'I've Been Single For 6 Years, Why Do I Suck At Dating Apps?'

Here's how you can up your game.
Willie B. Thomas via Getty Images

You’re reading Love Stuck, where trained therapists answer your dating, sex and relationship dilemmas. You can submit a question here.

Dating apps have been around for a long time now, but that doesn’t mean we’ve mastered the art of using them.

Starting conversations with a strangers online isn’t always easy. Then there’s feeling like you’re constantly being rejected, as well as being ghosted by several people.

But we’ve all got friends who’ve ended up in happy relationships from apps, so where are the rest of us going wrong? This was the question posed by this week’s reader, Lianna.

“Years ago I tried all the dating apps, and dating websites at some point, trying to keep an open mind only to be faced with the guys that really weren’t who they said they would be, whether physically or personality wise,” said the 35-year-old, who’s been single for six years.

“Every now and then I revisit these apps in hope, only to be faced with the same situation over and over again. How do you get out of the rut?”

Psychosexual therapist and Counselling Directory member James Eve says Lianna’s experience is not unusual.

“It’s a common problem to find the process of online dating sometimes tedious, having expectations not match reality, where the online persona is not quite who you meet in person,” he says.

“Often in private practice I see people who struggle with this; spending time chatting / getting to know someone on apps, forming their own fantasies, which create an ideal or image which is not based in reality.”

Why do some people struggle to use dating apps?

The very nature of dating apps (like most big tech) is designed to keep the ‘user’ returning for more, says Eve.

“The gamification of dating and the dopamine hit you get when you match is addictive and is designed to keep you swiping and liking,” he explains.

“This can keep some people in the serial dater phase, or make making meaningful connections more of a challenge. As humans we also don’t deal that well with unlimited choice. Pre-app, you may have met someone on a night out or through work. Now you have access to hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of people.”

Complicating things further is the variety of reasons why people are using the apps.

“Some are seeking committed relationships, others one night stands and polyamorous arrangements,” says Eve. “While we have removed the barriers or fear to do with the initial rejection with apps, the same complexities still remain; vulnerability, what I want versus what they want.”

What should we be searching for when using dating apps?

“Having a good understanding of what you are looking for and your boundaries is a good starting point when using dating apps,” says Eve.

“There’s the obvious thing like attraction or what they say about themselves and how this fits with you and your values. What is the quality of interaction or messages? Is there common ground? Are they open and transparent with what they are saying?”

To limit the chances of disappointing dates, she recommends reflecting on the behaviour you are willing to accept online, asking: ‘If this was the real world, would I be OK with it.’ If the answer is no, it may be time to cut your losses.

“Admittedly this doesn’t work for everything like replying to messages,” he says. “But it might help you know your own boundaries which are there to keep you safe and avoid disappointment.”

Love Stuck is for those who’ve hit a romantic wall, whether you’re single or have been coupled up for decades. With the help of trained sex and relationship therapists, HuffPost UK will help answer your dilemmas. Submit a question here.

Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK