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Tips for Online Dating with Transparency and Compassion

In the 21st century, our desires for connection have found new outlets through the internet. Websites and apps such as OKCupid, Bumble, Tinder, and Match.com have helped couples come together in ways the 20th century mind could never have envisioned. At the same time, connecting through this medium presents new and prevalent challenges that many single individuals may struggle with, perhaps even leading them to give up on the idea of meeting someone online.

We need to create a new language of interaction with the new methodologies of dating that have arisen. As technological advances accelerate at unprecedented speeds, we are collectively challenged to find new ways to adapt & grow with them. Here are some tips on how to navigate the world of online dating.

  1. Transparency is key. Oftentimes, we may find ourselves swiping left & right, planning dates at bars with no idea of what we're looking for. Being up-front with potential partners about our desires & needs sets a foundation of transparency and openness that can lead to a healthier relationship down the line. It can often be a challenge to figure out what we even want! Taking a moment to journal or reflect on what would feel like the ideal relationship can help.

  2. We may ask ourselves, am I looking to build and deepen a long-lasting relationship with someone? Am I looking for sexual pleasure alone, without the complexities of “dating?” Am I looking for someone to go slow with, exploring our needs together with minimal attachment? Am I looking for friendship? Or perhaps I'm just looking to go on a date because it's been a while! Whatever the motive, being clear with what you're looking for helps foster a connection on mutual footing.

  3. Openness to Experience. Even if we've talked to someone online for a bit, it's hard to truly know what we're about to experience in person! It's easy for worries & anxieties to step in the way of allowing ourselves to be present with whatever arises. Before a new date, be sure to check yourself to see if you're open to new experiences. This openness itself is part of what will allow positive experiences to blossom, even in unexpected ways!

  4. Building your Profile, Be YOU! There are few things more confusing than meeting a person who is nothing like what their online profile presented. It can be really challenging to write about ourselves truthfully, but it's also one of the most fruitful endeavors to really get to know ourselves. Even if you don't have much to say, that's okay! Emojis can be a fun, simple way to show something about yourself.

  5. Say No to Ghosting! Though in some ways, reading profiles online can feel distant and impersonal, we must remember that there is a real person on the other end of that swipe. Treating others with respect includes letting them know when you don't feel a connection. In my experience, letting the person you're talking to know where you stand usually helps them feel better too, knowing they won't be wasting their time. If this presents a challenge to you, it could be useful to take a moment and ask yourself, “What is preventing me from being honest with this person?” Finding out what blocks you from transparency through self-reflection will not only alleviate the person on the receiving end of your conversation from the hurt of not-knowing, but it will also help you on your own personal journey of self-growth!

  6. Date Mindfully. While it can be a huge benefit to practice openness while dating, it's also important to trust our gut. The massive amount of neurons in our gut shows us that in a sense, we have a second brain sending us pertinent information. Perhaps someone has been talking with us, which feels nice, but something doesn't feel quite right. Maybe you're feeling pressured to meet up even though your body is telling you “no.” The rich wisdom of your body speaks in multitudes, and it can be a blessing to trust our instincts when it comes to dating.


Gregory Tilden, AMFT, is an Associate Therapist and Intake Coordinator at the San Francisco Marriage & Couples Center. Gregory provides couples and individual therapy at our Duboce Triangle and Oakland locations.

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