Many of my patients and friends have turned to online dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony.com and Tinder hoping that technology can bring them true love.
A few find something “real,” but most tell me they are disappointed that the dates they go on feel like meetings with strangers and leave them feeling empty.
One reason for this may be that the Internet encourages people to present only the “best” of themselves. Match.com and eHarmony profiles naturally tend to highlight the glossy, happy and successful side of singles.
Tinder is a dating app that connects people who immediately find each other attractive—based on the best “selfies” they can generate. By initially communicating through portals that encourage people to paint themselves in the best possible light—which tends toward an artificial light—men and women may continue to do so over coffee or dinner.
People really bond when they share their struggles—what they have overcome and still need to overcome.
The glue of real attachment isn’t how “together” someone seems to be. People really bond when they share their struggles—what they have overcome and still need to overcome. They really feel connected when they open up about their anxieties and shortcomings.
Think about it: When a person stops grandstanding and tells you about having lost a business, or having overcome a learning disorder or having survived cruel parents, that is likely to encourage you to share a hurdle or two you have encountered, in return. Knowing someone’s trouble and sharing your own is what can trigger a deep feeling of acceptance, intimacy and, ultimately, true love.
Self-revelation is the antidote to the selfie. Empathy is the antidote to empty Tinder hookups.
So, I have developed a solution to short-circuit the surface interactions that seem so often to follow “connecting” through online dating. My patients and friends tell me it works. Suggest to the person you meet that the two of you tell one another the answer to this “Instant Analysis” question, on the very first date:
If you were reading your own life story, the way someone would read a biography or autobiography, what three paragraphs or pages or chapters of the book—from childhood right through today—would you be tempted to remove, because they are that painful or embarrassing or anxiety-provoking?
Most of us understand that we would not actually remove an instant of our life stories, because every event contributes to who we have become. But answering the question about which elements a person would be tempted to remove is a very quick way to disclose your pain, and, hence, open a window your soul. Once a person knows you (or you know another) at that level, you are anything but strangers to one another.
If someone won’t answer the “Instant Analysis” question, I would suggest skipping any second date. People who are worthy of investing in are able to answer it very readily. And they take it very seriously.
So, if you’re using Match or Plenty of Fish or eHarmony or Tinder and don’t seem to be finding true love, start screening out all the dead ends, right from the beginning.
One question is all it takes.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.