Everyday Baby Steps
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I've had this post in my mind for some time now. In fact, it started out as an overall "what not to do" post based on my experience with online dating. However, it's come down to this one very specific piece of advice because this is probably my biggest pet peeve. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it doesn't really bother other women. Though my friends tell me it's annoying to them, as well. So it's a thing for at least a few of us. I call it the Hi Phenomenon because I see it so often on the dating sites.
It may seem that I'm being picky or outrageous in expecting a man not to say hello when he reaches out to a woman. That's not what we're talking about here. I'm referring to the messages that say simply, "Hi." That's it. Just, "Hi." Even the ones that say, "Hi. How are you?" confound me. What am I supposed to do with that? There are so many reasons why the Hi Phenomenon is such a turnoff for me.
It Tells Me Nothing
First and foremost, saying hello tells me nothing about you. Yes, of course I can look at your profile, but only if something compels me to believe I may be interested in getting to know you. A simple, "Hi" is not compelling. At all. However, a nice note telling me something about you and why you chose to get in touch with me would be great. That's all I'm asking for, and I don't think it's that much of an ask.
I Don't Have Time for This
Seriously. No one has time for the Hi Phenomenon. If you write, "Hi,' what am I supposed to write back? Please don't think we're going to go back and forth with one word exchanges. That is not going to happen. Ever. We're all busy people. If you have time for this type of single word, shallow interaction, I probably don't have time for you. As a single mom, my dating time is limited. I want to know that the person I'm choosing to spend that time with has more to say than just, "Hi."
Frankly, it really is just lazy for you to send me this one word. I realize that the men on dating sites send out more messages on average than the women do and that their odds of hearing back are not often that high. So I get that you may not want to compose a lengthy note when it's likely you may never hear back from a woman. I get it. I do. Think about it from our perspective. Don't you think you'd increase your chances of a reply if you give a little bit of yourself in that first message?
Which brings me to my next point. If all you have to say is, "Hi," I'm going to think there's not a lot going on in that pretty little head of yours. I want depth of character, someone who has a lot to say, a man with personality. "Hi" conveys none of that. It makes me think you have nothing to offer. You know what else? It makes me think you're going to expect me to do all the work. You get off saying just one word, and I'm expected to send a reply and actually carry the conversation. No thank you. I want to invest my time in someone who shows me right off the bat that he'll take some time to get to know me, not expect me to put forth all the effort.
So there you have it. Some reasons why it's not a good idea to contact a woman on a dating site with the tired, boring, lazy "Hi" message. I hope this has been helpful. It certainly was therapeutic for me. In fact, I think I'll pass it along to the five Hi Guys I got messages from today alone. Imagine how many I've gotten in the past year, and perhaps, you'll have an even better understanding of why I hate the Hi Phenomenon. Don't say, "Hi."
If you're my Facebook friend, you likely watched the saga unfold about a month ago when I found out that a man I'd been dating for seven months was married. I took to my wall with vague reference to the subject as an outlet, a way to vent. I didn't originally intend to disclose details of the matter. I was embarrassed that I could be so naive and blind. And for such a long time. I soon realized, however, that I wasn't the one who should feel shame. I gave of myself freely to this man. I was upfront about who I was, and I was supportive of who he was. It was he who was deceitful, manipulative, unethical and emotionally unavailable.
So, as with much of my life, I opened up on social media a bit about the situation. I told my friends and followers that I had been duped by this man. I let them know the basics of how I had come to learn of the deception. I commisserated with others who had been in similar situations. That's the reason I share so much on my Facebook page and on this blog. Because I know that, as humans, we encounter similar circumstances and that talking about them can help us all to heal and to move forward in a healthier way. Thus, I figure a month has passed, so maybe now is the time to expand on the story and to try to make sense of the lessons that can be learned from it.
The Back Story
I'll try to give a quick synopsis for those who haven't followed along. I started talking to him on a dating site this past winter. I read in his profile that he was a research scientist and briefly thought about the first man I had dated after my divorce who was also a research scientist. Then I contacted him. We had a high match, according to the site, and he was cute. He responded, and after some time we decided to begin talking off site using another online platform. That's when I learned his full name. Being a writer who relies on research, I headed to Google to see what I could learn. As he had indicated in his profile, this man was also a skilled musician. I came across some of his performance videos and was impressed. Then I saw his work bio and stopped dead in my tracks. Yep, sure enough he worked under the same institution and department as the first scientist. Hmmm... How should I handle this one? I hadn't been in touch with that first guy in months, and I thought about not mentioning it. But then I decided to let this scientist know about the first scientist so that there would be no secrets down the line. What if we hit it off and he should find out months later that I kept this information from him? Better to be upfront from the beginning. So I told him I had dated his colleague. He said he did know the guy but that they rarely saw each other. He wasn't concerned with details of my past, and we moved on.
We had our first date. I talked the whole time. He seemed shy and a bit awkward, kind of like you might expect of an overachieving scientist. I wasn't sure there'd be a second date, but there was something about him. He seemed so genuine. We went out again, and this quiet, reserved scientist began to grow on me. He was sweet and affectionate. And so cute. I began referring to him on Facebook as "Cute Scientist." I'd mention him in a post while I waited for him to arrive to our dates. My friends became interested in how things were progressing. I was interested in that, myself. He seemed a bit distant and reserved. I attributed that to his personality and left it at that, though there were times I felt a bit like he wasn't letting me in. I became used to this compartmentalization and convinced myself that it was okay. Our relationship was what it was, and it was actually comfortable. There was no reason to rush anything, I told myself. Why not just enjoy things as they are? After all, you can't push a person to change for you, right?
Follow Your Instincts
The first lesson I learned in all of this is to follow my instincts. Yes, we all know this one, but it sure is hard to do. However, I did follow my gut in one respect. I was tempted to date only this guy and to stop seeing other people. Dating can be exhausting, and I was tired of allowing myself to be vulnerable, quite honestly. I felt that this man, despite his affectionate side, was not giving himself fully to me. So I knew it didn't make sense to commit to someone who was so emotionally distant. While I may have slowed down on seeing others, I didn't completely close myself off to meeting someone new. Looking back on it, that's one of the things I'm most glad about. Had I devoted myself exclusively to this man, only to have been completely duped into thinking there was a chance at something real, I would have been more disappointed than I ultimately was. Always follow your gut. If something doesn't feel right, it's probably not.
I did follow my instincts when I started to feel that something wasn't adding up. I dug in and did a little more investigating. More than just a simple Google search. I looked at the people finder sites and took note of the names associated with this man as possible relatives. That's what led me to realize he had more children than he had told me about. There was another name associated with his profile. I thought it was a male name until I began to search for it and came up with a woman's Facebook page. Scrolling through, I saw that this woman had recently had a stroke. He told me once that he had to cancel a date because a friend had had a stroke. Okay, then. I continued to scroll. Then I came to the update I didn't want to see. The one in which she announced her new married name. It really does feel like you've been kicked in the stomach when you see something like that. It's even worse when you see photos of the man you've been intimate with on his wife's Facebook page. It hurt, and it was a disappointment. But I'm so glad I followed my instincts. Always follow your instincts.
People Are Not Always As They Seem
Deep down, I knew this. I've had so many experiences in which I've come to find out that I wasn't compatible with someone, either a romantic interest or even a friend. There have been times when others have disappointed me or outright been completely different than what they appeared to be. However, this one is the biggest eye-opener I've experienced. I truly believed this man was completely genuine and forthright. That's part of the reason I continued dating him, despite not being able to see him often or to really be a part of his life. When I wrote that blog post about what I want in a man, that whole section on "genuine spirit" was inspired by him. I was so wrong. So very wrong. This man I thought was so sweet and not a game-player like other men had been more deceptive than anyone I've encountered.
Never Allow Yourself to be Second
While I didn't know the entire seven months that this guy was married, I did know that he wasn't giving me adequate attention and was compartmentalizing me into slots of time that fit his schedule. I knew that his time with me was very separate from the rest of his life. I made excuses and allowed myself to settle for what I had convinced myself was our "comfortable routine." I told myself it was his personality to compartmentalize things, that he was a very private person. It's interesting the things we will convince ourselves of in order to avoid discomfort. Having had the last month to look back on the situation and to assess some of my other interactions with men, I've realized that I have allowed this to happen before, that I've accepted whatever time, affection or attention I could get from men on more than one occasion. In fact, it's been a pattern. It's rather depressing to acknowledge this and to admit the truth. It's also freeing, though. It's like now I can re-focus my energy and be aware of my past patterns, moving forward with intention to avoid making those same mistakes. I hope that I can.
So there's my story. It's not pretty. It kind of sucks. I just hope that it will help someone to look for signs they may have missed in a relationship or to go easy on themselves if they've experienced something similar. I'd love to hear your feedback. Has anything like this ever happened to you? What did you learn?