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Online dating is hard. At best it’s a whole world of potential dates/hookups/relationships/whatever you’re looking for right at your fingertips, available to you for a monthly fee (or in the case of some sites like Plenty of Fish and OKCupid, totally free). At worst it can be an exhausting, soul-numbing process that leaves you wanting to just shut down your account altogether.
Sometimes you form a connection, only to have the other person mysteriously disappear, leaving you helpless in reaching them any other way because they’ve suddenly shut down their account. Sometimes you send that first message and you get no response at all. Which is fine when it happens for the first or second time, but when it happens for more times than you care to count, it leaves you going, “Aw, come on!” especially when you can’t find anything particularly objectionable in your profile or what you said in your message that makes people not respond. And miscommunication happens all the time when your primary means of communication are written messages exchanged back and forth. Without the help of facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, etc., sometimes you’re left completely clueless as to how the other person intended their message to be taken. I often say to those around me who have never had to go this route that they are very. very. lucky. VERY. LUCKY.
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” – Bhagavad Gita 2.47
Because online dating seems to be a necessary evil, especially if you have a busy life and all your friends are pretty much settled and their friends are also settled, leaving your options for meeting new people limited, one has to find ways to stay sane. I’ve been thinking lately about the concept of doing (as in taking action) without attachment to the results of one’s actions. The concept is not original to me, it’s actually talked about in the Bhagavad Gita. You act and then let go. You take the action that you choose to take and remind yourself that your role in the whole system stops there. And the results have nothing to do with you. It’s really hard because the second you hit “send” after typing your well-thought out message, the anxiety of will-I-or-won’t-I-hear-from-him-again sets in. Attachment to wanting to hear back from the other person causes you to be bound to the result you want, and attachment causes suffering. Especially when you don’t get the result that you want. You start blaming yourself, never considering that you don’t know the whole story, and that maybe the reason you didn’t get a response had nothing to do with you. Maybe it’s just the person’s life right now or maybe it’s something entirely unknown. It’s a very heavy burden to carry around when you take responsibility for the reactions of other people.
I’ve begun doing this practice where, whenever I find myself anxious, worrying about someone’s response or someone’s non-response, I tell myself, “You did your part. You acted out of your true nature, which is all you’re asked to do. Your part is done, and the other person is free to act according to his own will.” Instantly I feel a shift in my energy where I feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m being dragged around by the wild horses of my attachment to the response I want. It also brings the focus of my own energy back to me, instead of the other person, who I can’t control. Subtly it also reinforces a feeling that there is never anything wrong with acting from a place of authenticity. I don’t know about you, but I want someone to love me for who I am, and not who I let them think I am.
Again, I can’t stress enough that online dating is really hard. The biggest favor you can do for yourself is to be authentic and act from that place in your being. When you put the focus on the good feeling you get when you reach out to someone or simply express yourself authentically, instead of on the anticipation of the response, you discover that there’s a joy in reaching out to another human being and presenting yourself as you are. There’s so much emphasis on the response that we forget that simply expressing ourselves to someone else in a genuine manner is itself a gift, both to ourselves and to others. Over time, the dependence on the response becomes less as you realize that your happiness does not depend on the response but actually starts with you.