white smartphone on green grass

The 5 Most Important Lessons I Learned From Dating Apps

1. Everyone has some level of emotional unavailability.

This isn’t a criticism, it’s simply an observation I believe to be true. I’ve talked to and spent time with several men I met through dating apps. They all have diverse backgrounds and personalities, but the one trait that is common among them is a level of emotional unavailability.

Some of these guys know they’re emotionally unavailable and they don’t try to hide it. They’re open about the things that brought them to this place, and they admit they don’t know how to overcome it. A few are actively working to cope with the inner turmoil created by a desire to connect but an inability to do so on a healthy level. Some of them try to hide it behind charm and charisma, but it always comes to light in the end. Many are unaware that the reason relationships keep failing or the reason they continually find themselves in toxic relationships is because they don’t have the emotional awareness necessary to connect in a healthy way.

Being emotionally unavailable doesn’t mean you’re broken or damaged, it just means you’re human and you’re alive. It doesn’t mean you’re destined to spend your life alone or in shallow, inauthentic relationships; it just means you might have to work a little harder at untangling and understanding your emotions.

2. “If they wanted to, they would” isn’t always true.

This is actually a really toxic state of mind to assume when dating. How many times have you wanted to do something but you didn’t have the capacity, didn’t know how, or were too shy or scared? Does this not also apply to other people? Are others not allowed to have the same concerns and insecurities that you have when it comes to dating?

Sometimes people genuinely don’t want to, and that’s the thing that drives us crazy in dating, right? How do we figure out the intentions?

Often, a person’s intentions become obvious after you’ve spent a little time together. Be patient, be observant. Instead of assuming “if they wanted to, they would,” we can adopt a gracious mindset. We can remind ourselves that if we wanted to, we could. It doesn’t always have to be on the other person to move things forward.

3. Mixed signals don’t always mean they don’t like you.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that if you’re confused about whether a person likes you or not, then they don’t like you. This is true in some cases, but people who say this in every situation forget that both people involved have their own feelings to sort through.

Sometimes people are fighting internal battles that we’re unaware of; they might be facing things that have been a part of them for a long time and that they’re still learning how to cope with. As with any battle or struggle, there’s a ripple effect. The things people are trying to resolve in themselves often affect the way they interact with the people around them.

Instead of assuming mixed signals are an indication of disinterest or inconsistency, try to understand that this person is likely just trying to figure themselves out as they relate to you and how they feel about you. Give people the benefit of the doubt until they give you a reason not to.

4. Dating rarely leads to “forever,” and that’s okay.

I used to think I had to be really careful with the guys I agreed to spend time with because I didn’t want to “waste” time on something that wouldn’t turn into the type of relationship I was looking for. What I’ve come to realize through the type of casual dating most apps offer is that, even when things don’t work out the way I hoped they would, the time is very rarely wasted.

Except for the time I spent with the grown man who chugged vodka Red Bull like he was at a frat party then called me a “liberal c***.” That was most definitely wasted time, but it was only a couple of hours, so I wasn’t too upset about it. It also makes for a really good “bad date” anecdote. Aside from that incident, most of the time I’ve spent with dating app guys has actually been really enjoyable and rewarding.

Dating hasn’t been an ideal experience at all, but I’ve learned a lot about myself, how to interact in healthy ways, and how to let go of people when necessary. I’ve also gained a lot of friends who I never would have met if not for a dating app. I’ve learned how to practice empathy in the difficult moments when someone’s actions or feelings have a direct effect on me. I’ve learned that a person’s behavior is very rarely about me and more often about whatever is going on in their own heart and mind. Even when the connections I make don’t last forever, I don’t regret them because the experiences were valuable.

5. People generally mean what they say when they say it.

On occasion, I find myself wondering if the guy I’m dating is genuine when he says how much he likes me or when he uses definitive language when talking about a future with me. This isn’t because I don’t think I’m likable or because I don’t think I deserve a happy future with someone who loves me. It’s because I’ve experienced that moment so many times where a person’s words don’t line up with their actions or their actions don’t line up with their words.

In my experience, this misalignment is rarely the result of malicious intentions. I think many people are genuine when they tell a person they like them or that they want a future with them, but sometimes—most of the time, really—feelings change. And when actions are motivated by the emotions of the moment, it can feel really confusing for the person on the receiving end.

I just want to give my dog the life he deserves.

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