Ten years ago, after breaking up from the rebound relationship I had after my first marriage failed, I became increasingly concerned that I would never be in a situation to meet a potential partner just by living my life the way it was it then. To be fair I was working a temp role as a public library assistant before embarking on a full time Masters degree so the average age of the men in my life was about 65.
I took an extended holiday trekking up the East coast of Australia thinking I might meet the man of my dreams whilst snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef but it wasn’t to be. On my return I decided to take the plunge and register for a paid dating site – it seemed like my only chance to dive back into the dating pool (I was 34) and Internet dating was just beginning to take off and becoming a socially acceptable thing back then.
I was quite quickly hooked on the amount of immediate attention (it wasn’t actually that much but compared to my previous barren 18 months of singledom it was a huge ego boost initially). I tentatively set off on a few dates not really having any idea what I was expecting.
The first guy I met was an advertising exec. He was not a suit – he was the scruffy ‘creative’ type who prided himself on being trendy with his North London flat and his Converse All-Stars. I ended up dating him for six weeks – it was incredibly intoxicating but I knew after those few weeks that it would never be anything more than superficial – even then I could see that he was a damaged individual and would never introduce me to a friend (I began to believe that he didn’t actually have any friends or family, such was the bubble he kept me in).
The second guy I dated – again for just a few weeks – was very different. He was a tennis coach – he also lived in his own flat and seemed to have very little common sense but he was physically attractive and I was again flattered to be desired so intensely within such a short space of time. This was the one ‘relationship’ I had which threw me a complete curveball – he strung me along really pretending to want a long term relationship, suggesting we book a holiday together – he even came to a dinner party with me at my sister’s house. Then one day (the day we were going to be booking the holiday) he told me he was just popping out to get some cash and essentially he never came back – just dropped me a text to say ‘sorry, I changed my mind’.
In hindsight it is pretty hilarious but not so much at the time. Dick.
The next guy was even worse. He was clearly loaded and used his money to impress the women he dated and give them a little taster of a lifestyle which maybe they’d never dreamed of before. He had a bit of fun and then disappeared, using his ‘mother’s health’ as an excuse for why his head was not in the dating game any more (all the while blatently keeping an active dating profile going online).
But I soldiered on – literally. My next (very) short term relationship was with a Royal Marine Commando. To be fair that was only ever going to be about one thing. Men in uniform hey? To give him credit, he was very honest with me and he was a genuinely nice guy but we had bugger all in common on an intellectual level.
By this point, I was pretty worn down by the game-playing, the disappointment and in fact, the ever-decreasing pool of ‘eligible’ men who were desperately winking away in cyberspace. That’s when I decided to give the man who I would eventually go on to procreate with and marry (and now divorce) a chance.
I guess I’d kind of reached a level of desperation and I just wanted someone who I could trust – someone who didn’t seem to be hiding anything or playing some kind of strategic dating game. His world seemed fairly recognisable to me – middle class suburbia. He had a university education, a sense of humour. But in hindsight he fell a long way short of being my perfect match – and to be honest I don’t believe that there is a ‘perfect match’ waiting for anyone on a dating website.
My situation skews the statistics. Yes internet dating can lead to marriage. It can also lead to divorce. I guess that’s true of the offline dating environment too – so many ways to get it wrong. I’ve experienced both and in each relationship I can now look back and pinpoint the exact moment when I had my first (very real) doubt. In some cases that initial feeling happened prior to the first date but when you’re in the thick of it and you’ve been feeling a bit lonely for a while you tend to be more willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the UK TV show Location, Location, Location where a couple are shown a number of potential houses, some of them (in my eyes), dream houses – but one person always finds something to criticise which frustrates Phil and Kirsty and makes them say “[this person] needs to begin to make some compromises otherwise they will end up homeless”. Well that’s a bit how I felt about dating and the opportunities that presented themselves – if I was too uncompromising would I end up (emotionally) homeless?
As a result of feeling that way (and to extend the metaphor), I ended up living in a series of sh**ty houses.
I’m now a decade older. I’ve had two children and I’ve hit middle age. I’ve read a fair few bloggers describe their internet dating experiences (particularly Kate of Witwitwoo who is a similar age to me) and it doesn’t make for particularly uplifting reading.
I have come to the conclusion that where I’ve gone wrong in my choices of men, it’s essentially been down to the fact that I’ve nearly always dated men who, prior to my first date, I barely knew at all. In fact my rebound relationship is the only one I’ve had with someone who I knew as a friend beforehand and that was the closest I’ve come to being with the right person.
Unfortunately Internet dating is always going to be with men you’ve never met before prior to the first date and their dating ‘profile’ isn’t worth jack shit and will tell you nothing real. My husband and I actually used to jibe each other with the line “you didn’t put that in your profile” which used to be funny.
Actually, what I realise now is that you can never rest on your laurels, assuming that now, finally, you have the key to unlock a successful relationship. I have bounced from “always trust your instinct if you sense that there is an underlying addiction” to, “never get into a rebound relationship” to “listen to the early warning alarm bells” and then I have a whole bunch of non-negotiable criteria which the ‘right’ man would have to meet.
And then I look at myself and I think, blimey, I’m not exactly catch of the century so what makes me think I can demand such high standards in a partner? Pft.
So. There you go, I guess it’s the single life for me!