The dat­ing decade

WH Fea­tures Writer and once se­rial dater Anthea Eng­land ques­tions how easy it is to find love in 2017

Women's Health Australia - - CONTENTS -

How tech changed our search for love

IIn the 10 years since the launch of Women’s Health, the dat­ing land­scape has changed en­tirely. And I would know – be­cause I nav­i­gated it for the whole, awk­ward decade. In 2007, as WH launched here, the first iphone went on sale in the US and a dat­ing site called ehar­mony ar­rived in Oz. Back then, the idea of find­ing love on the web, much less an app, was un­think­able. I was at uni study­ing – the only place I met guys was on sticky pub dance floors.

Around 2011, my friend told me he’d met a guy on a gay app called

Grindr. We thought it was a fun fad, and yet by 2013 I found my­self on my first Tin­der date. Sticky dance floors were re­placed with swip­ing in my track­ies, spurred on by mates and vino. Be­fore long, it was more than an un­der­ground move­ment. If you were sin­gle, you were on

‘the apps’ and the idea of meet­ing some­one ‘in real life’ was a bit odd.

In a decade, the dat­ing world has evolved rapidly, leav­ing a whole gen­er­a­tion of sin­gles chas­ing their tails. I asked life and busi­ness coach Lau­ren Tr­lin why it’s hard to keep up these days. “Tech­nol­ogy is that lit­tle bit ahead of us,” she says. “We’re the first gen­er­a­tion that are meet­ing peo­ple on a phone. Think of how much we have to keep up with, evo­lu­tion-wise.” And it’s true – the new dat­ing world re­quires you to be more agile than an AFL player be­cause the goal­posts move ev­ery day.


For the most part, I en­joyed the apps. Sure, I dealt with so many ghosters that I could open a haunted house, but I’d pre­vi­ously met plenty of duds in the pub, too. Frankly, I was thank­ful for a new av­enue to meet men – I was hardly be­ing bom­barded with bach­e­lors at my women’s mag­a­zine job.

But while my cou­pled-up mates liked hearing my dat­ing sto­ries, I had to live them. Even­tu­ally, I got tired. My main prob­lem: I couldn’t deal with the amount of choice in the app world. I mildly panic when choos­ing a brand of muesli, so you can bet I strug­gled when it came to love. When there are 329 man­age­ment con­sul­tants clog­ging up your Happn feed, how the hell do you fig­ure out if Matt, 31, or Mark, 32, is your guy?

Coun­sel­lor and ehar­mony’s re­la­tion­ship ex­pert De­siree

Spier­ings be­lieves the kind of ex­haus­tion I ex­pe­ri­enced is com­mon. “Part of the dat­ing fa­tigue – not just the choice fa­tigue – from apps comes in be­cause an app can’t nar­row it down any fur­ther than looks. You can’t get chem­istry from a pic­ture,” she ex­plains. “That’s why go­ing on that first date is im­por­tant, to see if chem­istry is there. That’s where the fa­tigue comes in – you might in­vest time chat­ting on­line and then when you meet, the spark isn’t there.” In­deed, I learnt you have to meet up pretty quickly to as­sess if there’s some con­nec­tion be­yond your shared love of Suits sea­son six. There’s no point tex­ting Dave “How’s your day been?” for three weeks if he’s ac­tu­ally a seedy guy with a stuffed toy col­lec­tion. How­ever, this means your date tally and the time taken up in your di­ary can add up fairly quickly, too.


So how do you sort your Matts from your Marks? I’m a big fan of a fil­ter – and no, I’m not talk­ing about Ging­ham or Nashville. If you didn’t have some cri­te­ria to help you sift through the can­di­dates, you’d be dat­ing ev­ery day. But, that said, I found I was go­ing on plenty of first and se­cond dates but not many third ones. If there weren’t in­stant fire­works, I’d rarely take it any fur­ther. I knew there were so many other op­tions out there and

I didn’t want to waste any­one’s time.

Spier­ings says this kind of at­ti­tude arises be­cause we’re of­ten on the hunt for some­thing unattain­able. “We now live in a so­ci­ety where the ‘never enough’ prin­ci­ple is preva­lent,” she says. “We never have enough time, enough money or our po­ten­tial part­ners aren’t enough. We al­ways think there’s some­thing and some­one bet­ter out there, so we’ll never be able to set­tle down. We’re look­ing for the per­fect per­son – and this is where peo­ple strug­gle, be­cause they get choice fa­tigue.”

One of the easy an­ti­dotes to this? Hav­ing re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions. It’s not about low­er­ing your stan­dards, but it is about ask­ing what you can re­ally know from five low-res pho­tos from 2009, a stilted app convo and a first date with a com­plete stranger. Ev­ery date is dif­fer­ent be­cause ev­ery per­son is dif­fer­ent. Some­times you’ll have an in­stant spark there, some­times the con­nec­tion will grow and some­times you’ll never want to see them again be­cause they turn up drunk and get a bit handsy. I’d ini­tially been elim­i­nat­ing peo­ple with my rule of ‘When you know, you know’ – but the thing is, I didn’t even know the poor guys yet.


And so, tired of the fre­netic dat­ing game, I de­cided to set my own pace. I dated less. I met peo­ple through friends. I ditched any ideas about who my ideal fella would be. I’ve never been keen on the idea of some­one be­ing ‘my ev­ery­thing’ – and Spier­ings sug­gests search­ing for some­one who’s a bonus in­stead. “Peo­ple say to me, ‘My part­ner has to be the best lis­tener, the best provider, my psychologist, my fi­nan­cial ad­viser’. No, they don’t. They don’t have to tick all those boxes. You con­trib­ute some­thing to the ta­ble and you have a whole com­mu­nity out there to help you out,” she says. “What that sig­nif­i­cant other should rep­re­sent is added plea­sure. Life with them is bet­ter than with­out them. Life is eas­ier with them than with­out them.

They rep­re­sent more hap­pi­ness.” Sounds pretty much ideal to me.

I also chan­nelled a ‘great aunt at Christ­mas din­ner’ vibe – I started say­ing ex­actly what I thought.

I called peo­ple out. I asked lots of ques­tions, es­pe­cially the hard ones. Amaz­ingly, ex­perts agree this up­front at­ti­tude is a good strat­egy. “The num­ber one rule is to be your most au­then­tic self,” con­firms Tr­lin. “Once again, if that doesn’t suit peo­ple then that’s brilliant be­cause you only want to date the peo­ple who re­ally want to date you as well. That be­comes the ul­ti­mate fil­ter.” Disclaimer: I re­ally did put a large vol­ume of peo­ple off with this.

Ex­cept for one bloke, it seems. A few months into my slow dat­ing ini­tia­tive, I went on a first date. It didn’t feel as if my whole world had changed in an evening and I didn’t ‘just know’ it was right. How­ever, he was kind, on time and picked a nice wine, so I saw him again. I took the time to get to know him. It was only then that I knew that this was no muesli dilemma. I knew any­one who shared my love of tiny houses (se­ri­ously, google them) and never bailed on a date was a leg­end. I hadn’t found my ‘other half’ (cringe), but I had found another great ‘whole’ to hang out with. And I knew I didn’t want swip­ing to be my story now; I wanted this to be my story, in­stead. Thank­fully, it’s turned out to be a re­ally happy one.


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