Dating is hard because of expectations. Let me break it down for you.
The word ‘date’ assumes two people have organised a time and a place to meet, which is a basic concept to grasp. But it also implies the meeting is of a romantic nature,… and herein lies the problem. Both parties are already going into the meeting knowing that it’s pretty much a screening process for finding love. This can cloud the experience, and it’s just not as organic as meeting someone you like unexpectedly, or getting to know someone through work or through a social activity, where the feeling was totally unanticipated and grew naturally. Of course dating can work, it’s just difficult because people are plunging themselves in head-first expecting to fall in love, or expecting some other repeated outcome.
Online dating makes things even more difficult, especially if the two people have avoided actually talking to each other and have stayed in the ‘text zone’ prior to meeting. I’ve met people online who specifically don’t want to talk on the phone before the date, presumably because they want the surprise of the first impression, in hope that it will be a romantic explosion of unexpected feelings. I’m quite sure that when this scenario fails more than a few times, a seasoned dater will want more information (a phone call, a voice note, something!) before future first-dates, to prevent more wasted time.
I remember when my sister came out of a long term relationship and had her very first date since the breakup. She was so excited, exclaiming that she’d met an amazing guy online, and they shared the same sense of humour and that there were tonnes of lols in the text game. My first question was, “have you spoken to him?”. As a veteran of the game I was concerned that my sister was walking into an age old trap. A few curated photos and all the time in the world to engineer a witty text, she had formed a view that her date could be ‘the one’. With texts and photos you get about 40% of the big picture. Now this may be ok grounds to organise a date of course, put please keep a lid on the expectations. Anyway, my sister’s answer to my question was of course that she hadn’t spoken to the guy, but felt quite confident there was a strong vibe. I asked about his job. My sister was a lawyer and he was an excavator operator, in my mind a possible incongruence, to put it mildly.
The big day came and I got a call on her way to the date, she was excited, I felt nervous for her. An hour went by and I got the second call. Her voice deflated, her spirits in tatters. Within the first 30 seconds (and largely upon hearing his country drawl accent) she realised he was from a different world, and the rest of the date was awkward AF as she realised his text game was nothing like his IRL demeanour.
This is a story of pure expectations. I shouldn’t say unrealistic, because what she hoped for can be a reality, it’s just that going into the date she had high hopes of what is usually a rare occurrence (falling in love). The larger problem is that the next date she would go on, and dates after that, will be pre-loaded with other sorts of expectations. Some of them will be of a cynical nature, like ‘here we go again’, where dating becomes a roll of the dice, and a bit of a chore when it doesn’t stand up to expectations.
So the dating compass can lose its bearing really quickly, as we expect fireworks and feels, or we go into it subconsciously cynical and begin to expect mediocrity. The point is there’s always some type of expectation going into the occasion. We measure-up future love interests against past experiences, and we really don’t give each other a chance to build something organic.
So yes, dating is hard, but give yourself the best chances going into the date, send some voice notes, talk on the phone, have a little online face-time, build the feeling, get to know them and feel the excitement of the real life experience.