On a cold Friday evening in January, I opened the door to a man I hoped to have a meaningful connection with but was healthfully skeptical about. My determination to start this New Year off differently led me to get back on Tinder, inspired by recent articles in The New York Times on finding love in 36 questions or less and the critical-mass of dating apps.
I’m a confident, optimistic dater but would rather the skip the whole thing and just be in a relationship. Or meet new friends. Which was the preface for this meeting, inviting this man to hang out with a group of friends at their Greenpoint workspace without any expectations for romance and a chance at new friendship.
But something magical happened that night and my defenses melted into an overwhelming pool of optimism. While our profiles listed virtually nothing, we couldn’t have been better suited for each other. From his love of sailing to his East Coast upbringing, his fluency in French and his humanist views on life, he was everything I was looking for. We once had the same sailing instructor just weeks apart and a need to renew his passport took him to the consulate where I worked. We had chances to meet in real-life but instead, by chance, matched on Tinder.
To my ever-growing delight it seemed that I was what he was looking for too. So we planned a real date for that Monday and had another again that same week. For the first time in my life, dating was easy. He texted compliments and romantic overtures such as “I’m so lucky and happy to have met you” and “I miss you, can’t wait to see you” and my favorite, “You’re amazing”. Thanks, you too! We were both busy with work and lived on opposite ends of Brooklyn but we consistently made plans to see each other and texted nearly everyday.
Meetings took to me to DC on more than one occasion and Super Bowl weekend took him to Boston – but we never stopped communicating and I never stopped believing that in the vast sea of New York City, he was the fish worth catching.
Fast-forward to March, just six weeks after meeting but enough elapsed time to have that all-too-dreaded-but-glad-we-got-it-out-of-the-way conversation: Where is this going? We did meet on Tinder, after-all, and though we hadn’t yet slept together the promise of doing so was there, and in his words we were a “100% match”. So imagine my surprise when at the end of our last date, as I shyly asked if he was dating anyone else fully expecting the answer to be “are you crazy, of course not! ” the reply I received was actually, yes.
Someone he met in a “traditional” way, he said. He explained that he was old-fashioned in the sense that he didn’t want to sleep with two women at once, yet somehow he found no moral issues dating both of us at the same time. That’s funny, because I’m old-fashioned too. I don’t want to date someone who is dating someone else, so while stumbling to find the words in my state of disillusionment, I took myself out of the race.
Why make dating feel like a competition, especially when one partner knows there’s someone else out there they are competing with? How did they meet? What does she look like, what does she do? Why was he still looking, was I not enough? Who would he choose? The questions were reeling and I was starting to think my catch of the year was starting to smell real fishy. I respect that people have different comfort levels of monogamy and while knowing that I’m on the conservative end, it still made me question our society’s views on love and sex.
In Scandinavia, sleeping with a potential romantic partner is usually a prerequisite to dating (though it’s also worth noting that the American ritual of “going out on dates” is foreign to most). If the sex is good, then you may get along with the person romantically. It’s also agreed upon that when you do meet a potential partner, you first confirm that they are the only person you’re sleeping with, making the agreement of “mutually exclusive” before the relationship even begins. I only know this because I once dated a Swedish guy and our surprising cultural differences inspired me to do a lot of Googling on the subject.
So in New York, when does one become a “monogamous dater” when it comes to a mutually exclusive agreement early on in the relationship?
And isn’t the point of finding a match on Tinder, eHarmony or in line at a grocery store, to see if that spark could develop into something more, while respecting the rules of being mutually exclusive whether or not the sex or the falling head-over-heels comes first?
When the possibility of love and the opportunity for happiness is suddenly whisked away by the unexpected cold winds of change, it takes shifting your center of gravity to weather the storm.
Exclusivity was never promised. The only promise was chance. It was as if I dreamed him up and the universe delivered him to my door and I happily welcomed the opportunity. With him I was open, willing, able, supportive, grateful and kind, and for the first time in my life, felt like I was embarking on a healthy adult relationship.
Respecting his privacy and giving him the benefit of the doubt allowed me to believe that he was feeling the same way – especially as he showed it in very real ways. So how could my intuition be so wrong? As I was falling for him, he was falling for me… and another girl. With the pretext that not having sex with either of us meant that hearts couldn’t be broken.
The hardest part is not losing faith on the journey to love and remaining optimistic on the road to finding someone who likes you as much as you like them. In an ironic way, my faith has become stronger. It’s hard to believe there aren’t soul mates out there after you’ve met yours. Even if you aren’t your soul mate’s soul mate, you start to believe they might exist, dreaming that one day romantic, unconditional love will come with mind-blowing sex, regardless of the order in which it arrives.