As a little girl, I remember dreaming about meeting Mr. Right, our courtship, eventual Fairy Tale wedding and our “Happily Ever After”. Oddly enough, that dream never involved sitting in front of a computer, “catalogue shopping” for a potential date. But such is the day and age we are in, so a few years ago, I embraced it.
I met some Princes and some Frogs, and got a number of free dinners or drinks along the way. But it has not led to any long-term commitment. While online dating offers many perks – efficient and targeted approach to meeting someone suitable – it can be a double edged sword. From my experience, the proliferation of online dating poses three challenges to the notion of commitment:
1. Creates the illusion of unlimited options
Ask a person what they want in a mate, and they will list off all the things they don’t want, or tell you about the negative experiences they have had. Our negative experiences should help us identify what we are looking for in a partner, but very few people actually take it to that step. So when we meet someone, rather than looking for the traits we want and value, we look for things we don’t want. And at the first sign of imperfection, we bail. After all… We have an endless pool of options that we can turn to.
2. Takes the fun out of dating and courtship
People who are online dating are using it for one of two things: to get action, or to find someone to marry. Both of these take the fun out of courtship – a key ingredient to building a strong foundation for anything lasting. People who are looking for someone to marry, approach online dating too seriously and infuse unnecessary intensity, causing the relationship to progress far too quickly. Focusing on the end goal really limits our ability to enjoy the courtship, have fun and learn about each other.
3. Limits staying power of relationships
Relationships are not easy. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t just “work”. They take a lot of work in order to have staying power. But online dating really limits the need to put in that work. We are much more comfortable with a relationship ending than previous generations have been because we know we still have the online dating sites to turn to. Another, potentially better, partner is just around the corner.
So how do we break this cycle? Well… To start, enjoy dating! Embrace the courtship. Don’t focus on the end goal of marriage, but enjoy the process of getting to know your partner. Have fun together. Create memories. Bond. Laugh.
Second, understand that no person or relationship is perfect. Make a list of what you actually WANT in a partner and know what you will not compromise on and what is somewhat negotiable. I’m not saying ignore the things you don’t want, but focus on the positive more than the negative. As long as the positive outweighs the negative, you have something to work with.
And last, live for the moment. Yes there are many people out there, and any number of them could be a great match. Take the time to know what you want and value in a person and appreciate it when you find it. There are always trade-offs. It takes commitment – the conscious decision to be together and make it work – to achieve the fairy tale ending.