For most people, the main goal of online dating is finding romantic love. Yet there are other benefits of online dating that we tend to overlook, such as helping you become a better human being. Okay, I know that taking stock of your personal growth provides little comfort when you were hoping for a second date. But it’s worth remembering that becoming a better you in the meantime can help your quest.
Here are some not-so-obvious ways online dating is good for you:
1) You’ll become more caring
If you go on a few dates, chances are you’re going to hear a few sad stories. You’ll learn how people lost love or survived heartbreak. You’ll hear about illnesses, job woes, and countless tales of family drama. Discovering people’s not-so-pretty sides is critical for getting to know them better and feeling connected to them. It’s also a good opportunity to be a good listener and cultivate empathy by saying, “Wow. That sounds hard.” Or “I can’t imagine what it was like to go through that. I admire how strong you are.”
2) You’ll be exposed to new places and ideas
Didn’t feel a romantic spark with your match? You can still count the date as a success if you heard an interesting story or tried a new restaurant. When you meet new people, your world expands in a good way. Perhaps you learned that the next town over has amazing Korean barbecue. Did you even know you liked Korean barbecue? Maybe your date showed you how to order a vodka mule cocktail or told you about a local tango class that’s perfect for beginners. Maybe your date’s reminiscing about learning to cross-country ski as a child motivated you to book a President’s Day trip to Vermont.
3) You’ll develop new social skills
Dating stretches us in ways we don’t expect. You’ll get practice sourcing and scheduling dates. You have to figure out how to hold a conversation for a length of time, even with dates who are as boring as kale. You have to figure out how to follow up, whether it’s asking that person to go out again or letting him or her know that that you’re not interested in pursuing a relationship. After a few months of online dating, working your company holiday party will feel easy by comparison.
4) You’ll make new friends
Friendships are often presented as the consolation prize of dating. Your match wasn’t attracted to you? Don’t worry. You can still be friends! But new friendships are an unexpected windfall of online dating. You’ll add a few new Facebook friends along the way. You’ll get invited to a few events or gatherings. Don’t underestimate the importance of developing new platonic relationships in dating. Friendships are the basis of the best romances, so if you can regularly make good pals, you’re well on your way to finding someone special.
5) You’ll learn more about yourself
Dating helps us figure out what we like – and don’t like – about others and ourselves. If you dated someone who likes to lounge around on Sunday mornings, maybe you discovered that you prefer to be on a trailhead by 8 a.m. or attending a worship service. Maybe you were on the fence about dating someone with kids, but now you realize you would enjoy being part of an instant family. Or you surprised yourself that you could like someone who’s a different age, eats vegetarian or raises goats.
Hopefully, your preferences will become refined, and your values will be strengthened. You’ll become more authentic and clear about what you have to offer a partner. If that’s a savvier nicer version of you, then all the better.
How has online dating helped you grow personally?
About the Author:
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.