Science tells us that most of our long-lasting intimate associations begin with regular spontaneous interaction in a shared environment, which is why the majority of all our relationships begin at work or in education, with number two being hobbies and activities. Number three is through friends in common, number four is randomly running into people on the street, number five is structured singles meetings in person and number six is, you guessed it, internet singles meeting structures.
You can see why the first three occur: we typically work and play and socialize with people who share our age group, socio-economic and education levels and backgrounds, which does the ground work for you. Theoretically, structures like speed dating and internet dating are designed to quickly identify people with whom you share such things, so you can meet more of them. And yet those things are outperformed by people just running into each other one day at the post office or a night club. Obviously, there are issues with the internet: yes, online relationships are very real but we are biological creatures who react very strongly to physical presence, to sight and smell and sound and the occupying mass of other people, and that reaction is not just about attraction and physicality but also a sense of shared social contract and social realness. If someone asks you in person to do something, it’s much harder to say no then if they ask you online.
But even if we remove the internet, shouldn’t speed dating and single’s nights have random encounters beaten by a mile? Because the kind of people who are okay with dating someone they cross paths with are a hundred times more ready for a relationship than the average person who uses a singles event or website. Because the average person using a singles event or website is poorly placed to actually be able to date someone.
Perhaps not very shocking. It is after all, the path of least resistance, in that a lot of the effort is done for you, there’s a created sense of distance, the risk of failure is shared and you can just kind of go with the flow. But to my eyes I think a lot of the people using these services are like the people who go to every conference about how to be a real estate mogul but never sell a property, or go to every writing course but never write a word, and they’re often similarly shelling out large chunks of cash and huge bits of their life and going nowhere. It’s fine if you want to dream. It’s fine if you want to window shop and play pretend about who you might date. Except of course, you’re wasting everyone’s time, which makes you an asshole. And if you want to NOT play pretend and actually get something out of it, you’re wasting your own time, and frankly, you deserve better than that.
So in the spirit of Chuck Wendig, here is some slightly shouty real-talk about how to actually use singles meeting structures so you actually get a relationship. Chuck Wendig of course provides very shouty and extremely sweary advice on how to be a writer, and this will be less sweary but also fundamentally the same basic advice, which is: you can’t do it if you don’t do it.
Writing and dating are about time. You have to set aside an hour or two a day, or at least a week, to do them. The biggest thing I find with people on dating sites is they just aren’t able to do this. Or don’t want to, or are afraid to. They’ll spend hours and hours on profiles and chats, we’ll make connections, we’ll text back and forth, we’ll share a joke and a flirt but when it comes time to actually doing the dating, they just can’t do it. They are physically incapable of meeting me for coffee.
Granted, some of them might change their mind. Some of them may want to tell me they’ve changed their mind in a way that doesn’t make me turn into a monster, which so many men do. Some of them might suddenly get a perfectly understandable sense of fear of being raped and murdered (but I always suggest meetings in busy, open spaces where the woman has a large selection of knives available, and we exchange no personal information until we decide we’re not murderers). And let’s be clear here: some of them just don’t have the time. Especially women in my age group. When women decided they wanted to enter the work force, capitalism decided to make it impossible for them NOT to do so, and dirtbag men have left a lot of women in my age group as single parents, and as a society we’ve decided that women who stay home with children are lazy and women who work full time are neglectful and women who ask the government for money to try and do both somehow are double-dipping welfare sponges. So it is perfectly understandable that you don’t have time. But if that is the case, understand that is the case, and stop wasting your time and mine on dating sites. It ain’t gonna happen.
You’re only going to be able to form a relationship with someone if you date them. It is literally the only way. You have to spend time socialising with people, in a social setting or in private, until you find out if you can spend time together and if you like the way you each smell. You have to date. And you can only date them if you have time to date. And you’ll only know you have time to date if you check and see if you do.
So here’s my advice: to build yourself time to date, to make sure you have that space in your life, start dating yourself. Pick a night. Once a week is fine. Friday nights or saturday nights are good, but Sunday brunches work just as well, as does a Wednesday lunch. As long as it is at least one hour long. Then, during that entire hour, do something you could do on a date. That could be watching TV on the couch, but if going out is a struggle as well, make it going out. Go to a cafe, a bar, a restaurant. Or a park, to save money. Bring a sandwich. Bring a book or your phone. You don’t have to be bored. You can even bring a friend now and then – but only if it doesn’t then become something that belongs to the friend, because then you can’t shuffle them out of the picture when the dates arrive.
Do it for at least a month, two is better, to make sure it is sticking and becoming habit. If you can date yourself for one hour each week for a month, you have time to date. If an emergency happens, make sure you catch up on another day that week. This is the absolute bare minimum you need to be able to do to date people, one hour a week. If you cannot do this, you will never have time to date anyone, which means you will never have a relationship. And that’s okay. Maybe you don’t have time right now. Maybe it turns out you have other priorities. But you should know that. Understand it. Accept it. And don’t expect any dating site or singles event to change that. No amount of money or technology or advice will produce a relationship until you build yourself the time and space to date.
So find out if you have the time, and if you don’t have the time, then get off the goddamn dating websites, and stop wasting MY time. Because it’s mean, and I’m sick of it.