I’ve been thinking about the question of how you meet people a lot lately. Half of the people I’ve dated I’ve known for awhile before we started dating, whether that be through work, or school, or hobbies. The other half are people I met off-chance and hit it off with. In both cases, it felt more like I knew that person in some capacity before we started dating, because we didn’t meet and the intention wasn’t immediately the possibility of a relationship of some sort (or was it?). Now that I’ve been frequenting the Tinder, I’m curious about how people date people. Just in GENERAL, but also specifically, why is it so, so weird to date someone you don’t really know? We’ve covered topics like: do I really want to be dating, and how am I going to know if I like them romantically, but we’ve never covered the ‘how do you even get to know someone you don’t know when all of your meetings are in the date-structure?’. There’s a romantic interest. There’s an intention. How do you get to know someone as both a person, and a potential partner, when you start completely from scratch?
In my mind, there are three routes to dating.
1: You’re friends first, you know each other at least a little bit if not very well. You realise you have feelings, you ruminate, someone makes a move, you date.
2: You meet organically, maybe through friends or family or at an event, you talk, sparks fly. Maybe it’s someone you’ve met before, you have mutual friends, you know of them but you don’t really know them, until the time you properly meet and you realise just you have a vested interest in them now. By your first date, the intention is there, you’re only on the date because you already knew there was something there.
3: You’re just putting yourself out there, you’re on dating apps because no matter how many parks you sit in reading looking cute, no one approaches to ask what you’re reading (come on!). You go on dates with strangers, you maintain the “no expectations” rule going into the dates, and you wonder how you’re ever supposed to meet someone this way. Are you supposed to wait until you meet someone you have an instant connection with? Sometimes you meet someone interesting, so you date, but you still find yourself on the second or third date wondering what the intention is, who this person is, and at what point you’re supposed to start having expectations. You… just continue to date?
For a long time I was firmly in the camp that dating someone you know is ideal, because you know their positive traits and their… less positive traits, and you like them anyways. You don’t feel the need to impress them, you can continue enjoying each other’s company, but with some added romantic benefits. Ideal, right? I’m starting to think not so much. There’s still a lot of idealisation that goes on here, especially if you’ve harboured feelings for awhile. Plus the added complexity of “where is this going? what if it doesn’t work out?” There’s a lot of immediate pressure when you date someone you already know, and there’s a lot of opportunity for disappointment because expectations can be so high. Beyond this, if you have mutual friends the pressure is ON because there are so many eyes watching, wondering how it will go.
I started out thinking the second route might be the best. The person already knows of you, they know some things about you (hopefully mostly good, but maybe also some bad), so you’re not starting completely from scratch. You at least have some sort of background, some sort of idea of the type of person they are. Plus, you know what you’re on the date for. You know there is an interest involved, you have some expectations, but there’s not the pressure of you already being friends and knowing each other well, and there’s not the pressure of you having to figure out whether or not you’re really too interested (but isn’t it always there?).
Now, I’m starting to grow biased towards the third. I crowd-sourced on this one recently, and asked who had dated someone they didn’t know at all before they started dating, and what they thought. I’ve used Tinder, and I’ve met a whole of two out of the many people I’ve talked to on Tinder. The first time famously went incredibly average. I have a knack for not putting my best foot forward, and I left the date feeling like I really hadn’t sold myself very well, and that I didn’t want to have to sell myself to someone and make myself seem interesting to them, so I deleted the app. Many moons later, I re-downloaded, and it took an exceptional profile and a few good chats for me to meet up with another person. Safe to say, he was not at all what I expected (I always break the no expectations rule, by the way, I just can’t help it).
Now the problem with Tinder dating and meeting up with people you don’t know at all is that you have absolutely no clue what that person is like. Even if they have cute pictures, they could end up looking slightly different (hopefully not too much), or they could be much quieter, or more provocative in person than they seemed online. It’s not quite the same as online dating that you’d find with people who met through Instagram, or Twitter, because Tinder and other dating apps can be very catered and less personal. Plus, when you’ve met on Tinder and then you meet up, you both know it’s a date, unless it was otherwise specified.
On top of this, the average person will be putting their best foot forward on a first date. They’ll want to seem like they have it all together, they’ll want to downplay any parts of their life that aren’t working out, they want to seem like the ideal version of themselves (can’t relate lol). It’s almost encouraging you to idealise them, but in this case it just means it will take more time to draw their personality out. And honestly, very rarely are you going to rush into things with someone you’ve met on the internet (unless that’s what you’re looking for). From what I’ve done personally, and what I’ve seen friends do, we are so much more cautious, and naturally take things infinitely slower with people we’ve met on dating apps. It takes time to get to know someone, and it takes time to know if you like them.
The other problem with dating a stranger is that, naturally, you have absolutely no idea whether or not you will be attracted to them. You might think you have an idea, but because you’ve never met them and they could end up being rather unexpected, it’s hard to say. Plus, it’s also hard to say whether or not they’ll be attracted to you. Let’s face it, talking to strangers is weird for a lot of people. It’s even weirder when it’s a date, you’re trying to get to know them and you’re trying to get to know if you like them all wrapped into one. Dating from a completely blank slate is so strange. You don’t know them, you don’t know if you like them, but you know that maybe you might? So you keep dating.
Again, even in the case of online dating, idealisation is a danger zone. It’s still easy to idealise someone you don’t really know. However, I feel like most people are much more cautious about this when they’ve met someone online vs. someone they’ve known for awhile. Idealisation can creep in with someone you’ve known for awhile, you can create a version of them in your head that doesn’t match up with their actions long before you start dating, just because you’ve been harbouring feelings for them. I find I’m always a lot harder on the people I meet online than I am with the people I already know, and when you think about it, it makes sense! You should be more cautious with a stranger, because there is the genuine concern that they could be a serial killer.
The weirdest thing about dating a stranger is just how long it takes to get to know them. The only reason I met up with the second Tinder date again was because I could get the feeling that maybe he felt like he hadn’t put his best foot forward during our first date. First dates with strangers are awkward, and weird, and you have absolutely no idea what a successful one should look like. Too good and it seems almost ominous, but how are you supposed to know if you want a second one? Somehow I just… did? It took me a night to sleep on it and think, you know what, the bar is so low with first dates with strangers. If they’re not a serial killer and you enjoyed your time and you have more questions for them that you want answered, just meet up with them again. No harm done. We really need to stop overthinking it. So naturally I’m writing a whole blog series about it.
Now with the first two options of meeting potential partners you know ahead of time that the feelings are there. When it comes for feelings for strangers, I’ve already covered the ‘how do you know when you like someone when you’re dating a stranger?‘ concern in another post. As it turns out. I now know that you’ll just know. The concern then is….. after you just know, you may realise you’ve only met them a handful of times and they’re still so foreign and new to you. But as I type this I’m realising, well that’s the same for the second option isn’t it? (We’re not so different after all!). I guess, the short of it is, it’s always weird. And I think I’ve decided I don’t want to date any of my friends anymore. Maybe when I’m old and grey.
On top of all that has been said, the biggest problem with dating strangers is that it may take a very, very long time to meet a stranger that you really end up liking. Some people said they’d been doing it for years and had no luck, others said they had met their partner through Tinder and it just worked out! I’ve been following Kate Snooks for a long time, and I think she said she went on something like 50 dates before she met the one. And then I have other friends who have met multiple people who they’ve had feelings for through Tinder, but it was life circumstances that made it end up not working out. I think it is very probable that I am one of the ones that has just gotten lucky. Maybe we need to be harder on the people we go on dates with? We need to cater our swiping a little more? Do you guys want the inside scoop on how I decided which way to swipe, and/or how I decided whether or not to meet up?
Have you ever dated a stranger? Or are you strictly a ‘friends first’ type of person?