Don't sabotage your chances of happiness by digitally stalking a potential new partner.
I want to share a story about what I call "dating site stalking." This term applies to someone who consistently and obsessively checks the profile of a person they've met and begun dating.
Why do people do it? It seems simple enough: to check up on the person they're now dating and communicating with on an ongoing basis. The goal is to find out when that person last logged into the website, presumably to chat with someone else.
While it may seem like a good, stealthy way to monitor where you stand with your new beau, dating site stalking is a terrible idea.
Dating site stalking is an addictive form of self-sabotage that frequently gets overlooked. Few people know or talk about it, and there are no 12-step programs or support group meetings. But over time, this addiction can have devastating effects on your personal relationships, not to mention every other aspect of your life, when you examine the bigger picture.
In order to better illustrate my point, I have a client who has given me permission to share her story. My client was seeing a new man she met on a dating site, and things seemed quite promising. There was one challenge, though: it was a bit of a long-distance relationship, so there was a little more uncertainty than usual, due to the fact that their visits were less frequent than if they lived in the same town.
The good news is that she was doing a great job in many respects, and it was clear that her guy was very interested. He freely contacted her often, arranged phone dates with her in advance, and they had an excellent connection that was deepening. They talked about more visits, their long-term goals, how their pets would get along and a number of long-term possibilities.
Sounds pretty promising, right? But there was one issue that threatened everything they had going for them: she was able to see when he last accessed the site that brought them together.
As you might expect, that little nugget of information didn't bring out the best in her, to say the least. The thought that he might be communicating with and seeing other women who lived closer, even though there was no agreement to be exclusive yet, made her feel insecure and very vulnerable.
She was confused and couldn't understand how, if things could seem so good when they spoke, he might be pursuing other women. It made her pull back, put up walls and shut down. It even made her angry and resentful because it triggered her serious trust issues. Obviously, that had a negative effect on how she showed up when they talked. It could have been fatal to a brand new romance.
It's not hard to see where this is going. It's clear that my client was on the verge of fatal self-sabotage; that's how it often happens. Left to her own devices, even she would admit that she would have definitely blown up the whole thing far too soon, before it developed a solid-enough foundation.
Instead of watching the potential relationship unnecessarily go up in flames, I challenged her to step back and re-evaluate. Checking up on him served no good purpose, and instead of making her better it was making her bitter and insecure.
The truth is that stalking her guy's movements on the dating site wasn't the real addiction; the underlying addictive "drug" I'm talking about is called certainty or predictability.
As humans, we all desire predictability in our lives. We need to know that we can survive and that we're safe. We need certainty about our deepest needs, like food, clothing, shelter and finances. Then we need to know that we'll be comfortable, and this is where things start to spiral out of control. An insatiable need for predictability will make you miserable and eventually ruin every relationship, every time.
As soon as I helped my client to let go of her addiction to false certainty, the relationship began growing and deepening again. Instead of focusing on whether he was communicating with other women, I helped her find the certainty she wanted; it was already in her.
She found comfort in the fact that she felt infinitely better when she kicked the old habit, and she was rewarded greatly by a man who was becoming more and more impressed by how she was showing up with grace, confidence and openness. They have a visit planned and things continue to improve with every call.
But don't take it from me. Here's what she told me, which explains her shift even better than I could:
"As for [the dating site], I feel this has been really transformative for me not to get on there. I haven't, but definitely have wanted to. When that happens I walk myself through: What am I really telling myself by doing that — that I'm replaceable — and a bunch of other negative things that aren't helpful.
I also remember that safety is a myth. The only thing I have control of is showing up proud of myself. And being online checking doesn't do that. So I sit, and remember how even if it feels scary in the moment, feeling icky for hours afterwards and not showing up how I want to is much worse."
Of course, I asked for her permission to share her breakthrough with you anonymously and she willingly agreed, although she threw in this little caveat:
"Be warned: there will be people who are really attached to the option of looking online at a new partner. They will argue that you need to know so you don't give more than they are. The reality is, I would rather give and be who I want to be, and face hurt than not try at all. I can handle the pain of rejection; I cannot handle the sadness of not really engaging to be the best I can be or trying to build strong relationships."
I'm so proud of her progress and the fact that she no longer measures out love like there's not enough to share.