I haven’t posted an essay on anything in awhile. I wrote one yesterday and decided to post. I hope you find this instructive.

First, some perspective. I am 72 years old, divorced twice with the most recent filed in August of 2012. The marriages lasted a total of 39 years.

Online dating is a comparatively new experience to society in general when compared to more traditional forms of meeting someone. For me, it is even newer. While I’ve been on the sidelines observing for several years, I have only been really in it for a year. I have no real way of knowing if my experiences are average or normal. I’m a little bit of a romantic and don’t really like what’s required to take an initial view on a website to a relationship with a little history and on a normal trajectory. I sometimes feel like I am both interviewing for a job and interviewing a person for a job in my company. Other times, I feel like I am shopping for a new TV, comparing features.

One of the things online dating requires you to do to a greater extent than out there in the normal world is decide what your criteria is for that special someone. Once that has been done, most of it should be ignored. More than a list, personality types and what goes together well are the determining factor. This can only be determined through trial and error or success.

You can’t actually build a long-term relationship based solely on chemistry. I read a study on chemistry stating chemistry reliably only lasts 24 months, then it’s gone. From the beginning, the potential as a friend must be evaluated. You don’t need to date a clone of yourself, but you do need to be compatible in areas important to you.

I think we delude ourselves into thinking we can tell if someone has real potential just by what you read. By my count, I’ve dated eight different women. The two best experiences were with people who I wouldn’t have predicted. One was one I contacted on a day I felt a little down and clicked on her profile on a whim. The other was a woman who contacted me, who I wouldn’t have picked from her profile, but I thought: why not? My point here is you never know where a connection will be. Two woman who looked very good on paper, and I wanted to make it work, just couldn’t get off the ground. Partly because my inner self “knew”, I probably wasn’t my most interesting self. In an interaction, things are often reflective of the least interested person.

There’s no shortage of people that will tell you everyone is different. Of course, I’ve always known that, but it has never been more apparent since I started trying to get into someone’s head to see if there is long term potential. Nobody is a perfect match and the question becomes how much dissonance is acceptable? What and how many issues can you dance around and still have a good relationship? To do this one must spend some time evaluating your own core values and non-negotiables.

One of the problems with dating in general and specifically online dating is the current covid19 pandemic. I read a little about how to proceed. The literature emphasized getting to know the person more before the initial meeting in person. More emails, telephone calls, Zoom dates, etc. I tried this with one person. We sent a blizzard of emails, had several telephone chats. It was like we were having a little contest to see who could pile up the most dirty laundry so there would be no surprises when we met. I view telephone calls and Zoom dates as focused conversations in which each party tries to keep the conversation going without offending the other. Emails give you too much time to think before hitting send. I include most first dates in this category. Years ago, I read some dating advice stating it takes three dates to evaluate the potential of a person. My experience holds this to be a reasonable rule of thumb. Things that never come up in emails and focused conversations can be like touching an electric fence in the context of an actual, in person date. There is no substitute for being in the same room with the person. That’s the covid19 paradox. One of our jobs as an adult is to determine which risks are worth taking. After a few initial communications, an in-person meet is a risk that must be taken to further the process.

Having a pen pal, in lieu of an in-person relationship, can be fun, but not very fulfilling. Human contact is a basic human need, just as food and shelter are basic. Yes, you can get by without it, but at what cost? The human mind is great at rationalizing reality, but we are doing ourselves a disservice in the long run without a partner. I know this makes it sound a little like a medicine to be taken. There is an element of truth to that, but it is our responsibility to make it taste as good as possible. This is the one medicine whose efficacy is based on taste.

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