In my practice I often bear witness to the great suffering of people trying to find a relationship through dating websites or apps. While I have heard that some people have found their partners this way, the majority of what I hear is despair and resignation, hopelessness and anger, and the question: Why can’t I too be in a relationship?
Inside us all lives the primal longing for contact, and the grief for its absence. Even deeper: the accumulated loss of a lifetime that has not yet been fully felt, and the pain of this loss driving us to move away from it.
The illusion of choice in online dating is overwhelming. It is like online shopping, our observations and judgements made in a split second, and then clicking away distractedly. This is as much a distraction from feelings as any other online or screen-based enticement.
Creators of dating websites and apps have done what any other successful marketing scheme has ever accomplished: zeroed in on people’s unhappiness, and offered a way to get rid of it. They sell hope, the hope that things can be different.
The heart does not live in a linear dimension of cause and effect, but one of fullness and inclusion. A hard truth we must accept is that we cannot choose to avoid certain feelings, but then expect to feel others. In order to feel and experience the joy of connection, we must feel everything that arises, including, and particularly, fear.
We hope that finding a partner will finally fulfill the missing piece, create the good feelings, and end the bad ones. And in the short-run, it can. But soon thereafter we are faced with a choice: to go into the unknown with another person, to face disillusionment and dependency needs and move into more authentic relatedness, or end it and move on. How can we go into the unknown with another person, if we have not first gone into the depths of our own sacred and neglected heart?