A friend of mine recently recommended I read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s a compact book outlining the ‘agreements’ we should make with ourselves in order to lead a meaningful life, based on the wisdom of some ancient Mesoamericans. They are simple truths that would help us all bumble through the world with a little more grace though, like flossing, they’re not as easy as they should be to practice. These agreements are ‘Be Impeccable with Your Words’; ‘Don’t Take Things Personally’; ‘Don’t Make Assumptions’; and ‘Always Do Your Best’. A couple days later this friend called me up to tell me about a bad date he’d just left. At 55, he was new to internet dating and, though he’d spoken to her several times before the date, he was disappointed by how different she was from what he’d expected.
It occurred to me that The Four Agreements he so enthusiastically recommended could be tweaked just a bit to be relevant to the world of virtual courting. These days, about 50% of all singles use online dating sites, and 20% of people in committed relationships met online. But not that many people I talk to seem to really enjoy online dating. Why is that? Well, maybe dating in the 21st century needs its own set of Agreements.
So here are my Four Agreements of Internet Dating. May they elevate your online dating experience – or at least make things more bearable.
Agreement #1 – Be Impeccable with Your Words (and Your Photos): 64% of online daters surveyed said shared interests are most important in a potential partner, and 50% said looks were key to attraction. So be clear and honest about who you are and what you look like. That’s now, not back in 1997. It’s also a good idea to speak with someone over the phone before meeting. Every time I got an uneasy feeling listening to a man’s voice on the phone, the date was a bust. That’s not to say the ones who sounded lovely were always winners, but at least I didn’t waste my time with a man who made me feel like pulling out my own ears.
Agreement #2 – Don’t Take Things Personally (If They’re Just Not Into You): Women seem to wield the power in the online mating pool, some inundated with so many requests that OKCupid recently changed their delivery system so a message could only show up in your inbox if you both ‘Like’ each other. Most men, and a lot of women, won’t hear back from the people they message. That’s just the way it is. I write at the end of my own online profile, ‘Don’t take it personally if I don’t write back. Attraction is a fickle thing.’ I also admit that, despite my being a woman with a pulse, about 80% of the men I write to first don’t respond. I don’t take it personally. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. My profile reflects Agreement #1 and that is I write impeccably about how I don’t wear heels or paint my fingernails; my calves could crush soda cans; I don’t really cook; and I ask a lot of potentially uncomfortable questions. Is it any wonder the majority of men pass me by? Which is great. I don’t want to waste their time either.
Agreement #3 – Don’t Make Assumptions (and Temper Those Fantasies): One of OKCupid’s questions is ‘Do you Google someone before you meet?’ Though I hear that most Millennials don’t even tell each other their last names until after they’ve had sex, my generation is generally up front about who they are, at least if they’re not hiding something, like a felony. Unless that person is a big mucky-muck, a Google search will likely only bring you to their Facebook profile. If a man has 1200 friends and a lot of them are women, I might jump to the conclusion that he’s just dating for jollies. If he only has 20 friends I might suspect he spends his evenings pulling the wings off flies. No matter what, I’ve just tainted my experience of this person and jumped to conclusions that could be miles from true. The friend collector could simply run his business from his Facebook account and needs to use it as a tool of communication. Mr Lonelyhearts could be taking the deliberate stance that Facebook is not important to his otherwise meaningful life, and he’s only interested in the feeds of a few of his very close friends because of the humorous political cartoons they post.
If a man’s online profile is impressive, like he runs a top performing hedge fund and gives away half his money to charities that save sick children, you are going to start fantasizing about how the two of you could become the kind and queen of altruistic philanthropy. But chances are he’s an asshole. I know, terribly cynical, I’m just saying, don’t get your hopes up. If this internet dating thing was wildly successful at helping us find appropriate mates, none of us (who want to find someone) would be single.
Agreement #4 – Always Do Your Best (and be Grateful): My hairdresser told me the other day that the first time she met her husband after connecting on Match.com she didn’t like the way he dressed, the way he walked or the fact that he was chubbier than she’d expected. By all accounts, the date was going nowhere. But the next day she realized that her sides were sore from laughing. So she gave him another date and eventually recognized how wonderful it was to be in the company of a kind, attentive and funny man. He clearly did his best, and his strength was his humor. So what if he wasn’t the best dresser, walker or exerciser. He played up what he was good at and that won my hairdresser’s heart.
But let’s say you can’t get past the paunch or the awkward wardrobe. Don’t feel bad about what matters to you. But be grateful that your date took the time to come out with you, likely took a shower and did their Boy Scout best to shine. It might not be the kind of shine you’re looking for but THANK them. Express your gratitude for what you enjoyed about the date and don’t be afraid to wish them all the best.
The Four Agreements is worth a read, perhaps even annually. You’ll likely become a more contented and good person and that will no doubt make you a more contented and good dater.
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