In 2018 I left a man I’d been with for almost fifteen years. He’d cheated on me under particularly nasty circumstances, and I’d had enough. But I didn’t just leave. I strode away, into an uncertain future, with more strength and confidence than I knew I possessed.
The conviction and grace with which I handled the situation blew the minds’ of everyone I knew (myself included). My relationship with my ex had been unhealthy for years. I’d tried to break away several times. But to the dismay of my family and friends, I got sucked back in every time. I didn’t believe I could survive without my “soul mate.”
For eighteen months now, when I’ve shared my story, I’ve been asked how I managed this feat. And the answer I give evokes more shock and disbelief than my post-breakup metamorphosis itself: “It was Tinder.” Most people think I’m being cute, but the statement isn’t that far from the truth.
Everyone loves to hate Tinder. It has a reputation like the hot, slutty girl in high school. There are plenty of people using it, but just as many smearing its reputation. To be fair, the criticisms are warranted in many cases. Tinder is a fickle mistress. It holds the promise of human connection, but its also an incubator for bizarre behavior and deception. But pitfalls or no, I stand by my claim that Tinder played an integral role in my great escape. Below are five ways that Tinder empowered me as a single woman.
SCARCITY MINDSET BE GONE
One of the most significant deterring factors in deciding to leave my ex was fear of returning to the dating scene. The last time I was single was 2003, nine years before Tinder launched. Dating, as I remembered it, was a cumbersome process governed primarily by chance. There were plenty of fish in the sea, but all I had was a fishing rod.
When I opened my Tinder account, I discovered how much the game had changed. With Tinder fishing rods are a thing of the past. When you open your account, you’re instantly outfitted with a commercial size net. According to Buzz Feed there are 50 million Tinder subscribers worldwide. It’s the world’s largest singles bar meets super-sonic speed dating.
As I swiped through the bottomless stack of bachelors for the first time, I felt like a kid in a candy store. In the first twenty-four hours, I had over one thousand likes. The prospect of being single went from terrifying to tantalizing overnight.
My confidence in my appearance was in disrepair when I became single. Being cheated on had me questioning my desirability. And even before the affair, my ex had been maddeningly judicious with compliments and words appreciation. But on Tinder, men don’t hold back. It’s like a wildlife preserve where compliments and sleazy remarks run free. If a person likes how you look, they will almost certainly tell you so. When I discovered this seemingly endless stream of external validation, I couldn’t get enough. I was more starved for attention than I’d realized.
To be clear – I firmly believe that cultivating genuine self-esteem is an inside job. Letting others determine yourself worth is icky. I hardly give Tinder full credit for the confidence I gained. My tinder adventure coincided with a sense of self-acceptance that emerged from inside me. But living with a distorted body image is a struggle. Its like looking at yourself in a funhouse mirror. Tinder helped remind me of that.
REJECTION BOOT CAMP
From the time you start swiping to the first meetup, there are about a half dozen ways you can experience rejection on Tinder. You swipe right but never match. You match, but the person never initiates a convo. You message your match, but they never reply. You have a good conversation, then the individual disappears. You suggest a meeting and get turned down. You agree to meet but get stood up. You go on a date and never hear from your match again.
This steady diet of disappointment sounds unappetizing, but it does wonders for rejection tolerance. When I started Tindering, I took these slights personally. They stung and left me questioning myself, even when I wasn’t particularly interested in the individual.
But then, out of necessity, my perspective changed. I stopped thinking of failed connections as losses. Instead, I saw them as progress in a process of elimination. As I started rejecting people myself, I realized how impersonal my decisions were. Sometimes they were based on silly things – A picture or a comment. Sometimes I was just too busy to reply. Other times people were simply lost in the shuffle. And the knowing there was a resevoir of potential matches made it easy to bounce back. Why cry over spilt milk when there’s another carton in the fridge?
OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLORE
One of the things that excited me most about being single was the opportunity to explore my fantasies. I had always dreamt of being with a couple. My cheating ex, however, didn’t want to share.
The other obstacle in my path was the logistics of finding a like-minded pair. Tinder came along and busted through that roadblock. Suddenly couples who want to play were a swipe away. They all stated their desires openly, so there was no guesswork. All I had to do was switch my search settings to see “men and women.”
Thanks to Tinder, I got to live out my threesome fantasy twice. I also had the opportunity to experiment with BDSM. The chance to live out my newfound freedom to the max made single life even more enticing.
DATING PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
When I first started dating, I was all nerves. Before every first date, I took anxiety medication, drank some CALM magnesium supplement, and did deep breathing exercises. Once I arrived my hands would shake, and my thoughts would race. I’d get lost in my head. Sometimes I’d miss parts of the conversation.
But by the fifth or sixth date, I was handling myself like a pro. I still felt a little surge of adrenaline beforehand, but it didn’t overwhelm me anymore. With experience came confidence. My confidence drew people to me. And that built my confidence even more.
Feeling solid on dates also allowed me to reframe my thinking. Instead of wondering if my match liked me, I started focussing on getting to know them. I became the interviewer instead of the interviewee. I found myself more relaxed and better able to determine our compatibility.
Could I have gained these skills in “real world” dating? Yes. But how long would it have taken?Tinder provided me with a steady supply of interested parties. As a result, I was on date six by the third week. Granted, none of these amounted to much, but the skills I gained more than made up for that.
Tinder hasn’t brought me love everlasting. But it did gently usher me into single life. Over the last eighteen months I’ve learned to love being on my own. That’s a strange claim to make when singing the praises of a dating app. But I think having the freedom to date is one of the perks of going solo. Tinder provides a means of doing that whenever the urge strikes.
At this point I’m well aware of Tinder’s pitfalls. There will undoubtedly be a post on that at some point. But there will always be a place in my heart for the dating app with a bad rap.
Photography by Stella Fae Bliss