I’ve always tried to take an optimistic and adventurous approach to online dating but recently my experiences have been getting me down. None of the relationships I’ve found online have led to the sort of lasting commitment I’d imagined myself having at this life stage and, whenever a relationship does show promise, there’s a temptation to think that the grass is always greener and try my luck again online. I’m also feeling my age. In my twenties and thirties it was fun to shop around and experiment but I’m now at the point where I’d quite like to settle down. Dating apps do feel addictive at times – there’s an endless pool of choice which just makes me all the more indecisive. How do I find a relationship that will go the distance?
Lucky you! I married the first man I had sex with and have remained in the state of holy wedlock ever since I was a teenager, albeit with a change of partner at appropriate intervals. It’s too late for me now (being a sex-pest sexagenarian is just creepy) but I do envy you *youngsters* your lovely dehumanising fun. Sexting, dick pics, *sliding* into a wide variety of strangers DMs (though this is a surefire way to spread verrucas) – all we had in my day for cheap thrills was chain-letters and ouija boards.
But sadly, researchers at the NHS’s Health Education England have just discovered that you’re likely to get more grief from your fleeting friend than a lukewarm review on Tripadvisor. Their study ‘provides further evidence for the potential link between dating applications usage and STDs at a population level’ – the higher the search for dating apps in an area, the higher the number of sexual infections. Not so much ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ as ‘Tinder and Raya spread gonorrhoea’ – which rose by 25 per cent last year.
Dating apps are now the most common way for people to start having ‘sexual relations’ (is that anything like ‘kissing cousins’?) with more than a quarter of grown-ups using them and almost half the all-important 18- to 34-year-old Special Snowflakes. I bet it’s the latter who are responsible for the rise of VD (I grew up with this phrase and find it gloriously lurid, just as I prefer an X-film to a PG) as they don’t believe that anything horrid could lodge in their ethically-sourced gluten-free body-temples; additionally, a generation which clings onto its virginity until the average age of 26 is going to be a little on the slow side when it comes to the ins and outs of sharing one’s safe space.
Despite this, you should feel pride in your sensible reluctance to commit. Women accuse men of being immature when they show a reluctance to ‘commit’, but what’s childish about showing reluctance to bind oneself to a needy nag? On the contrary, the need to do so seems woefully immature, like looking for another mother. No one ever spied a barnacle on a rock and said, ‘Phwooar, I fancy that!’ Why not enjoy shopping around till someone makes you an offer you can’t refuse?
I do wonder, though, if the modern trend of going on dates with people you haven’t already had sex with is a bit of a fool’s errand. In bed with someone you can usually find a few ways to kill time – not so much if you’re stuck staring at them across a restaurant table. What if there’s no chemistry or they’re a filthy Remoaner – you’ll have put away all those calories and wasted that half hour on three courses of a culinary cul-de-sac. It’s certainly a lot more complicated than my dating heyday, during the punk years, when we went about things in the old-fashioned way; you saw someone you liked, spat in their Snakebite and said ‘Get your dog-lead, you’ve pulled!’.
A cliché though it may be, lasting happiness can’t be found through another person, and is a by-product of the *journey* rather than the goal. You’re far more likely to find a kindred spirit if you sign up to something you’re passionate about – be it a language class or a political party – than you are hanging around dating sites. And try, if you can, to lose ideas about *The One* making your life complete – only The One in the mirror can do that.