When I look back on the days when I was active on dating sites, there are so many moments that leave me wondering, "What was I thinking?" I know what I was thinking: I really wanted something to work out, so I was willing to overlook a lot. And even more than that, I wanted someone to want me. I latched on to anyone with the potential to validate my attractiveness. As a result, I put up with some real characters, to say the least.
I first joined OkCupid at age 20, and it opened up a whole new world for me. On a campus dominated by hookup culture, it used to feel like I had to fight to get a guy to date me. Suddenly, my inbox was filled with messages from guys who wanted to date me. Within a month, I was in a relationship. Within nine months, that had ended and I was in another one. A few months after that, another. And so on.
I stayed on this carousel for nearly six years until I felt burnt out from online dating. None of my dates were going anywhere, and while my self-esteem was occasionally uplifted, it also frequently suffered when dates ghosted me or declined further dates. “Dating burnout is a lot like job burnout. What was once fun and exhilarating has become exhausting, frustrating, and overwhelming,” Esther Boykin, licensed love and relationship therapist, tells Bustle. “Over the course of normal dating, people will experience moments of frustration or exhaustion but when those feelings become the primary response to even the idea of a date, burnout has definitely set in.”
Of course, just a few months after going off dating sites and apps, I met my significant other. Now that I know what it's like to be in a healthy relationship with someone who treats you like you're worthy, it's hard to believe I let so many people treat me like crap. Here are a few common online daters I regret putting up with.
1The Casual Sexist
When you're a woman dating men, dating sites will force you to confront how horrible straight, cis men are (before you #notallmen me, please at least read this). After a while, I got desensitized to comments about how men are just better at math and supposed compliments about how I'm "not like most girls." Pretty much everyone is going to say sexist stuff occasionally, but nobody should feel the need to put up with someone who reduces them to a stereotype.
After a while, I got so sick of answering judgmental questions like "so do you do anything besides work?" and pretentious comments like "I'm looking for someone who will really add to my intellectual life." It's no wonder so many people "kittenfish" on dating sites when there's so much pressure to be a very particular kind of person. In reality, most of us don't have OkCupid-perfect lives, and that's OK.
3The Sparse Texter
When I'd send three texts for every one a date sent or wait days to get replies, I'd tell myself we just had different communication styles. But the truth was, they were sending me the message that I was less important than them. People always have a few seconds to send a text, even if it's when they're on the toilet or lying in bed at night. And we're all important enough to take up those few seconds.
4The Perpetually Late Date
I get that sometimes things come up and getting to your next Tinder date isn't always your top priority. But I once continued dating someone who was an hour or more late for three dates. No matter how many obstacles are standing between someone and their ability to meet you on time, the bottom line is that they didn't either a) take these obstacles into consideration when they planned the date or b) try hard enough to get around them. Habitual lateness sends the message that they think they can get away with disrespecting your time. In my case, they were right — but not anymore.
Many people, especially women who date men, are taught that their dates' looks don't matter and if they like someone's personality, the attraction will grow. So, I've dated people I had no attraction to. Thankfully, sometimes, this had led to lasting friendships. Other times, though, it got too messy for the friendship to be salvaged. That's how I learned that just because you met on a dating site doesn't mean you have to date.
6The Pretty Face
On the flip side, there were dates I had nothing in common with other than mutual physical attraction. Of course, that's fine if you're looking for a one-night stand, but I really wanted more, and even the hookups felt empty. In one case, someone caught feelings for me, and it got complicated. These complications usually aren't worth it.
7The Date Who Won't Stop Talking About Themselves
When my dates went on endless rants about the minute details of their lives while asking me very little, I assumed they must be more interesting than me. There must be something fascinating about ear buds that I'm just not getting, I thought. But regardless of how interesting someone thinks they are, disproportionately talking about yourself is rude. Plus, I'm pretty interesting myself, so I deserve someone who will acknowledge that.
Ultimately, I regret putting up with everyone who made my life harder — because now I know a relationship can actually make your life better. And I don't have time for one that doesn't.