Divorce and Online Dating
February is an interesting time of year for the family law business. On one hand, it’s the month of Valentine’s Day and time to celebrate romance and love and relationships, and on the other hand it’s the beginning of divorce season.
Ask any family law attorney and they’ll tell you that business ticks up significantly this time of year. Whether or not there’s a direct correlation, I do not know, but the end result is that a lot of new faces will be looking for love and new relationships this time of year. And many of those folks will find themselves looking at one of the most convenient, awkward, and strange dating pools out there, online dating.
I’ve done a fair share of online dating myself. Purely as research, of course, it’s fascinating from the perspective of a divorce attorney and it helps me better understand my clients and . . . and I’m single with a career and a child and online dating is the way of the 2010s.
Along the way I’ve noticed a few things that may be of interest to my potential clients who are out there thinking of getting back into the dating game; starting online.
First, it’s not your parents dating game. It’s not the dating game you grew up with either. In fact it’s not even the dating game of 2006. Dating, online and otherwise, in the pre-smartphone era bears as much resemblance to what goes on today as Atari’s Pong does to Grand Theft Auto V: very little.
I’d compare it to a type of “love video game meets your Facebook friends you don’t really know” situation.
Warning: First thing that will happen when you sign up for a site is that your phone will immediately start blowing up with alerts and matches for days, some of them even from real people, and possibly even some of those from real people you’re actually interested in.
The key phrase here is ‘some even from real people.’ I have a friend who tells people that he has met more Navy SEALS in the last seven or eight years than have been trained in the entire, cumulative, history of Navy SEALS. It goes to the unassailable truth that ‘you can be anyone you want to be on the Internet.’
Anyway, while conducting my own research…err…for this article…I found that women who use a certain site tell me they average about 10 unsolicited and unwanted messages per day. That’s annoying, at best. And I’ve made the mistake leaving notifications turned on, which led to a life lesson: Don’t have notifications on when you go to show something on your phone to your attorney/mentor/colleague. I do, however, appreciate the fact she pretended not to notice the message alert from Sexypants13. Come to think of it, the one thing online dating shares with dating for the past millennia is frequent bouts of mortification.
Tinder and Bumble have ramped up the pace of the whole process as well. What used to take days or weeks of correspondence, now takes a quick swipe and chat and a Meetup. Unless you run into a busy professional type person or someone with actual serious life obligations, people have grown to expect an almost instant response-gratification. If you’re not quick on the trigger, the other person has probably already moved on to one or more of their other many matches from multiple dating sites.
Know all those stories about people who have spotted the person they know is the love of their life on a subway train, or across a packed airport only to lose them? You know the stories, they made movies about them. I’ve set a number of dates two or more weeks out, and doing so is almost a guarantee that the date never actually happens.
It’s not just the meeting process that can be quick, the whole relationship can cycle very quickly – from “Let’s meet,” to “You have to meet my friends.” To “We’re having dinner with my parents Tuesday,” to “What do you think about living in Santa Fe?” to ‘ghosting’ and *poof* within a week or so…you never see that person again.
In one of the early seasons of The Office, Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), talking about Wikipedia, says “when anyone in the world can say anything about any subject, you know you’re getting the best information available.” That goes for dating online. Again, Navy SEALS.
If a bio may be a bit, ahem, skewed, well, in the age of every person on earth over the age of six being somewhat proficient in PhotoShop, a picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Most sites employ few, if any, tools to verify user identities. Let alone have any way to validate any intangible qualities a person feels about them self to be true. Online dating is not like buying Sensodyne extra whitening toothpaste on Amazon.com in the exact 7 oz size you want. It’s more like what Forest Gump’s mama always said about chocolates… ‘you never know what you gonna git’. More time than I really care to admit, I’ve had a date show up who couldn’t recognize from the profile photos or identify out of a lineup.
All this, by the way, is work. More access to more people means more potential dates to sort through – all the while trying to discern fact from hyperbole.
Depending on what type of relationship you’re looking for, it will take some time and effort to succeed. Once you do find someone, it’s very likely that it will take effort to make that relationship work as well. It’s easy to get matches, but it’s hard to find a compatible person, harder yet to find a compatible person and make that relationship work.
If you applied the same effort to a shaky, current relationship, could you make it successful? Good question, I don’t know the answer. Maybe…maybe not. The one indicator that a family therapist looks for is whether BOTH parties WANT to try to save the marriage.
If you are at a crossroads in your relationship, and considering starting online dating, you should know that it is not a quick relationship fix. It is basically a part time job…a job with decent perks albeit, but it does not pay well. And if you are at that point, it’s also important that you speak with an attorney and get an understanding of what the divorce process looks like…before you jump into the online dating pool…a pool filled with sharks…sharks with lasers on their heads.
Although I’ve spent the last few hundred characters bashing online dating, I will say it also does work. I’ve met some truly great and interesting people, had some significant and life impacting relationships, made business connections, and I even have friends who have met their spouses online…and now they even have cute kids out of the deal.
What I’ve learned is we all need to love and be loved. Online dating is just another tool to put in your toolkit to make it happen, and it’s definitely worth a shot. If nothing else, you’ll be able to walk away with some great stories.