Six months ago, I made the decision to indefinitely delete my dating apps, which I had been using on and off for a decade. Nothing dramatic or terrible had happened. I didn’t date someone so toxic that he completely denied me dating. In fact, Patrick, the man from Hinge who I was dating just before deleting the app, was kind, smart, and in many ways what I would look for in a partner. In fact, it was for him that I deleted Hinge and Bumble, my go-to apps at the time, earlier this year. Because I had lost my appetite to “chat” with several people at once – who even has the time? – and I figured I could always re-download the apps if we ever had to break up.
But after a few months (and an honest but disappointing conversation), it became clear that we just weren’t in mutually compatible situations to continue dating. As often happens with early romances, we crumbled rather than imploded. But there was also something moving about it; the time I had invested in getting to know someone I would never see again. Shared memories that no longer had a home. The secret hopes I’d had for our near future as a couple: booking trips, spending Sundays together, falling into bed reading next to each other (am I the only one love fantasy?).
When we stopped seeing each other, I immediately felt the familiar urge to download the apps again – as I had done time and time again, from time to time, over the past decade since the launch of Tinder in 2012. But I resisted it — and instead chose to process the disappointment I felt at losing the thing-that-could-have-been-a-thing. I felt better after a week or two. But I had had a revelation. I wasn’t necessarily going to find another Patrick right away. I would have to go back to dating apps for a while, kiss a few frogs… – and what effect would that have on me?
What I realized was that there was an opportunity cost for every Sunday I spent sweeping; the non-starting dates where I spent my Thursday evening; the month or two I spent dating exclusively. Not so much because it kept me from meeting ‘The One’. It was a factor, of course – but I wasn’t just potentially missing a Big Love. I regularly missed out on a Great Life: traveling; reading; learning; maintain relationships of all kinds.
I gave IRL connections a chance
At first, I decided to channel my dating app hiatus into focusing on real-life romantic relationships, and it was a rewarding exercise. I reconnected with my Mr What-If, someone I had dated the year before, “giving things a chance” for a few weeks before realizing we were right to end things the first time. and heal my weak regret in the process. I called up a DJ I had instant chemistry with at a bar and stayed in touch with ever since – we had a few fun dates. Nothing finally went anywhere, but I felt like there was a greater level of mutual respect and communication, because the foundation of our relationship with each other was more than pixels. You know that old proverb, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? I would say a connection made in person is worth two on an app. Eventually I stopped putting pressure on those relationships with the opposite sex – wondering if they”As me” loved me. The reason I was able to do this I think was because I was no longer used to spending hours sweeping alone while waiting for a game (or not). Over time, this abstinence had helped me heal from addiction to romantic “wins”—the ups and downs, the feeding of my ego, and the gamification of my heart. I spent an evening flirting with an event photographer, then a man I met unexpectedly during a 24-hour layover at the airport – without even trying to analyze whether these relationships were more than friendly on their side. For once, I didn’t care. Eventually, I decided to take a conscious break from the whole thing. Which brings me to my next point…