In today’s dating culture, it’s so easy to swipe right or left.
It takes a second to decide if someone is worth a longer, detailed scroll to find out more about who they are, or if they’re a definite pass. We easily judge by the quality of photos they have, or the witty words that they use.
Our internal monologue is wired to ask: Did they make us laugh? Did they intrigue our brains a little bit? What’s their taste in music or film like? Do they seem to have their sh*t together? Do they look like they take care of their health and could save a cat from a burning building should the need arise? Endless questions run through our brains as we scan for someone who is seemingly reasonable. In the words of Joni Mitchell, in one of my favourite songs, “send me somebody who is strong and somewhat sincere.” Yes, Joni. I hear you, sister.
Our standards have been lowered by dating apps. Some days I find myself wondering why the most basic qualities I’m looking for in a man are nowhere to be found. Yet, I continue swiping as an assertion of optimism in a negative world. Then I wonder if maybe what I’m looking for in a man is actually what’s missing in me and I’m compensating. All my psychology and self-help books like to remind me that the things I seek in others are the missing parts within myself. No one completes us. No one is perfect either. And honestly, this humbles me.
It used to be a harsh and inconvenient spiritual message that I would sweep to a dusty corner of my subconscious mind, because I would’ve rather had the perfect love story of my dreams, than to view one of life’s most precious and delicate things as an ideology that required work. We grow up with these fantasies. I partly blame Disney, partly blame rom-coms.
But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to be responsible for my life, too. My own conditioning taught me to disconnect from reality, ’cause reality wasn’t a safe place. There were no tools given to me to deal with my reality as a child, and no sufficient love around to protect me from the dangers of the real world—so I escaped. I put all my dreams and wishes in one basket, and dreamed that one day the right man would show up and nothing would ever be hard again.
I used to think love was passive; we fall in love after all. No one talks about standing in love, acting in love, healing in love, and loving as a life-long dynamic pursuit.
It has taken me years to understand my needs, wants, and boundaries from a relationship. But one thing is for sure, I’ve learned a lot about what makes me feel fulfilled on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level.
Although I occasionally verbally bash dating apps and how superficial they are, I’ve also had some of the loveliest dates that have made me sleep with a smile on my face. Striking a genuine connection with someone is a beautiful thing, regardless of whether it eventually works out or not.
I’ve had dates where I’ve been on the back of a motorcycle cruising along the harbour bridge, for example. Another where I ended up learning how to DJ, or that time where we went and did trivia for a cause to raise money for Palestine. Yes, some ended in heartbreak. But some ended amicably, too.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons in my years of trying out dating apps:
1. The right person will make you smile.
You’ll know they’re right if it feels like you’re flooded by daylight when you meet. I’ve often felt like I was so sure that I found the right person, but then I look back and realise they never made me smile from the heart. A person’s dark energy can be mistaken for a kind of mysterious, intriguing intensity, when really, it’s just dark energy that you don’t need in your life.
“Let my love, like sunlight, surround you
and yet give you illuminated freedom.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies
2. The right person will show you how much they respect you.
They will pace themselves. They won’t try to jump into bed with you on the first date. They will ask you questions and get to know you on a deeper level. They will want to earn a place in your life, because they are in awe of your beauty, your intelligence, and your grace.
3. The right person will communicate well.
They won’t leave gaps for you to fill with a guessing game. They won’t gaslight you. They will be clear with how they feel, and even if it takes them time to open up fully, they will express to the best of their ability at any given time. They hold themselves with integrity.
4. The right person will show you their imperfections.
They won’t try to hide them. They won’t show you a version of themselves that inflates their ego only. Instead, they will be vulnerable and real with who they are—faults and all.
5. The right person will both support and challenge you.
They will never do only one. We get the the yin and the yang. The good and the bad. Both feed off each other to ultimately lead the relationship to a place of growth rather than stagnation. This may not feel like a fantasy, but we slowly begin to taste the sweetness of reality once we surrender to its ebbs and flows.
6. The right person will give to something larger than themself and yourself.
They will see how life exists beyond the relationship and as they grow, they give. As they grow, they give some more. They will contribute to something that betters mankind, if even in the smallest of ways. That’s how you know their heart is big and can hold all the love, and all the pain.