Tinder or therapy? A modern dating dilemma

I started using dating apps again last summer and it’s been quite an eye-opener

We’re all fecked – and not in a good way. Photograph: Getty Images

We’re all fecked – and not in a good way. Photograph: Getty Images

 

I was deeply engrossed in some daily procrastination when I received a WhatsApp message from a good friend. Although innocuous in tone, the text forced me to face an ongoing dilemma by finally answering a much-dreaded question: “So is it a date or a therapy session today?”

I scrolled through my phone’s photo gallery in search of screenshot evidence of my decision – not that I had to prove myself to anyone – but after months of mindlessly swiping on Tinder, entertaining ill-defined relationships and pointless encounters, my decision to cancel the date was sadly a point of pride for me.

I sent a one-worded response: “therapy” along with a screenshot to show that I not only cancelled the aforementioned date, but I also ended “things” with yet another prospective love interest that I had met online.

Earlier that day, I had a moment of emotional clarity, one where I could no longer hide from the fact that I was in a perpetual cycle of self-sabotage, ending budding romances prematurely on the basis that I should “leave before I’m left”.

Living through this pandemic both in a relationship and as a singleton with previous dating app experience, I see old dating patterns continue to run rampant

I started using dating apps again last summer, just a few months after dealing with a break-up in the midst of a global pandemic. But it became painfully obvious that I had not allowed myself to fully pick up the pieces of my last heartache. I failed to take the necessary steps to grieve because the break-up wasn’t acrimonious at the time – the bitterness came later.

My relapse into online dating was quite the eye-opener. It seems there is an overwhelming number of broken hearts out there. Men and women alike are carrying unaddressed hurt from previous experiences and not taking the time to properly heal before pursuing a new romance or in most cases, a new “situationship” ( a casual relationship based on convenience).

Avoidance, a skill that I have mastered at this stage, seems to be a common practice among those who claim to be in search of something meaningful online. Whether it’s avoiding past grief, real intimacy or having an honest conversation about what we’re looking for, it is a vehicle for self-destruction and is not conducive to getting us closer to what we actually need.

The thing about avoidance is that it catches up with you. By not taking the time to sit down and be honest with ourselves, we are unknowingly carrying buried trauma and unresolved issues from one person to the next, hurting each one more than the last. Not only do these actions hurt those around us, but carrying baggage can weigh down on our ability to grow and find inner peace – if we let it.

Living through this pandemic both in a relationship and as a singleton with previous dating app experience, I see old dating patterns continue to run rampant. Trends such as “ghosting” (cutting off all communication without warning) and “zombieing” (ghosting someone and then reappearing out of the blue as if nothing happened) have become so widespread in the digital age of dating that many see them as normal behaviour, while the fear of being ghosted plagues the mind of others.

“Seagulling”, a term coined by the Metro to describe a situation whereby a person doesn’t want to commit to someone but they don’t want anyone else to have them either, is not a new phenomenon in the world of dating. But this behaviour has recently been labelled to highlight the gluttonous nature of those crippled by choice paralysis because we have too many options.

These soul-destroying trends are indicative of the mental wellbeing (or lack thereof) of the people who are part of this cycle. It appears to me that the vast majority of people on Tinder have absolutely no business swiping endlessly on a screen – and I include myself in this. As it turns out, that therapy session brought only a marginal level of self-development and growth, because exactly 40 minutes after it ended, I found myself falling back into those familiar toxic dating patterns that brought me there in the first place, throwing €70 quid for the hour down the drain.

I know that what I’m looking for isn’t something that I’m ready for and every time I reject a potential partner with a left swipe, the hope to meet someone grows a little dimmer

It takes strength to admit that your wants are at odds with what you need, much less, to do something about it. I repeatedly tell myself that I value my mental health, but if I truly did, I wouldn’t put so much energy into entertaining soul-crushing romantic pursuits. 

Recognising our own pain makes it easier to see the brokenness that exists in others. Healing is of course not a linear process, but the sooner we recognise our trauma, the closer we get to developing healthy dating habits. 

My gut feeling tells me  that the person I  end up with will not come from a dating app. And as much as I relish the thought of being in a relationship again, I know I don’t have the emotional capacity to sustain a healthy one any time soon. 
So why not delete the apps once and for all? Well, that’s a question for my next therapy session.

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