Joni came to her counseling session so frustrated that she wanted to scream. After kissing a whole bunch of frogs on Match.com, she had found a match who she thought might have real prince potential after their first date. Date #1 was great. Date #2 was less than great but okay. But then came date #3 and it was a disaster. The man who at first looked like a possible prince showed himself to be just one more frog. Adding to her frustration was the fact that this wasn’t the first time since she began online dating after her divorce that she found out the hard way that her first impression was way off base.
Joni’s experience with online dating is not unusual. She’s an intelligent, attractive, well-employed, mother of three who would like a second chance at finding love after extricating herself from an unhappy marriage. She does not like online dating but tolerates it as a necessary evil because it is so hard to meet someone the “old fashioned” way in today’s modern world.
Joni was as upset that, once again, her initial judgment had been so off about this guy as she was upset that it hadn’t worked out. She didn’t understand why she was such a bad consumer when it came to evaluating men. She had always had difficulty in this area—ten years into her marriage she couldn’t believe that she had married the village idiot—and her experiences with online dating only highlighted this problem.
Part of this problem is inherent to online dating. There is nothing natural about trying to develop intimate relationships in this manner. God or cupid or whoever invented dating did not intend for people to fall in love by filling out profiles and finding matches on the Internet. In addition, very little in life prepares you for a process in which you simultaneously must be both the interviewer and the interviewee. And to make matters worse, all the emotions and anxieties that dating stirs up clouds one’s judgment, not to mention the effects of sexual attraction.
In addition, Joni, and I believe many other women, have difficulty sorting out the difference between a good man and an impressive man. When we went back and looked at what she liked about the first date, she described all the man’s impressive qualities. He was president of his own company, he was good looking, and he was energetic and athletic. He was so charming and such a good storyteller too that it didn’t register with Joni until we looked back and conducted a “post-mortem” of that first date that the vast majority of the focus had been on him and she had said almost nothing about herself.
This realization hit Joni like a ton of bricks. With 20/20 hindsight, she recognized that the discomfort that she felt being “on” during that first date had made her not notice that her date was monopolizing the conversation. Just as I’ve described elsewhere with my other client, Gina, Joni was relieved that her date was keeping the spotlight off her and onto himself. The fact that he was interesting and entertaining distracted her from recognizing that he was also self-centered.
Another realization that Joni had as we reflected on that first date is that she felt increasingly anxious as the evening wore on. The more that he talked about himself, the more that Joni became filled with self-doubt wondering whether she was interesting and attractive enough for him. It didn’t dawn on her that this anxiety was a result of the date itself. Rather, she just assumed that her insecurities, of which she has her share, were getting the best of her. However, regardless of how insecure you are, if your date is a “winner” you will feel better about yourself at the end of a date, not worse. Talk show icon Johnny Carson once said that the secret to his success was to be sure that he made his guest look and sound like a star. That works for dating. A good date is one who you find attractive and a great date will make you feel like a star.