Modern Dating Is Destroying Relationships — A Former Player Explains Why

Limitless options and dwindling patience are threatening to end love as we know it.

woman and man sitting together on couch looking blankly Song_about_summer / Shutterstock

Modern dating is destroying relationships. 

Millions of people around the world are trying to find love online as we speak. For years I was one of them.

In the wake of my divorce in 2007, over a period of five years, I went on hundreds of dates — most of which went on to involve a sexual liaison of some kind — because I was searching for someone to replace my wife, and because it was easy and I was trying to outrun my pain. Click and you're on.


I expected to be able to find something perfect out there in the ether, beyond my laptop.

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I went halfway around the world looking for the perfect woman: from Sydney to New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. A burlesque dancer. An escort. An actress. All incredible women with so much to give but who couldn't deliver the instant bolt of love I had convinced myself was a prerequisite for any long-term relationship to blossom.

When I did get that "glimpse of eternity", to borrow a great line from Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women, with an eccentric but beautiful artist who lived just around the corner from where I live in Sydney, our love affair ended after six months.


It was only when my daughter said something startling to me while driving in the car one day that my life changed. I was stuck in traffic. I was bemoaning my life. Getting frustrated and pissed off. Clenching the wheel. Then my little girl piped up from the back seat. "You know, Dad, you could try a little patience. Then you might find life gets easier."

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Out of the mouths of babes. She was absolutely right.

Last year, I wrote a book that was published in Australia called Laid Bare: One Man’s Story of Sex, Love, and Other Disorders.

It was the story of my comprehensive marriage breakdown, my even more comprehensive mental breakdown, my sexual escapades in Australia and the United States as an accidental but hardcore "player", my quixotic search for love in the age of the internet, and, most of all, how I came to repair the fractured relationship I had with my daughter, who was four when I divorced.

During the writing of my book — and later, in the car with my daughter  I became acutely aware of something that was not only missing from my own life but also seems to be in danger of disappearing from all our lives. And yes, it's patience.


We seem to have lost patience with everything. We don't read books like we used to. We channel surf. We move on if a web page takes more than five seconds to download. We throw away perfectly good things. It's quicker to replace something than repair it.

We take our smartphones to dinner. We no longer listen and absorb. We like. We poke. We tweet. We put up selfies on Instagram when we just can't bear to be in our own company for more than a few minutes.

When something comes along that's newer than what we already have, our instinctive reaction is to throw it away and upgrade, as quickly as possible. Just look at the ridiculous cult of Apple and its products. Do people sleep outside a store overnight to get their hands on a phone? The world's gone crazy.

A major repercussion of this phenomenon is that relationships — the bedrock of our society — are being treated with the same impatience as everything else. Facebook alone is blamed for causing one in five breakups in the United States and one in three in the United Kingdom. Those figures have some margin of error, of course, but they're not too far from the truth.


That's because our global culture of instant connectivity but perpetual distraction is destroying relationships and marriages. We're living in an increasingly disconnected world when it comes to emotions. I've dated women who should have had their iPhones surgically grafted on their wrists. 

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Patience and forbearance are some of the most crucial ingredients of any relationship. Patience when times aren't good above all else.

When I first met my ex-wife it was 1996, she dumped me after two weeks. But after I stood outside her flat in the rain like John Cusack in High Fidelity, she took me back and we went on and had a 10-year marriage that produced our beautiful girl.


She took a chance on me. She overlooked my abundant faults. But, as I say in Laid Bare, had it been today, "I wouldn’t have seen her again. She'd have put her picture on a dating site, married a Texas oil billionaire, and blocked me on Facebook."

So why are so many people breaking up? Why are divorce rates so high? I would argue it's partly because we have become so impatient. We don't persevere with each other anymore.

Getting in and out of relationships is easier than ever because of mobile phones, emails, social networking, and online dating. It gets back to what Douglas Coupland coined in Generation X all those years ago: "option paralysis".

When given so many choices, you make none. Or you make one, but there's no satisfaction. We have limitless options. We're overburdened with choice. How is it that so many of us are still unhappy?  


My hundreds of internet dates fall into the same category. For the committed serial dater, Facebook and dating sites are just one big female catalog. I've even gone to bed with a woman I met through Twitter. Why settle on one woman when you can have hundreds? Why get married when you can date a different girl every night of the week?

Formerly happily monogamous men can become dreadful bounders because of the internet. Technology encourages men — and increasingly women — to play around. In fact women, I have found in my experience, are becoming just as callous and predatory as men. The checklist mentality is given free rein by the web.

And because of this traditional relationships are under siege, and families are under siege. Even people who are in committed relationships are thinking about getting out. Their thinking is: If everyone else is having so much fun, what the hell did I get married for?


Everyone is spoiled for choice. Distracted. Impatient. Dissatisfied. It's easy to send a picture of an erect penis or bare breasts on your phone. You can have sex on Skype. Porn has changed what we all expect in the bedroom, and if we're not getting it we start looking elsewhere, using the internet, smartphones, dating sites, GPS-based hook-up apps, and whatever else is being invented any given week.

I put forward the argument in Laid Bare that relationships have "effectively suffered the fate of porn movies: been reduced to 'scenes', designed for short attention spans and instant gratification rather than rewarding patience". Patience is the root of any worthwhile relationship. The time you spend riding out those periods when things aren’t so good makes the periods when things are going great so much better.

The verb "to love" — the action of love, showing love, giving love — is just as important as the feeling of being "in love". In this overconnected world, we’re in danger of forgetting what a true connection really means.

And that is tolerating what it is that makes us human. Not thinking of each other as faultless avatars on a computer screen.


As my daughter said in that traffic jam, it all starts with a little patience.

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Jesse Fink is the author of Laid Bare: One Man’s Story of Sex, Love, and Other Disorders.