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How to online date when you’re a highly sensitive person

By Sarah Robinson on January 9, 2020

My friend (and FOD artist) Jade says that if people remembered the pain of dating, no one would bother to go on dates and the human race would die.

If you are balls deep in a relationship, I challenge you to dig deep and dredge up the harrowing reality that is dating.

I’m not talking about those 1 percentile dream dates, where everyone cums at exactly the same time. (I don’t think this actually ever happens.)

I’m talking about the anxiety of meeting a person IRL. And then, the disappointment of him being shorter/ dumber/ more misogynistic than you expected.

Dating is mostly shit. Period. Full stop. No returns.

Dating as a sensitive person especially sucks

Online dating as a highly sensitive person (HSP) is fucking brutal. If you’re a HSP you probably already know this.

HSP hero Dr. Elaine Aron coined the term in her 1996 book The Highly Sensitive Person. Aron has a series of questions, which she asks people, to help identify if they are a highly sensitive person.

I have listed Dr. Aron’s questions below, just in case you’d like to see if the term fits for you.

Dr. Aron’s questions*

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

* All of the questions above were pulled directly from Dr. Aron’s website.

Highly sensitive people are boss

Dr. Aron believes being a highly sensitive person is a gift. I agree.

Sensitive people are courageous AF. They’re in touch with their emotions (so less likely to project bullshit on you), they’re kind, good at listening and stay open to the beauty that exists in the world. 

Unfortunately, it’s hard to remain open to beauty without staying open to the painful stuff too. This is one reason why sensitive people find online dating particularly difficult.

Why online dating is hard for sensitive people

  • Interacting with a high volume of people with different energies and personalities is draining.
  • Saying no and possibly hurting another person, can hurt the sensitive person just as much as being rejected.
  • Saying no and then getting backlash can be particularly hurtful, and this is more common online since some people forget there is a human behind the profile.
  • Meeting someone you don’t know can be scary and draining.
  • Being rejected by a person can feel awful, and trigger other larger rejections that person has had in their lifetime.

Why do I need a guide?

When you have an open heart, it’s easy to fall in love with people, even if you know deep down they are not right for you. This is why I believe HSPs need to take extra precautions when they are online dating.

My own sensitivity meant I’d end up falling for people who weren’t a good match for me. I realised I needed to protect my sensitive heart, not because it was weak, but because it has such a propensity for love. 

If you have a soft heart (and you know if you do), then it is your duty to protect it. Only those who deserve your kindness and love should be privy to receiving it, and when it comes to romantic love, this is truer than ever.

The steps

This step-by-step guide is for sensitive people who want a relationship, and don’t want to waste their emotional energy on people who don’t want the same thing.

Of course, even two people who want a relationship may not be right for each other. But at least you’re spending time and energy on someone who is open to what you want too.

So often, I would date someone for a few months, only to find out they just wanted something casual. I’d have to break up with them, grieve them, build myself up and then head out into the dating world again.

It was fucking exhausting.

If I’d just done some due diligence at the start, I would have saved myself a lot of heart ache and upset. This is why I started to take the steps listed below.

Since taking these steps, I have dated some great men who were open to the idea of being in a relationship. Sometimes it didn’t work out, but it did feel way better than dating fuck bois dressed as relationship material.

Step 1 – what do you want?

Working out what you want from your dating experience is really important. Every choice you make when you date, needs to align with what you want. Then, you’re far more likely to actually get it.

If you want casual sex and don’t want someone to get hurt, you need to find someone else who only wants that too. If you want a relationship, don’t date someone who just wants casual sex.

Take a moment to hone in on what you want from dating. It may sound full on, but don’t worry, you can scribble bits out or add things later.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do I want a relationship? Y/N
  • Do I want kids in the future? Y/N
  • Do I have kids and want a partner who will be accepting and supportive of this? Y/N
  • Am I willing to be in a relationship with someone who has kids? Y/N 
  • What is the minimum age I am willing to date?
  • What is the maximum age?
  • Do I want a partner who can support himself? Y/N

Step 2 – screen

Before you waste time and energy on a real-life date, use the information you collected in Step 1 to screen your suitors. This is important, because it’s the bit that protects your heart. 

The information you scribbled down in Step 1 is now your list of ‘deal breakers’. If a guy does not have the qualities on your list, do not date him.

That way, if you do fall for him, you’re falling for someone who has similar dating goals to you. (I’ll get into how to screen him in the next step.)

Some mutha fucking examples

  • If you want a long term relationship but love dating travellers, you’re probably going to get your heart broken.
  • If you want babies but like dating guys in their early 20s, you’re probably not going to meet a guy in the headspace for being a dad.
  • This is why dating people who align with what you want matters.

So, narrow the field, and do your best to ensure the people you match with also match your relationship goals.

Step 3 – use Bumble

It should be okay to ask straight forward questions like, ‘do you want a family in the next 3 to 5 years,’ before you’ve even met someone. But it’s hard to do that without sounding like a psycho.

So. How do we get the information listed in Step 1 without freaking men out?

Use Bumble, or an app like Bumble that lets people check boxes indicating whether they want a relationship, something casual, kids and other key info like that.

Then, no matter how fucking hot he is, don’t swipe right unless he has checked the boxes that match what you want.

If you want a relationship and he doesn’t, let him stay online forever in your memory.

If he wants kids and you sure as fuck don’t, do not swipe right.

What if he doesn’t check any of the boxes and leaves that part of his profile blank? If a guy doesn’t say he wants a relationship, he either doesn’t know what he wants, or wants something casual.

Either way he is likely to fuck you around for a few months and then piss off to Bali for a kick boxing and or yoga intensive. Also. His wants do not align with yours, so he does not make your cut.

Remember. Dating takes up time and emotional energy. You need to defend and protect your precious and amazing self by only swiping right on men who match what you want.

Step 4 – say what you want

When you set up your profile, make sure to check the boxes that reflect what you want. If you want kids, check this box. If you don’t want kids, check that box. If you’re not sure, say you’re not sure.

Be honest, and you’re more likely to attract people who want the same things as you. Yes, you may get fewer matches, but those missed matches would have been duds anyway.

Instead of dating for three months then finally discovering he’s just there to bang his ex out of his system, you get the information you need straightaway.

Step 5 – be open minded (kinda)

Now that you have your list of deal breakers, you can of course still swipe no on people if they’re not what you’re into. But, try to be a little open minded and venture outside your usual type.

Besides. If long haired guys are your thing, you can force him to grow it once he’s deeply in love with you. But seriously, people IRL are often way different to what they project online.

Your energies may be super compatible, if you give a meet a chance. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay, you’re not signing up for marriage and 2.5 kids.

Step 6 – don’t chat online for too long

If you do end up matching, then take some time to get to know him online. But not too much time. As a general rule, don’t chat online for longer than 2 weeks.

Why? Because you may end up getting sucked into a cyber relationship that is not actually real but for some reason feels really fucking real. (We’ve all done this at some point!)

Talking online is useful in the beginning, but you need to speak offline to get a genuine feel for someone’s personality and manner.

If he can’t commit to meet after 2 weeks, he may be one of those dudes that just wants an ego-boosting online chat from a woman on the reg. Stop wasting your precious energy on him.

Step 8 – talk on the phone before meeting IRL

This may sound psycho ‘cause only people over 50 talk on the phone, but consider how much energy it takes to go on a date (especially as a sensitive human). If you’re worried about asking, say something like:

‘Hey, it’s so nice chatting with you here, but are you interested in a quick chat over the phone. It’s just something I do before I decide to meet someone.’

I have done this numerous times and pretty much every guy has been flattered I want to speak with him on the phone in the lead up to meeting them.

I argue that the ones who don’t want to talk are not worth meeting in person anyway.

Mention in the beginning that you only want to chat for a few minutes, so he’s not overwhelmed by the prospect of an hour-long D&M. This also means you can get away quick if it’s not going so good.

Phone chats are good because you can almost instantly tell if someone is on your wavelength. Don’t Facetime, (you can if you really want though) because that’s just too damn confronting.

When you chat, you don’t have to ask any hard questions. Just get a feel for them. Do they listen? Are they on your level? Keep in mind, they may be nervous. (But you’re a sensitive person, so you know that!)

Case Study – Oliver the 31-year-old DD hottie

I had a majestic online courtship with a gorgeous dude named Oliver earlier this year. He seemed sweet and kind, and wanted a relationship and eventually kids, just like me.

When I spoke with Oliver on the phone, he casually mentioned he didn’t drive. I asked if he’d been done for drink driving. He said yes, but clarified that he drove his 18-year-old house mate’s car around without a license.

He also shared that he had thousands of dollars in unpaid court fines.

I didn’t have to say much to get this information from Oliver. He started talking and, well,  I listened. You could say I engaged in dating espionage, but I believe seeking intel to protect my heart is a worthy mission.

Even though Oliver was an objective babe, I knew he wasn’t someone I should go on a date with, since I’d probably fall in love with him and have to drive him to Dan Murphy’s for Jim Beams.

My heart (and vagina) could well have fallen for Oliver if I hadn’t made that 10-minute call. 

Step 9 – meet him

Now you’ve screened the fella, it’s time to meet him. Your first catch up is a ‘meet’ not a ‘date’ because you’re checking him out to see if he is worthy of more of your time.

It also means that you keep it brief and sober. The most boring arse people can seem interesting when you’re wasted, so have a coffee during the day to assess him clearly.

Also, I tend to want to have sex with people once I have had a few drinks, and having sex clouds my objectivity. Remember, you can always fuck him later, and putting off sex can be super hot.

Having an exit strategy is good too. Before a ‘meet’ I say, I’m sorry I only have an hour as I have to… <insert excuse here>. Of course, you don’t actually need an excuse, you can just say you want to go.

If you have a coffee, enjoy his vibe and want to see him again (and he wants to see you too), then your next rendezvous is a date. Get pissed, have kinky sex, do whatever the hell you want.

But. Do the initial due diligence, sober and in the sunlight.

Your heart is worth it!

It may seem like a lot of work, but compared with meeting someone inappropriate, falling in love with them, realising they just want to bang and then having to deal with the emotional fall out. It’s not.

Honestly, your amazing heart is worth a little protection, and you are worth it too. 

If you liked this blog, please Like our Facebook page to get more dating and break up words that reflect actual life. If you’re dating just after a shitty breakup, you might also like this blog.

Love Sarah x

PPS. What about those dudes that say they want a relationship but aren’t emotionally available? I haven’t personally encountered many of them, but if you do, that totally sucks and I hope you know they are the exception not the rule.

Art by Jade Foo

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