You pick up your phone, open the app, and have two options: swipe right or swipe left. Which do you do?

It’s interesting how a quick directional choice can result in such a wide range of emotions. In one swipe, we can feel the repeated sting of rejection, the satisfying sense of validation, or the “Huh, oh well”, and move on to the next screen.

I get it. Dating is personal. And it’s emotional. And it’s no wonder why; God hard-wired us for relational intimacy. We were made to be in deeply connected relationships.  Despite our past experiences, current realities, and whether or not we’re comfortable admitting it, I believe that we all hope the happily-ever-after story is possible for us. And we have dating apps to help us find it.

So back to the initial question: Which do you do? Let’s say you swipe right. The other person does too. Even though the terms around swiping have become universal language among single people, a mutual swipe is still the equivalent of someone walking up to you in real life and introducing themselves for the first time. Even though they’ve appeared on your phone, they are still a stranger, and your mutual swipe is the first time you’ve “met”.

Now what? We put so much pressure on the swipe, but what happens beyond that? We talk a lot about the after, but what about the before? Swiping has the potential to begin a relationship but it’s not the relationship. We spend so much time agonizing over which shoes to buy, where to go out to eat, or which shirt to put on, but when it comes to online dating, we tend to just react. I can understand that. It seems as though the “normal” ones are few and far between. You better believe we’ll swipe with lightning speed when one flashes across our screen.

And you go out with him or her. It seems promising. You’re hopeful. And then the date happens and you watch your hopes go up in flames. Delete the apps. Until next week, anyway, when you’ll probably reload them all back onto your phone.

But let’s back up. Dating is more than swiping on a cute pic with an entertaining profile description, right? And are there ways to prevent the above scenarios from happening with less frequency? (I mean, let’s be honest, dating involves some risk and it will never be picture-perfect).

Besides, the truth is that nobody plans to go on a bad date or get into a bad relationship. They just don’t plan not to.

Which brings me to an important point. If we don’t make some crucial pre-decisions before swiping, and saying yes to dates number one, two, or three, we’ll find ourselves on dates, and maybe even in relationships, that we don’t want to be in.

What does this mean? Decide what’s important to you now in a relationship and don’t compromise. If it’s important to you, or more specifically, a non-negotiable for you, then pre-decide on the front end and don’t say yes to matches who don’t meet your standards. If you don’t make the decision on the front end, you will inevitably find yourself in the same situation with the same type of person over and over again. And that sounds awful. Besides, I hate to break it to you, but if that’s happening, you need to know you’re the common denominator. Not them.

This can be hard, particularly if we’re watching our friends go on date after date while we’re sitting at home watching binge-watching our favorite TV series for the second time. But I would caution you to not allow your loneliness to lower your standards. It will rarely be worth it and you’ll usually regret it.

When we’re trying to make healthy pre-decisions about our dating lives and who or how we’ll swipe, sometimes we confuse what we want in the short term with what’s most important to us ultimately. For example, as girls, we naturally want to be loved, honored, and adored. Every girl wants to feel beautiful, and we often look to men to affirm that in us. We love getting attention from guys because it makes us feel important, valuable, and wanted. Dating apps can provide these things. And let me add, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and for someone to think we’re beautiful and important.

But the potential is there for dating apps to tempt us to compromise our long-term goals for temporary gratification. In other words, we may want long-term companionship, but we will swipe on a potential we wouldn’t otherwise be interested in, merely because of their mutual swipe and because we’re feeling lonely.

My final piece of advice in this world of swiping is this: people can pretend to be whoever they want to be behind a screen. It’s easy to get swayed by charisma in an initial text exchange or from witty comeback lines. But character is proven over time and that’s ultimately what you want. Which means at some point, you’ll need to make the decision to move the getting-to-know-you phase offline and into real time. Because that’s where relationships live anyway.

You want to experience how they act in person, how they treat you and other people. Can they carry a conversation? Do they share your same values in how they live their life? And if you find yourself going on months of online conversation after you’ve both swiped, move one. Nobody has time for an electronic pen pal.

Online dating is not bad, and neither is swiping on people who’ve piqued our interest. But swiping is only a small part of the equation. There is so much that happens beyond the swipe–and potential for so much good. So, happy swiping. You got this!

 

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