Guest post: Finding love in a not-so hopeless place?
March 3, 2018 by Amanda Bonnevie
Inspired by our #hotgoss series on dating apps, guest writer, Amanda, shares her own story about swiping right and opening her mind to a healthier relationship with online dating.
I joined dating apps out of a voyeuristic sense of curiosity more than anything. I had just gotten out of a marriage that I went into much too young, so I hadn't really ever participated in "hookup culture" or experimented with dating apps. I wasn't exactly a nun before, but joining Tinder was part of my personal ascent to sexual liberation. It was also a chance to join the rest of the people my age that were living and dating in the 21st century. I felt kind of like I was emerging from a Mesozoic era where I had once apparently been.
At first I was fascinated with the apps. Portland is really small, so I liked seeing how people presented themselves on a dating app as opposed in real life, how I knew them. I liked seeing how people presented their good qualities and how they hid their glaring flaws. I said my motivation for joining the apps was so I could spy on my friends and chuckle at their answers to OkCupid questions. Looking back, if that was my reasoning, how healthy could my relationship with them be?
But, I did meet some great people online. I met one of my dearest friends on Bumble, and yes, I met my husband on Tinder. When I first started using the apps it was clear to people who came across my profile that I wasn't taking it super seriously. My Tinder bio simply said "I'm not here for boys. I'm not here for girls. I'm here to save rock n' roll." My OkCupid profile was just a bunch of question marks. To me, it seemed obvious: I didn’t really care.
The moments I matched with someone I knew already, usually from a distance, made me approach Tinder conversations differently. People care a lot more about how they interact with a person through a screen when they realize that they're going to eventually have to interact with them in person. Internet culture is a great example of how badly people will treat one another depending on the level of anonymity they are able to maintain. Social media and dating apps create the opportunity for people carefully construct their entire identity, and control their own and other people's narratives. People are bound to exploit those opportunities, and dating is no exception.
People care a lot more about how they interact with a person through a screen when they realize that they're going to eventually have to interact with them in person.
I soon learned that a great Tinder profile does not a great person make. True story, I once found myself on a Tinder date with an aggressive anti-feminist. He carefully omitted that massive red flag (for me) from his profile and our conversation, I assume dto put off the consequence of my inevitable rejection of him. It wasn't until he let slip some deeply troubling ideas over drinks that I got wise. Needless to say, the date ended abruptly with me handing him a $20 and flitting out the door. This experience definitely made me lose trust in how well I could get to know someone based on five pictures and a few hours of online chatting.
When I matched with Nate (my future hubs) on Tinder, I messaged him first. I did so in French because his profile said he spoke French. (Which, btw, was definitely a lie, because even though he insists still that it said he was "learning French”, like, he totally can't.) But I took him seriously because there was a potential for an interaction I desired: a way to practice a foreign language I had learned. Unfortunately, we only got out about five sentences in French before the truth revealed itself. I remember thinking to myself, "Strike one, Tinder Boi. Strike one."
When he messaged me one night asking if I could hang out, I was pretty surprised. He told me he traveling to China for work in thirteen hours, and he wanted to hang out that night before he left. Having been burned before, I immediately smelled BS, consulted a friend (who, spoiler alert, caught the bouquet at our wedding last month), and promptly lied about being busy.
Fast forward a month and my phone buzzes - it's Nate from Tinder! He's sent me a picture message! I opened my phone expecting the worst - an unsolicited dick pic - but instead saw a photo of Nate, standing and smiling in front of a street sign written in both Chinese and English that said "Nathan Road". His first name. Cute. The caption was something mundane about his experience traveling to Hong Kong. He hadn’t been lying, and I felt like a jerk.
He proved to me, even over a digital medium, that he was a person of his word. That he was invested in our conversation, in sharing himself with me and likewise. We went on our first date the week he came back, and the rest is adorable history.
I often joke about how Nate and I met on Tinder, and that we truly did find love in a hopeless place. But meeting Nate and trusting Nate really changed the way I look at dating apps. I think making dating apps work in a healthy, satisfying way is a matter of intention, and figuring out what you want from the app. It’s also about hearing other people for what they say to you. It's so difficult to try and gauge someone else's intentions when you're only able to look at them through a lens as narrow as your iPhone, and that can lead to broken trust, broken hearts, and sometimes much worse.
But meeting Nate and trusting Nate really changed the way I look at dating apps. I think making dating apps work in a healthy, satisfying way is a matter of intention, and figuring out what you want from the app. It’s also about hearing other people for what they say to you.
If I had to give anyone advice on how to have a healthy relationship with dating apps, it would be two-fold. 1) Pay very close attention to gut feelings. You know your boundaries, and if someone has pushed them, you’re allowed to put the phone down, or leave a date, and walk away. And 2) Be 100% honest about what you're looking for, both with yourself and with other people.
In my case, I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, and I tried to be straightforward about that and expected the same from other people. Sometimes I got it, and sometimes I didn't. And when I didn't, I listened to my gut and left. Nate was honest about how much he liked me. Luckily, he didn't take my mjudgment personally, and turned around and expressed genuine, earnest interest in me. I saw that, and trusted my gut instinct to change my first impression of him too. And so far? So good.
Love and relationships, whether they're friendships, sexual encounters, or committed romances, are always a gamble regardless of how they're kindled; there's always potential to get hurt. As for me, I went from having no idea what I wanted to marrying the love of my life thanks to a dating app. But that wasn't without its missteps and miscommunications before (and after) we both swiped right. Just because we met on an app, doesn’t mean we didn’t have to work on our relationship in real life.
Just because we met on an app, doesn’t mean we didn’t have to work on our relationship in real life.
The same rules should always apply whether you’re talking at a bar, at work, or online: be kind, be honest, and for God's sake unless they ask, don't send anyone a photo of your genitals.
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