The Sex Column: 'Does dating have to be this rubbish?'

I’ve recently signed back up to online dating but I’m wondering if my standards are too high.

I don’t have a long checklist of superficial requirements but I do have preferences.

‘The last time I tried it, I dated lots of nice guys but the dates limped along because I didn’t fancy them.

I find online dating tedious and time-consuming but, apart from a roller-coaster ten-month relationship, I’ve been single for about four years — I’m ready for commitment.

What’s your advice?

Online dating is as much about the experience as it is about finding a significant other.

‘If you’re expecting to find a soulmate, you risk feeling like a child searching through a giant box of Lego — as you scrabble around, you’ll start to wonder if the right piece is even in there,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Eventually, you’ll get so used to judging each piece, you might not recognise the one you want when you do come across it.’

As you’ve discovered, your two requirements — being attracted to someone and this list of desirable qualities — don’t always correspond.

‘So you’re left fancying someone unsuitable or dating someone who ticks the boxes but is unappealing,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘Standards do not necessarily equate to quality. You can have preferences but these should be flexible.’

After all, dates don’t work when they’re just a test.

‘They work when every date is an opportunity — and an open-ended one,’ says McConnachie.

There’s no point dating someone you’re not attracted to. But are you giving yourself time and permission to even feel attracted to another?

‘You say you’re ready for commitment but from your lack of enthusiasm — you don’t really fancy people and it’s all a bit tedious — it might be better to embrace being single for now,’ says Rupert Smith.

We wonder whether you might be attempting to distract yourself when a period of reflection might be necessary.

‘Think, perhaps, about why you’re feeling so flat — maybe there’s more in the past than that turbulent ten-month relationship,’ says Smith. ‘Is there a pattern of being let down and hurt you’re defending yourself against? Is there pressure from parents and peers to settle down when you know it’s not right for you?’

We like confident people but are attracted to people when we feel confident ourselves.

‘If you want a flower to grow, you have to plant it in the right soil — so look after your own soil,’ says McConnachie. ‘Dig it, weed it, feed it. Do things that make you feel happy and build your confidence.’

Because you’re more likely to meet someone you like while you’re doing something you like than on dates you don’t really want to be on.

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

Got a sex and dating dilemma?

To get expert advice, send your problem to [email protected]

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