2 open laptops opposite each other on a surface, with a giant heart in between them

My favorite outlandish dating story is one I heard on a podcast called Tell the Bartender. They went out once and had a nice time; they stopped at her apartment after so he could use her bathroom; he stole her expensive stage makeup; then wore it on their next date. She wanted to be sure, so after date 2 she asked if she could use HIS bathroom, where she discovered her missing makeup. She confronted him by saying, “dude, if you want a girl to go with you to the Mac counter and get your face color match, I’m your girl… however, 1. don’t be a thief, 2. these are not your colors, and 3. blend.”

I’m sure not every woman has a story like THIS, but every woman has a story. In the best cases, they’re strange and funny. In the worst, they’re stories of being in danger.

So why is online dating so [terrible/exhausting/insert adjective of choice here]?

Well dating in general can be difficult, and dating men can be particularly difficult. It’s a lot of effort for, often, little reward. Or there is a reward, but 6 months later you find out he has a secret second family, or a crippling fear of commitment, or you thought he was bad at communicating only to realize he’s actually an adult in a ‘Peanuts’ movie.

In some ways, online dating makes things easier. It gives you access to a lot of single people you wouldn’t necessarily meet organically, and it lets you filter for what you’re looking for. I got asked out on a hike recently, and when we began virtual dating due to Covid (meeting in person and then dating online is the most 2020 thing ever) it took us a few conversations to figure out that he wants kids and I don’t. If we had met on Okcupid, we would have known that from the start.

But in other ways, online dating is a special kind of hell. There are some things you can’t filter for, things it would take you many dates to figure out. I like to think about it like this: if you were to date only through your in-person social circle, you would already have a wealth of information about each candidate. You would know how they interact with their friends, how they’ve treated past partners or whether they’ve had past partners, what their assets and growth areas are. You would have information about their character that you just can’t get through a series of dates. If you dated each of them one by one in order to get that under-the-surface information (a process that could take months for each one), it would be exhausting. This is online dating.

And then there are safety concerns. The biggest threat to a woman’s safety is being alone with a man. How do you reap the benefits of dating, when the very circumstances that require intimacy are a legitimate risk factor? And how can you figure out who is safe to welcome into your space, when you’re still in the process of determining who that person is?

It’s a lot to think about and there are no easy answers, but there are strategies and tools you can use to make online dating less of a drag, and to stay safer while doing it. (Our new course, Safe & Sane Online Dating, covers many of these strategies, including how to assess potential partners and red flags to look out for). This is especially important now, since meeting someone in person is a near impossibility when social gatherings are sites of contagion. In any case, however you’re making your love life happen right now, here’s to hoping your dates are contributing more to your life than funny stories for later!