When you come home from a disappointing date, it’s tempting to want to hurl your heels across the room, fling yourself across your bed and shout, “Well, that was a waste of time!” Okay, perhaps that’s just me. But there’s something pretty galling about setting aside an evening, getting all dolled up at the gym after work and rushing to the appointed meeting place, only to force yourself to make awkward chitchat for 45 minutes. We all know it’s part of the process – not just kissing the toads, but often staring at them while thinking, “I don’t know what else to ask you. I’m out of material.” I suffered through my fair share before meeting my boyfriend a year ago. Yet only later did I realize that all that effort – and even frustration – helped me gain a lot more than a good man.
Here are four reasons to be grateful this year:
1) Online dating makes you a better conversationalist.
Yes, I slogged through many awkward conversations, but the point was that I got through them. And over time, I got better at them. During dud dates, I made up a little game in which I challenged myself to leave the table with something – whether it was a funny story, a travel tip or link to an interesting article my date thought I would enjoy. You can approach dates thinking “This is never going to work!” or “This is another human being who I have a chance to connect with, even on the smallest level.” These honed social skills pay off with friends, colleagues, strangers on a plane and your cousin’s new girlfriend at Thanksgiving.
2) Online dating helps you make friends.
When you’re trying to find love, the last thing you want to hear is “I don’t think we’re a romantic match, but I’d like to be friends.” Granted, it’s hard to be friends with someone you’re crushing on. But what about those people you hit it off with but just don’t want to kiss? Invite them to your holiday parties. Introduce them to friends you think they’d like. I’ll forever admire my friend Kevin who following a ho-hum Mexican brunch said, “I’m new to the city, and I’m trying to expand my social circle. I’m inviting a couple other people I met on dates to try this really fun dive bar. Wanna join?” It didn’t matter that the only thing we had in common was that we didn’t want another date with Kevin. We all became good friends. I’ve also been to two weddings of former online beaus and attended their wives’ baby showers. Another one traveled from San Diego to New York to attend my recent book launch party – with his new girlfriend.
3) Online dating makes your world a little bigger.
You’re going to go to new places and try new things that you wouldn’t have had a chance to otherwise. I grilled dinner at my table at a Korean barbecue restaurant. I tasted hot sake. I listened to a lecture about Ayn Rand. I sampled six Indian dishes at a brunch buffet. I saw a Johnny Knoxville movie. I learned the proper way to eat buffalo wings and Vietnamese noodle soup. I attended a radiologists’ holiday ball.
4) Online dating gives you confidence.
Falling in love is a mysterious process over which you have little control. But you do have control over giving yourself the best shot at finding it: Writing a good profile, posting new photos, answering emails, keeping a positive attitude and yes, showing up again and again to meet new people. It’s an incredible feeling to realize you can make things happen for yourself. You push yourself outside your comfort zone. You grow a little. If you can pull this off with something as fickle and elusive as romance, you can do this in every other area of your life.
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate and Salon.