The timing of this blog is no mistake, with the terrible news this week along with some personal recent dating experiences, it got me to thinking about the effects of dating, both online and otherwise, on mental health. Even before the news broke on Saturday about Caroline Flack, I had been experiencing the very real effects of the pressure of dating on both mine and others wellbeing.
I won’t go into too much detail, they aren’t my stories to tell or my feelings to express. But I do want to talk about kindness, and the importance of always thinking about the other party when it comes to dating. Too often we jump to conclusions when we are let down, or pissed off, or asked for nudes. We lash out, we react, we jump on social media and we reprimand the other person with no thought for them or their reasons. Because we are hurt, and that’s important in that moment. We have been put in a position that’s made us feel angry, and it’s natural human reaction (well it’s certainly mine) to jump on the defensive. ‘What’s wrong with men!?’ ‘Where are all the good ones?’ ‘Why are they all such pricks!’. The same of course applies vice versa.
Let’s just take a second to stop and think. Why did they cancel? Let’s take ourselves out of the equation, stop being so selfish. Could their reason indeed be valid? Have they got things going on that we just don’t know about yet? I know that I don’t share my deepest, darkest secrets and vices with someone in the very early stages of dating. If I’m feeling blue or tearful and not in the mood for a date, I’ll come up with an excuse and let them down gently. Not ‘sorry Dave, my hormones are absolutely raging down to a combination of time of the month and a fucked up thyroid. The thought of sitting and socialising with you tonight is the last possible thing I want to do’. It’s more like ‘sorry Dave, something has come up. I have to work late and have been called away’. Dave feels let down. Dave feels like I’m just not that into him.
That’s how I’ve felt more than once in the last fortnight. I made it all about me. What have I done now to put them off? What did I say in my last message to make him block me? How bloody he dare he leave me sitting here all dressed up with nowhere to go! What a wanker, what a prick! I lashed out. I made things worse. I made more than one person feel like shit because I hadn’t been kind. A simple human trait too often overlooked. Kindness.
So I vow that from now on before flying off the handle, I will take a second to think rationally about what that other person is thinking. Ask them if they are ok before launching into attack mode. Because, guess what, more often than not, they’re not ok. They probably have a reason for cancelling. They might have a reason for leaving you on the unread. They may have a reason for not replying for a few hours. To be clear, I’m not talking about someone you’ve matched with on tinder 20 minutes ago. I’m talking about someone that you’ve been getting to know. The ins and outs, the nitty gritty, what makes them tick. What makes them laugh. What makes them cry.
I’ve always been a big believer in getting dates out of the way very quickly, get to know each other face to face. But actually spending time talking on the phone, sending messages back and forth for days can give a proper insight into someone before meeting them. I’m going to do this more. Saves a lot of awkward first dates! Gives a greater understanding of someone and if they are for you before even meeting them. We all know that we put on our best front when dating, particularly in the earlier stages. We sell ourselves, we promote ourselves, we market ourselves. Of course we do, that’s natural. No one wants to buy the second hand car with the rusty engine and 100000 miles on the clock when there’s a cheaper, shinier and more efficient one around the corner. So make yourself look shinier and hide the rusty engine under the bonnet. Don’t reveal it until you’re further in, ‘til you know that person wants to be with you.
Are any of us really ready to date? Do we download tinder sooner than we should for the gratification that we are still attractive, still wanted? Should we all spend more time learning to love ourselves and that we are enough before asking that of another person? Are we looking for someone else to love us first so that we begin to feel loveable, ready to love ourselves again? Waiting for others to tell us why we are great, so we can start to believe it ourselves. Why do we need the opinion of others to make us feel our own self worth? Social media, it’s all for the like, tinder it’s all for the right swipes, Instagram it’s all for the hearts. The only love we should really be seeking is the one we have for ourselves.
I’m lucky that with both of my recent experiences I’ve taken a lot from them. The realisation that I am enough. That it isn’t always my fault, people have stuff going on that they didn’t want to share so early. They backed away because they weren’t ready. I’m lucky that both have taken the time to explain that to me. Been honest with me, been open with me. One is now seeking help, and I’m so glad. One is now, I hope, and I consider to be a friend. I haven’t closed the door on a relationship in the future with him, but it’s just a case of bad timing. He isn’t ready, and I’m not what he needs right now. Right man, wrong time. But I’ve had some of the most open and honest conversations I’ve ever had with anyone as a result. I understand him, and he understands me. And that started because of kindness. Because I didn’t behave the way I always have. I took the time to think and consider them and not just me.
What a wonderful thing to learn and understand. It takes two to tango, and we all need to remember that a little more often. Respond first with kindness. Remember that these are people and not just a series of photographs that we are swiping on for our pleasure. The older I get, the more I understand that.
Despite all of the above, and my pleading that you always be kind. We also have to remember to be kind to ourselves. There are some people that, unfortunately, are just not pleasant human beings. For every person with a demon to battle, there’s one that’s just playing games and not replying. Know when to walk away, know when to prioritise yourself. Know when to have the respect for yourself that means your kindness is best spent elsewhere.
So I guess, what I’m saying, is exactly what Caroline said, and said it best.
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.