (---)as I will like to be your friend. You have an awesome smile and I love your hair, pls feel free to ask questions. I really want to know you more"
"Hello gorgeous lady, I'm so sorry for infringe into your privacy but a word say that a picture is worth of a thousands words you're stunning and charming lady, I will like to know you better if you don't?.."
So naturally, I am amused. I am amused and also hopeful when I hear of people actually having good luck on those sites.
When I've had my real picture up, in more playful moods, I lied about my age and made myself 41. That was fun because then I suddenly had the 25-year-old-set-seeking-novel-older-woman-experiences. Those conversations went like this:
him: Do you mind dating younger?
me: Dude, you're my daughter's age
him: we can make her jealous
him: I'm a nudist
And my favorite one: "Wow, there's no way you're 41" -pause to say I almost fell off my chair laughing...that's right, I passed 41 7 years ago.- "you look way younger" Ha.
So there's the fun part of that. It really is funny and a poll of girlfriends on dating sites reveals many more funny stories.
But now I'm going to switch to the "savvy" part, because, honestly, I've primarily met some really kind, genuine, beautiful men online. So I'm not really saying it's all bad. As one person told me, it's all what you make of it.
And what I've made of it is a learning, healing, and growing experience.
The biggest learning has been about attachment styles. It's important to know because divorce can be traumatizing, childhood can be traumatizing and help you bring patterns into the present that sabotage your relationships. It's just smart so you can pinpoint your own patterns, and know if you are going to be with someone with similar emotional compatibility. It's good to have a language to use around it, and in deepening your learning, you develop compassion. Everyone's trying to muck their way through fear and longing and the past at the same time.
The three styles are anxious/ambivalent, avoidant, and secure. Secure people are those who have a high comfort level with feelings and intimacy, and they are pretty scarce in online dating, due to the fact that they are likely to end up partnered, most likely with another secure. Anxious/ambivalent styles are more frequent in occurrence and are most often women. This style manifests in clinging, pursuing behavior when intimacy wounds are triggered. Avoidants populate the online dating pool in greater numbers and tend to be men. Avoidants shut down emotionally and run when intimacy wounds are triggered. Often these styles find each other and start the great pursuer-distance dance.
Underlying both of these styles is a deep-seated fear of abandonment, or, perhaps, as Terry Real says that for men, it's fear of subjugation.
It's all trauma, and the strange thing, your attachment style is activated as a fight or flight response to intimacy, because closeness is unconsciously perceived as a threat. It's a fearful way of being, and so hard to figure out how to find your way to love once faced with your past wounds.
Avoidants will say things like, "my ex always had to be in a relationship" or that women of their past were overly emotional or clingy. To be fair, sometimes that is true. Still, avoidance in men is an extreme that many women have experienced and there is even this cultural expectation that women are not supposed to need a man, that that somehow makes you weak or dependent or needy. But we are ALL hard-wired to be relational beings. It's how the human race has survived. One of my friends was saying how she felt it was not ok to need a man. I reassured her that yes, it is ok and GOOD to need a man. Why beat up on yourself for your very valid needs and desires? I need a man. Being lonely is no fun. Sometimes you just want someone else to kill the bug in the bathroom, to call the plumber, to tell your news to, to give a hug to. What's wrong with that? Avoidants hold on to the extreme belief that it is somehow a bad thing to be in relationship, yet they feel lonely and will still seek out relationships for themselves.
That's where therapy helps me keep my head on straight: that I want someone who is ultimately supportive, present, and a partner in every way. And, that I want to continue taking charge of my own healing so I have resources to bring to the table. Lots of it is needs management, and that just requires trust, openness, a willingness to be transparent and vulnerable, and total compassionate acceptance of yourself and your beloved. And the ability to be freely yourself while allowing someone else that luxury too. By now, I've learned how to walk past abuse or extreme unavailability and can open my heart to learning to enjoy the good stuff. Like the basics: respect, encouragement, friendship, sexiness, trust, engagement.
I'm not online right now on any sites, as I explore other options and continue my inner work. But if I ever need to practice my avoidant-detecting skills, have a laugh, or just remind myself that kind men do still exist, it's always there.
It's all good.