Writer, Faith Fox tells us about her internet dating experiences, and it’s interesting to read what she has to say! While she is still looking for love during the pandemic but giving internet dating a rest just now, Faith talks of her internet dating disasters and shares some advice on how to survive internet dating by recognising toxic behaviour. She also asks if it’s possible to find love during the pandemic.
There is no doubt about it; modern dating is TOUGH. Throw in a global pandemic, and it just got a whole lot tougher.
My dating ‘career’ started well over 20 years ago, back when you might dance with a guy in a nightclub (generally badly), or you might catch the eye of someone while you were ordering your drinks at the bar. Now everyone spends more time looking down at their phone screens than they do the world around them.
As we currently must spend more time at home, it’s fair to say that the chances of meeting somebody in ‘normal’ circumstances are vastly diminished. This now means that internet dating is the ‘go-to’ place if you want a romantic relationship.
I met my (now ex) husband at a time when online dating was slowly becoming a more acceptable way to meet people. In its infancy, internet dating was seen as a place for the weirdos and undesirables to connect. Luckily, the stigma of internet dating has now moved on. However, I feel an over-reliance on smartphones and dating apps has created a culture that I’m not a huge fan of, which is why I have come to the decision that I won’t be using internet dating any more – at least for the moment.
I’m writing this article to talk about my experience of dating culture. However, before I get started, I want to say, I’m a huge romantic, and definitely hope to meet somebody who adds to the awesome life I have built for myself. I would like to thank the Super Solos Living Alone Community for helping me to arrive at being much more comfortable and happy with the solo life I have today.
Internet dating disasters!
I think it is important to provide some context about my dating history, so you can see why I have chosen not to use a dating app during the pandemic. In my opinion, the guys I met online were bonkers even before the pandemic. Three (or more) months locked up at home isn’t going to make the online dating situation any better.
A quick summary of my dating disasters:
- My first internet date resulted in a two-year relationship with a covert narcissist* who cheated on me the entire time.
- Last year, I met a brilliant guy, but I had to end the relationship after his estranged wife (she cheated on him FYI) stalked me for six months and received a criminal record for her behaviour.
- I’ve been ghosted countless times.
- While popping on some lipstick before a coffee date during my lunch break, I could see I’d been blocked by my date on What’s App just after I’d messaged him to say I’d see him shortly. That’s fine, but weirdly, he then unblocked me. I have no theory about this one.
- I’ve had men lie to me about both their age and height. (Jon, if you’re really 39 then you’ve had a tough life, babe).
- After politely declining from giving men my phone number after only a dozen messages, I’ve been told that I have neither looks nor personality when I refuse to give up my number.
- Feigning interest when numerous guys have wanted to tell me about ‘the time they had a threesome’ (yawn – then block!).
- Deciding to definitely NOT to meet an ex-stripper with a female friend in a hotel room because I (wisely) don’t think it “would be a brilliant way to break the ice.”
However, I have met some great people online, one of whom is now a friend. And there are a few very decent guys I ditched in favour of the “car crashes” – referring to the list above!!
Surviving internet dating
It would help if you had a thick skin and a strong sense of self, to succeed in the internet dating world. If you would be crushed by a stranger calling you “frigid” because you refused to send intimate photos of yourself, then I would suggest you work on your self-esteem and happiness before embarking on internet dating. I’m not against internet dating in its entirety, but I think it has in some ways created a toxic dating environment.
I feel dating apps (many of which have a free option) have created a “window shopping mentality” by allowing people to have access to almost too much choice. The outcome of this is a “what if there’s someone better out there?” mindset. I can’t speak for other women online, and my experience is with dating men. However, I am sure that women can be equally as toxic.
Dating apps are highly accessible; they are often free to join and you can pretend to be someone you’re not. You can pretend to be single when you’re really in a relationship (I’m looking at you, Nathan – my covert narcissist* ex).
Recognising toxic behaviour on dating apps
To be completely honest, when I download a dating app, I can be a bit OBSESSIVE over them. I typically download them to an old phone which I keep at home so that my son can’t start swiping on my behalf. Although he might be more successful than me? – Sleepless in Seattle springs to mind). I also do this, so I’m not checking my messages continually while I need to work. I think internet dating is a ‘numbers game’ so I spend HOURS relentlessly swiping to ensure I’ve got enough ‘potentials’ in the pipeline.
If your objective is to meet people IRL (in real life – many people just want a penpal for an ego boost), then you need to try and match with enough people because many will just be odd, ghost you or match and never reach out or will ignore you when you reach out.
From my experience, I estimate to get five IRL dates, you will need approximately 100 matches.
I waste hours on this pipeline filling activity, and this toxic behaviour is fully within my control to stop. Besides that, I have just not been successful in this arena. Therefore, I have made a conscious decision to ditch dating apps for the time being. I believe the universe is trying to tell me it is not the right thing for me, and I’m now looking for alternative ways to meet people.
I want to acknowledge that many people are very successful with online dating, and I know some great marriages as a result. It’s great for single parents like me if you have limited opportunities to meet people if you can’t leave the house that often. It should also help you connect with more people if your social circle has diminished because of the coronavirus.
Have you had a successful internet dating relationship?
Apparently, 1 in 3 marriages started online, so obviously, it works out for some people. However, as we are now living in these COVID times, I worry about the impact the pandemic has had on the already toxic behaviour that’s rife online.
Can you find love during the pandemic?
I don’t think it’s possible to put dating completely on the back burner if you want to meet somebody, as the pandemic is likely to impact our lives for several months to come.
Earlier, I explained the reasons why I’m not a huge fan of internet dating and why it’s not for me just now. Having been stalked, ghosted, and finally ending up in a relationship with a covert narcissist* who cheated on me for two years, I have concluded the universe simply does not want me to swipe my way to true and everlasting love.
Whilst I may have been unfortunate enough to have experienced some catastrophic internet dates, I do want to make it clear that I’m very much looking for a romantic relationship. I would love somebody awesome to share my life with, but I am equally content with the peace that comes with being single. It has taken time for me to reach this point, but I feel I am ready to welcome a special person in my life.
However, due to the ongoing chaos caused by the pandemic, I’m not convinced that internet dating is the best use of my time right now.
Has the pandemic made internet dating crazier?
If you could have watched my past dating disasters, you would understand I’ve attracted some of the crazies. Yes, I have met some nice guys, but I have been subject to more than my fair share of toxic players in the online dating world, and I must say, I think being locked away in their houses will only make that kind of behaviour worse!
If the chronic cheaters cannot hook up with their ‘side-piece’ or have a fling with somebody while they are away on business, then there are likely to be more players looking for online hookups. I’m referring to both men and women – both sexes have the capacity to cheat. As a heterosexual woman, my experience has only been with men, but my male friends tell me that there is an equal amount of toxic behaviour from women.
I don’t want guys asking me for nudes or to have video calls where their end game is to progress things onto phone sex. No judgement if both sides are consenting, but it always makes me dubious because you just don’t know if they are single or not!
Phone sex is still cheating. Sending and receiving nudes is still cheating. Unless you have an agreement with your partner where you can both engage in this activity, it’s cheating and should not be tolerated.
All this toxic behaviour is just something I cannot contemplate adding to my life during a pandemic. Given that I am abstaining from online dating, my social interaction is now limited to the school run and popping to my local Co-Op!. So, it’s clear my opportunities of meeting that ‘special someone’ (or indeed anyone) are for the moment, severely limited.
Has COVID changed dating for the better?
I know of many people who have carried on with online dating during the pandemic and are taking advantage of socially distant walks to try and get to know people. I personally don’t know of anybody successful with it yet; but who knows, without the distractions of friends, work trips and sports clubs, maybe it’s easier to build a connection with somebody over a series of dates because you don’t have to coordinate diaries to make sure you’re both free?
You might actually find that you are coping with the COVID restrictions and life in lockdown very differently, which might be a good way of seeing how compatible you could be in the long run. Has the lockdown sent your date into depression or have they been upbeat and used the time positively? Neither option is right or wrong, but this could be a signal of your compatibility if you have handled lockdown in a similar way.
I recently saw a video of a guy who liked the look of the girl in the apartment opposite his, the feeling was mutual, so they set up a Facetime dinner date on the roof of their respective buildings. This, plus countless other success stories where love has blossomed over Zoom, give me hope that love can still be found during the pandemic.
Use COVID as a red-flag checker
I think the pandemic can be a great way to get the measure of a person and see if your core values are aligned:
- Did they try and come to your house during full lockdown or invite you over to theirs?
- Did they push for phone sex? (If you’re comfortable with that then cool, but if you’re not, then it’s a major sign of their intentions towards you).
- When the rules allowed meetings with other households outdoors, how did you navigate this with your date? Did you both maintain the 2-metre distance? If they didn’t adhere to it, it might demonstrate that they have an issue with discipline and authority or a lack of consideration when it comes to your personal space.
- If you fancy them, how can you hold hands or kiss whilst maintaining a 2-metre distance?
- When can you begin to bubble with another household, and how do you know if your bubble is exclusive?
I found all of this too exhausting to even think about. So, I used lockdown to recover properly from the trauma of my previous relationship. Because of this, I have emerged from lockdown happier, more confident, and comfortable with my solo status.
How can you meet someone during a pandemic?
Saying that I do want somebody in my life, so I have decided to employ some marketing strategies I use at work in my search for a date – namely a word-of-mouth recommendation from friends. I took to Facebook and utilised Facebook Live asking my mates to set me up on dates. This can be either #matesfordates or #datesformates. The hashtag works both ways.
A work connection hooked me into a Messenger conversation with one of his friends. We chatted for a bit, and he had been on some socially distant dates with other people, but during our conversation; a red flag showed up, making me decide it was too risky to pursue a meetup.
Another friend did come up trumps and set me up on a blind date in late September. How exciting!
Although she wasn’t confident in our romantic compatibility, we were both up for the challenge of a blind date, and I’m pleased that we had a pleasant time, with lots of interesting conversation. He wasn’t the guy for me, and I knew this for sure when he said he had seen an episode of Gavin and Stacey but didn’t like it. I mean, seriously???
Before we met, I knew nothing about this guy other than his first name, and I was very restrained and didn’t try to search for him on my friend’s Facebook. She had quite a task finding us a venue because everyone was booking tables at the pub. However, she struck gold in the village where I grew up, and I’m pleased that I didn’t bump into any of my parent’s friends.
Is a blind date the best way to date?
The blind date scenario was definitely not what I was used to, and many people said I was incredibly brave.
Here’s a list of pros and cons from my experience:
- We didn’t know anything about each other, so we had loads to talk about when we met up. In the past, I had built up a false sense of intimacy with someone over several weeks of texting on a dating app, only for there to be no chemistry when we met.
- I wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t look like his photo because I hadn’t seen one!
- I could gauge his morals based on the way he wore his mask. He did put it on when he went to the toilets, and he did cover his nose, so in my opinion, demonstrates that he isn’t stupid and has a respect for rules.
- The menu was only available online, and we had to scan a QR code to access it. This meant our phones were out at the table for longer than I would normally like. This was quite distracting, especially when you’re trying to build a rapport with a stranger. He also wanted the WIFI code and made a big deal of getting it, whereas I was happy to use my 4G. This was one of the signs during the date that we weren’t very compatible.
- We had to put a credit card “in a vault” to show we weren’t going to run off without paying the bill. This made me nervous as I didn’t want him to pay because it would mean I’d need to see him again to ‘pay him back’ for dinner – and I knew after the Gavin & Stacey comment that I wouldn’t want to! (In the end, we split the bill and it was all fine).
- We met quite early at 7 pm, but conscious of the 10 pm curfew, so we needed to make sure we had finished by then. Given how the date played out, I was glad that Boris truncated it. Cheers BoJo.
- Due to COVID, there was no awkward hug or kiss at the end because I made it clear I wanted to social distance on our date. Luckily, I could do an awkward wave instead of an awkward hug before disappearing off, into the night.
Advice for intrepid daters during the pandemic
- Make sure you are dating for the right reasons. A romantic partner won’t fix you, so only start dating once you are happy with your own life. Failure to do so will lead you to make foolish decisions (refer to my list of dating disasters above).
- Don’t let the pandemic scare you. Set some boundaries around online dating and communicate how you feel to your date. Make sure nobody (your date or your friends) diminish your boundaries or belittles your views. They are your boundaries for a reason – designed to keep you safe, so make sure you stick to them.
- Use virtual dating to get to know new people. Setting up dates via Zoom is great to help you meet a larger number of new people quite efficiently. This will increase your chances of meeting someone truly amazing.
- Only date a partner who adds awesomeness to your life. Don’t fall for any pandemic related bullsh*t. If something seems amiss, it probably is. Go with your gut instinct, and proceed with caution. Do not be afraid to walk away if it doesn’t feel right.
If you are dating, stay safe and look after yourself. I am a complete sucker for a happy ending so please let me know if you meet somebody truly amazing during the pandemic.
Much love, Faith xxx
* The covert narcissist has not been clinically diagnosed as such; this is purely my opinion based on the reading I have done.
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