Dating 101: The New Rules

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The times, they are a-changin’. And, in the city, they're changing even faster than usual. Our hyper-distracted temperament, grass-is-greener FOMO, and impatient demands to get everything, like, yesterday are rewriting the rules of dating quicker than you can say "swipe right." What was once an afternoon (fine, a lonely Sunday evening) spent trawling OkCupid is now a five-minute Tinder blitz during a treadmill run. What was once speed-dating is now a "pheromone night" spent cautiously sniffing strangers’ T-shirts. Playing it cool is over. Multi-dating is at an all-time high. Boundaries are being crossed, rubbed out, and re-drawn. It’s a brave new world in which finding a date is as easy as ordering a pizza — although not always as satisfying.

With an unholy trinity of traditional, online, and mobile dating options to choose from, the possibilities are almost endless. But, what exactly does that mean for being single in the city? For many, this new landscape has made dating more fun, more diverse, and more empowering than ever. You may well need a crash helmet, though. Hold on tight; we’re not in Kansas anymore…

NewDatingRules_Interior1Illustrated by Emily Turner.

The waiting game is over.

In the city, we’re all very busy, and time is the most precious of all our assets. We command instantaneous communication, real-time news, and 24/7 information, and our dating attitudes now reflect the same warp-speed principles. It’s no coincidence that so many of our Tinder profiles declare that we’re not looking for a pen pal; we’re looking to get to the point, because we don't have time to waste.

Playing coy has become old news. With a social-media-enabled world out there offering new matches and distractions, waiting three days, or even 24 hours, to reply to a text is as antiquated as sending a carrier pigeon. Even people raised on a confused diet of Germaine Greer and The Rules are fully embracing this new direction. Want something? Go get it. That doesn’t make you desperate; it makes you empowered.

It might be a more business-minded approach, although that needn’t be a bad thing. Rachel MacLynn, MD, founder of exclusive matchmaking agency, The Vida Consultancy, cut her teeth as a business psychologist and incorporates that ethos into her workings. “Finding a partner is a goal. You need to really define what that goal actually is. Otherwise, it’s not going to work,” she told us.

What does all this newfound tenaciousness mean once you’re actually on your date? Well, whatever you feel like. It's up to you and no one else to decide how or where you choose to end the evening.

Learn to juggle.

Whether it's IRL, online, or mobile, multi-dating is the new normal. Be prepared to be one of, if not many, then at least a few. (But, you’re a city mouse and totally adept at multi-tasking, right? You’ll be fine.) Location-based apps, like Coffee Meets Bagel, have expanded the pool of possibilities and created a previously unexperienced ease.

Joel Simkhai, CEO and founder of Grindr, tells us, “I wanted a more spontaneous way to meet guys, but had no idea it would become such a hit. I’ll never forget the first time I went to London a few months after launching Grindr. I turned it on and saw guys showing up all over the place. It’s now part of the fabric of gay culture, and we have over five million active monthly users globally... Social media has completely streamlined dating. We live in a culture of instant gratification, and apps like Grindr help aid that.”

You don't just have to handle people simultaneously; you also should balance the platforms used to meet them. You could choose to catch up with friends on group dates organized by sites like Grouper. Another option is the growing number of quirky dating events (perhaps an extension of our readily-bored mindset). Pop-up speed-dating is now a thing (Last Night A Speed Date Changed My Life is worth trying based on the name alone). There are pheromone nights, during which T-shirts that have been worn for three days are bagged up and smelled by prospective suitors. You could try Shh Dating, one-minute speed dates that rely on non-verbal communication. Or, there are Dating in the Dark events if you're not afraid to meet your future paramour in total darkness.

Use your time wisely, and cast your net wide. One thing’s for sure: You’ll never be bored.



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NewDatingRules_Interior2Illustrated by Emily Turner.

Gimmicks will only get you so far.

Use your profile to stand out — as yourself. Profile pictures featuring a sedated tiger/elephant/unicorn? The first 60 of those we saw were cool. Kate Taylor, Match.com’s resident relationship expert, says, “Use summery photos. Recent research showed that these were seen as more attractive than wintery ones.” But, please, no abs selfies or group photos — which one are you for goodness' sake?!

“The key is to come across as genuine,” Justin Mateen, co-founder and CMO of Tinder tells us. “We’re all attracted to that. Pick-up lines don’t work in the real world; what makes you think they’re going to work on Tinder?”

Authenticity isn't just important on dating apps. “Never become someone you’re not during the dating process,” Amy Laurent, relationship expert and celebrity matchmaker says. “You have to have a strong sense of who you are before entering the dating realm.”

Think outside the box.

Reckon you know what you want? Not so fast. According to the experts, the idea of having a “type” should be obsolete. Megan Karnes, a London-based counsellor, explains, “You never end up with who you think you will. You may find the ‘perfect’ person, but, ironically, that doesn’t mean they’re the right one.” Laurent agrees, “I can’t tell you how many times that two people who look perfect for each other on paper are actually not a match.”

“In the suburbs, you’re more likely to meet someone like you, who shares your culture... You can rely more heavily on instant attraction and know that things may well slot into place,” MacLynn explains, “The problem in cities is there’s so much diversity that it makes it impossible to rely on the physical to analyze compatibility. You need to find foundations: shared values, attitudes, and energy levels.”

With this in mind, be open. It’s far more important to find someone who has similar values than someone who has an appealing look, bank account, or age. A person's circumstances fluctuate over the course of their lifetime, but core values don’t. Nicola Rose, a counselling psychologist, expands, “If two individuals share a similar set of values, it’s going to make it easier for them to develop a fulfilling life.”

Think about what you want vs. what you actually need. Using your phone to search for an exact replica of Channing Tatum in Magic Mike may sound like a good idea, but you still need compatibility to back it up. There might be a fast-forward button for finding your Tinderfella or Tinderella, but there’s no shortcut to actual love.

Set boundaries.

Your time, energy, self-esteem, and wellbeing are precious. Living in a city can knock these out of you, but dating should exhilarate you and bring positivity to your life. Taylor puts it bluntly: “Dating should be fun. If it’s making you miserable, you’re doing something wrong, or you’re doing it with the wrong person.”

The diversity of the city means that everyone has vastly different takes on acceptable behaviour. Someone being rude? Get up and leave. Someone read The Game one too many times? No time for negging, thanks. Someone sending you unsolicited genitalia pics? Block, baby, block. That’s what that button’s there for.

“Boundaries cut out all the stress of dating and make you more relaxed, because they protect you. What weak daters do is complain about people, but keep seeing them. Don’t be that person,” says Taylor. You can know 10 minutes into a date that it’s just never going to happen, and that's okay. “No one says you have to stay more than an hour if he/she is definitely not for you,” says Laurent. (Phew — now you can go home and watch Homeland in your pyjamas.)

Be honest with yourself, and remember who you are. Don’t lose your sense of self, start cancelling plans with friends, or carry on seeing someone who makes you feel bad. Every cliché you’ve ever known should come into play at that point. Life’s too short. Every cloud. Plenty more fish. And, one new one: Tinder is the night. Now, get out there and own it.