Dating During Coronavirus

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Dating During Coronavirus

None of us are quite the same people we were in March 2020. If you’re like most of my counseling and dating coaching clients, the pandemic has changed the ways you work and live, and put you into contact with new truths about who you really are. 

For anyone on the quest to find love during COVID, all of this newfound self-awareness is bound to bubble up in your dating life. Maybe you’ve gained clarity about what you’re looking for in a partner, or where the edges of your sexuality actually lie, or what it would mean to show up as your true, authentic self with everyone you meet. 

If so, I’m so excited to share this episode of the podcast with you. My guest is Damona Hoffman, a celebrity matchmaker, relationship expert, and the official dating coach for OkCupid. Damona has not only been reflecting on how the pandemic has changed the dating landscape, she’s been researching it extensively using online dating data. Her findings offer some eye-opening insight for anyone looking for love. 

Join us for fascinating tidbits about 2021 dating trends, alongside timeless advice for making a meaningful connection. You can listen right on this page, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll subscribe! 

Wishing you peace and true love in the new year, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby 

Dating During Coronavirus

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Dating During Coronavirus: Episode Highlights

Since the onset of the pandemic, data shows that people are doing more pre-screening before a first date. Singles seem to be thinking long and hard before meeting up with a stranger who could give them a deadly illness, feeling them out not only for COVID conscientiousness, but for compatibility. 

After all, a bad date never feels worth it, but a bad date that puts you at risk feels especially not-worth-it. 

Dating in 2021

Many people have given their love lives an overhaul during the pandemic, ending relationships, entering new ones, and opening themselves up to new dynamics. Throuples are on the rise, data shows, as are mentions of bedroom preferences in dating profiles. 

Thanks to ample time for self-reflection, many people seem to have new clarity about their relationship goals, what they want in a partner, and what they want in their sex lives

Dating As Your Authentic Self

Being your true self, and being vulnerable enough to share your truth with other people, has always been the backbone of successful dating. 

But many people make the mistake of putting forward an idealized version of themselves on dates. This is an understandable impulse, but it’s self-defeating for anyone looking for true love. Wearing a mask is the antithesis of emotional intimacy, which is the real key to building a loving relationship. 

The Myths of Modern Dating

Too often, we focus on finding our ideal partner, rather than on creating meaningful relationships with the actual people in our dating lives. 

In reality, we are lovable because we are loving. You can’t wait for love to find you, you have to create it with the real people you meet. 

Empathetic Dating

One downside of the rise of online dating is an uptick in appalling behavior. Ghosting, breadcrumbing, and stringing people along while you search for a “better” match have become all-too-easy thanks to dating apps. 

When we rise above these deplorable trends and date with empathy and compassion, we’re “living in the light,” and safeguarding our integrity. It’s a remarkably effective way to build self-love and self-respect — two very attractive assets in a mate. 

Interracial Dating 

Online dating data also offers a wealth of insight about interracial dating. Unfortunately, the racial biases that shows up throughout our society are visible here. 

Even equating racial dating preferences with racial bias is wildly inflammatory, many people feel. But the takeaway isn’t so much that we should or shouldn’t dismantle our tendencies to date one race or another, but that we should examine these preferences and get curious about where they’re coming from, rather than accepting them as a given. 

Dating During Coronavirus

For anyone dating during coronavirus, some good news: There are millions of single people who’ve used the trauma of the pandemic as a springboard for growth, exploration, and heart-opening self-reflection. 

Millions of them are dusting off their profiles and getting back out there now, ready to build a meaningful connection with someone like you. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: My guest today on the podcast is Damona Hoffman. She is a celebrity matchmaker, relationship expert, the official dating coach for OkCupid and the host of the dates and mates podcast. Her dating advice has been featured on the drew Barrymore show, NPR, A&E, the WashingtonPost, the LA Times. And now she's here talking to you. Hello Damona. 

Damona Hoffman: Hello? Hello. Thanks for having me back. Yeah, I'm so excited to continue our conversation. My listeners probably know this, but I had the great privilege of speaking with Damona about a year ago about dating and relationships. And things have changed over the last year. Damona is back with fresh information about dating trends for right this very second. And I'm so excited to talk with you about this and share your insights with our listeners. 

So I know there's much to discuss. Where should we start?

Damona: So much has changed, but so much has stayed the same. Remember when we thought, I feel like last year we were really enthusiastic about the pandemic ending and new ways of dating and relationships in our lives. And we're going to get back to travel and all those things. And we've seen some of those things, but they look a little bit different than we expected. So I'm excited to be here with you today and unpack what has actually happened in 2021. And then what we can expect in 2022. 

I've been dating coaching for over 15 years. And it's interesting seeing how my predictions, even from back then have come to pass and how we've evolved so much in dating. Like I started writing dating profiles, that long ago. Yeah. So dating online was around back then, and it's crazy to me now, how much people have integrated dating apps and online dating into their life and how it's really changed the dating culture.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Even more. So you think over the last couple of years than it had been previously? 

Dating During Covid

Damona: For sure. And over the last year, especially as lockdowns and safety and health and wellness became more of a focus. And as people were still really isolated, we've seen a major trend towards people adopting dating apps, but also new ways of communicating.

Like I've always said to people, you've got to screen your dates, and before the pandemic, we were in this hyper-speed. Burnout. It was just nonstop, nonstop conversation, nonstop dating. And the process that I saw was people would go on the dating apps swipe, go right to the date. And then they're sitting there on this date going, wait a minute. I don't even want to be here with this person. What has gone wrong? 

And now we're forced. We're forced to screen, because we have to make sure before we go out with someone that they are a safe person for us to know. And then, as people were isolated or even a lot of people moved in the pandemic, and that's one of the things that I think is really actually special about this time, as horrible as it has been, it's really made us go inside and ask ourselves, are we living the life that we really want to live?

Maybe it's not in this job. Maybe it's not in the city. Maybe it's not with this person. And we're seeing a rise in divorced singles going back on dating apps. And now we have an opportunity to build the life that we really want to build. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I agree that this has been a life experience that has made everybody reflect on their values and, who am I? Why am I here? What do I want? And that positive relationships are such an important piece of that. I know that, here at Growing Self, there's a big influx. Couples, established couples, wanting to work on their relationships for a variety of reasons. And your area of expertise is really on people who are looking to establish healthy relationships.

And I know that there's been a bunch of new data coming out lately. That is really interesting what you've shared about dating trends. And I'm so curious to know more about what you've learned from your research over the last year. 

Damona: I've learned that people are finally doing the work, not your listeners. I'm sure they have always been doing the work. 

Dr. Lisa: They are here to grow, Damona. They are. 

Damona: But we're seeing everyone else's finally catching up to them. I know my Dates and Mates listeners are also always saying, here I am, I'm doing all this learning. I'm trying to, I'm trying to better myself. And yet I go out there in the dating pool and people are not at the same rate of growth that I am. But we are seeing a change in that. And we're seeing a big shift of people to dating based on values and dating based on these deeper qualities and characteristics that really line up more with long-term compatibility. 

And we're even seeing people redefine, how do they even, how are they defining their sexuality? What kind of relationship do they want? We've seen a 250% increase at OkCupid in users identifying as bisexual as compared to last year. 

Dr. Lisa: Wow. That is huge. That is a huge increase. What do you make of that? 

Damona: I think that people are figuring themselves out, they're listening to this podcast and they're allowed now to explore different parts of themselves that maybe were suppressed or maybe they just didn't even realize were attractions that they had or relationship goals.

And, we've even seen an increase in people. Saying they want non-monogamous relationships or they're looking for a throuple. It's not for me. I'm married, I'm happily married. We're coming up on 15 years. It's not my relationship goal, but I think it's wonderful if people have that option and can be transparent. 

I've seen a big trend towards people wanting authenticity on dating apps, we want a real name. We want the real age. We want verification. We want to know that people are there for the same reasons, and it's okay that there's a variety of reasons for people to be on a dating app or, just out in the dating scene. 

Dr. Lisa: Wow. Isn't that interesting, like in that, the zeitgeist of our times in many ways is one of constraints and limitations, but there is this psychological and emotional freedom that is exploding in the relationship landscape, and that people are feeling more free in other parts of their lives. That's kind of cool.

COVID Dating

Damona: It's really cool. And I think it's also driven by the pandemic. Forcing us into our homes and where we're looking at ourselves on a Zoom screen all day long, and also where you didn't have to dress the part for a lot of jobs that you used to have to go into the office for. And now it's just you in your home, your apartment, being yourself at work, at home. 

And I've even seen, like I write for the Washington Post date lab, and I interviewed a non-binary individual who we matched on a date. And they were saying to me that really, they were forced to come to terms with their own identity throughout the pandemic, because they didn't have to wear put suit and tie on to go into the office, and they could express, they can wear what they want and express their gender the way that felt most authentic to them. And when they were having to express what was appropriate for their office, they couldn't even get to that place of really understanding, who were they authentically?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah I understand it. So many of us, even like subconsciously, are dressing to meet these expectations from others. And so when left entirely to your own devices of, what do I actually feel like wearing today that is only for me?  That really pushes people into contact with themselves. And it sounds like that happened with the person you were working with. That’s awesome. 

Damona: And I love encouraging people to do this in dating as well, because there's so much emphasis on what you, who you have to be to be dateable to be lovable, to feel sexy and confident. And I think we're also seeing an unraveling of that and people realizing, I've been saying this on dates and mates for years, but when you are your most authentic self, that is when you attract your authentic love. Who wants to contort themselves into knots to fit into this ideal, who wants to be a fake version of themselves and attract someone in that version, and then feel this constant pressure to live up to that ideal that isn't really attainable or sustainable for the long-term? 

So you're probably seeing this also, as you're working with couples who are unpacking that and realizing that. Some of these questions that were not asked in the beginning need to finally be unpacked. And then as we are figuring ourselves out, that makes us have to reconfigure our relationship to the person we're in partnership with.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Trying to be somebody you're not is the antithesis of true emotional intimacy. Like, how can you be known and loved for who you are if you're pretending that you're different when you're first meeting people and, I think, have the courage to be authentic from the get go. And that is going to, I think, nicely limit the people who are attracted to you, which is a good thing, because if somebody really wants to be with this idealized version of you, that is not going to be a good person for you. And I feel like it's so deeply ingrained in our society that sometimes we're not even aware of it.

Dating in 2021

Damona: When we turn on this attraction magnet and step into this other version of ourselves, I think sometimes we're not even aware of it. So that's been another lesson of 2021 as we go deeper into ourselves. 

And, I don't know how colorful we can get on this podcast, but even sexually, we've seen that people learned what they like more in the pandemic. There's been more self-exploration. I'll let you read between the lines what I mean. And it's, we're seeing it, it's coming out in dating that people are saying that they are kinky, that there has been an increase in BDSM mentions in female users’ profiles. 

And I just love this idea of women taking ownership of their sexuality as well. And saying, I'm not going to be ashamed. Let's stop with the sex shaming and like the, all of these ideals that have been passed down to us from generation to generation. And get our needs met. Be our authentic selves. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely. What a nice reframe, when left to your own devices, it’s just the raising of awareness again, of, what do I actually like and how do I advocate for myself going forward?

Damona: That's huge and it's important to do, and it's really hard to do, but this is just such a time of exploration. That's really what we're seeing in OKCupid. People are now waking up to this realization that you control your own destiny. If you want to try something different, you want to date a different gender, you want to try something different in the bedroom, you better speak up and you better try it. Now is the time. Now is the time, now is the time. And I'm seeing this also among my Dates and Mates  listeners that are in couples. They're now being brave and asking for what they want in the bedroom and asking for even the emotional intimacy from their partners.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. That's where it gets real. So there's tons of interesting research coming out of your OkCupid project. And I wonder if it is okay to ask you about the new book that you're working on. Can we talk about that or is that, are you not ready to? 

Damona: It's probably not going to be out until 2024. So it's not long. 

Dr. Lisa: I hear you loudly. We have ambitious goals. Don't we? 

Damona: Yes. Look, it's not my date, my publisher's date, but we'll see. It's called the “Modern Love Myth.” Fix it. It's basically, heal your broken beliefs, fix your broken heart. So it's a chance for us to look at all of those things that are on the list, things that we thought we needed in a partner even a year or two years ago, remember way back then? I know it feels like a lifetime ago, but it's really about this moment that we've been talking about and a chance for us to unpack those things. 

And the last time we talked, we were discussing interracial dating. I'm the product of an interracial, interfaith marriage. I also have a very diverse family background. My stepmother is Mexican American. My sister-in-law is Indian American. Her parents had an arranged marriage in India and moved to the United States. My family tree is literally the United Nations. And I really feel like my life has been enriched by that. And as  I seek out more experiences where I can be culturally educated and have my worldview expanded, I think this is also a unique time in history, where we have access to new people, new communities, through dating apps. Through social media, all of these tools, these technology tools that weren't even available when I met my husband 18 years ago, now allow us to expand our dating circle to ask the question, is this the most convenient match for me, or my ideal match? Is this someone with whom I share values and goals for the future? Is this someone that I can communicate with? Is this someone I can build trust with? 

Because we look back just a few generations ago, and most marriages were either out of convenience or out of financial necessity. So if those two things are not a factor for you. Speaking to your listeners right now, if those are not a factor for you, how would you date or relate to your partner differently?

Dr. Lisa: Yes. That if, again, you can really do anything you want and you have access to the entire world. And I love what you're saying. Like you grew up, I think appreciating not just diversity in terms of backgrounds, but like a diversity of thought. That is so enriching, like different perspectives and different ideas.

But also you're saying that there are so many commonalities that transcend background, values, life goals. And one of the things that I really wanted to talk with you more about after our last conversation are issues related to interracial relationships, interracial dating. Because we didn't have a ton of time to go there, and I'm really wanting to talk more about your research into this.

Interracial Dating

I know that you wrote, and it is just an amazing piece for the Washington Post a while back, where you are looking at research in and around dating. And I actually, if it's okay, pulled up a couple pieces of this, one of the the points that you raised was that people, white people essentially, we're not indicating that racial bias or racial preference was very important to them, but that when you saw the outcomes in terms of who was being reached out to on some of these platforms, there was a real difference.

And the gist of the article was around how racial preference and racial bias does emerge in dating, particularly online dating, and how that impacts people. And I'm just, I'm wondering if you, if we could talk a little bit more about that today, because I think for so many of our listeners, we have a very diverse audience, a diverse practice, and a lot of couples in interracial relationships, these relationhips have so many strengths and beautiful aspects, but there are some differences that I think need to be acknowledged. And I think these differences begin to emerge even when dating. 

Damona: Oh, there's so much to unpack, so much to unpack. Yeah. So that is a long standing trend that people will, say, if I believe black lives matter. And we're seeing also on OkCupid, there's been a huge shift towards values and people like we have a Black Lives Matter badge that you can get from answering one of our managing questions. So you can telegraph out your values and people are choosing to do that.

So there's a difference though, between, I support Black Lives Matter. I believe myself to be open-minded, fair. And I believe in equity and the actions I've taken are in alignment with that. And I find that sometimes people are not even aware of the ways our subtle bias shows up in our daily life and in our daily choices.

So, what you're referring to is actually based on some older OkCupid data that showed people would say they would not date someone who exhibited racial bias. And yet, when they looked at the data, they saw that people would predominantly match with people of their same race. And it's shifted, that data is about 10 years old, but it’s still really impactful.

I see it deeply impacting, particularly the black women who listened to Dates and Mates and who are in my client base because they really feel unseen a lot of the time. And they feel that they're overlooked because of the way that people search, where they will strategically eliminate certain races.

And so that's what the Washington Post article was saying. If you eliminate a particular race or will only date someone of your same race, does that mean you are exhibiting racial bias, or is that just a dating preference? And it's really interesting to me how so many people, I got a lot of positive feedback, a lot of the comments that you'll see on the page and that article saw five times the normal readership for that column. And we had to shut down comments at the Washington Post on it for 48 hours, because it was getting so inflamed, but people were so incensed to just be asked the question, if I make this choice, is this an example of racial bias? And I think that kind of knee-jerk reaction does absolutely nothing for us generating an equitable society. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. It doesn't. The question is, okay, if we want to frame this as a dating preference, where does that come from? And I think that's this blank space, particularly for a lot of white people, is this sort of absence of felt ethnicity, but that really is this inherited racial hierarchy about what do I like and what do I want. 

And that kind of mental organization that is largely outside the consciousness of a lot of white people. And it shows up through behaviors. It's at the core of so many of our behaviors and it's impossible to move past it if we're unwilling to examine it.

Damona: What I was doing with the article was asking people to ask the questions of themselves. Like I talked about this “five whys” technique that I use with my clients to really get to the core of their true dating and relationship beliefs and why they have them. And the problem is that the more you start unpacking that, the more uncomfortable choices that you're going to be faced with, the more uncomfortable realities you'll have to examine. And I know that's tough for people, but I feel like it's important to ask the questions because, if we don't ask them, especially now, we don't ask why, how are we actually going to grow? 

And so it's not that I was saying with the article, which I think some people misunderstood, like everyone should be dating all ethnicities. That wasn't quite what I was saying. I would love to have my clients just date, race open, but we have to be willing to do the work. So I was just suggesting, let's see where that comes from. 

You don't have any non-white friends in your friend circle. If you really were to examine it, let's look at your friend group. Look at your 10 closest friends. How many people of color are in that group? Oh, I don't have many or maybe I only have one. So if we go back a step, why? Because I didn't meet anyone at my church, at my school, in my neighborhood. And then we unpack and we say, why is that? 

Because even in the neighborhood that I live in Los Angeles, I'm a member of the trustees board of the historical society of my neighborhood. And there's some information that's in our history. That's a part of our history that people don't really want to look at. Nat king Cole lived in my neighborhood. He had a cross burned on his lawn. Not that long ago, not that long ago.

And so we can't look at the history and be like, let's just look at the pretty houses, let's look at the cultural institutions, without examining how that happened there. If you look at the actual guidelines of your neighborhood, your residential area, a lot of them were built in with the premise. You cannot sell this house to a black person. It's still in many of the rules, even though now we ignore it. It's still there. 

So we’ve got to look at where that came from, why we haven't integrated neighborhoods still to this day. There's a lot of segregation because red lining prevented people of color from owning homes that would help build generational wealth for their families. And it's uncomfortable, it's really uncomfortable. It's very ugly. 

I can see it from both sides as someone who has a white parent and a Black parent. So I'm not up on a pedestal, saying I figured it all out and I'm above all of this. I am in it with all of us, trying to unpack that and come to terms with it so that we can actually move forward and take ownership of our choices and not continue to make the same kind of decisions just because that's how it's always been done.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. And going back to that theme of self-awareness and making contact with yourself, what you're saying is that being confronted with some of these ideas and asking those “why” questions. can really, I think, especially for a lot of white people, push us into contact with uncomfortable anxiety things that we would rather not have be true, and leaning into those feelings really is the path of growth because it results in this a level I think of self-awareness and freedom in some ways, like going back to your book, why do we believe the things that we believe in?

Sometimes those biases, those ideas are just so deeply buried outside of our consciousness, that it isn't until we observe or have it reflected back to us by others, what we're actually doing that we get some insight into. Why is that? And particularly in relationships.

Relationships as Growth Opportunities

Damona: Absolutely. I think we learn in relationship. We learn in relation to others. And so we're at a unique time in our growth as a human species that we have a chance to even ask these questions. And there's so many other questions that I would love to also unpack and that I will be unpacking in “The Modern Love Myth.”

But we have so many myths. We have this myth of a soulmate that we're looking for. This ideal person, there's one person, this needle in a haystack, and yet over 70% of people believe that they're looking for a soulmate. And I see that keeps a lot of people from being able to do the kind of work that you do of taking the person that's sitting right in front of them and figuring out how to grow with them, if you think that there's some other soulmate, that it's supposed to be easy, it's supposed to just click and fall into place. 

And if it doesn't happen like that, then that person must not be your soulmate. And there's somebody else out there in the wide world that you can find that will fulfill all of your needs without you having to do any of the heavy lifting or the uncomfortable conversations like we've been talking about.

That's not fair to yourself. That's not fair to your partner or your future partner. We have to completely flip our mindset I believe around that. There's a lot of possible partners you could match with, and there's no perfect person, and there's no perfect partner for you. You make them the perfect partner because you're both willing to show up and integrate your lives.

Dr. Lisa: So glad you're talking about that. That's been coming up in a lot of conversations lately that I've had with clients. And it's, I think, there's a sort of double-edged sword because, I think people have become more aware of what they want and feel empowered to create it. And that can also lead to this in some ways perfectionistic ideal of what they're looking for in a relationship that is very, as you say, other-focused, and I've so often found that really, the point of change that opens up so many doors for people to have great relationships is really related to these questions around, am I loving? Can I cherish and appreciate another human for who and what they are, without having to have them be more like me? 

And that is such a point of growth for most people. I think it's that true love idea around, how can I appreciate you and celebrate our complimentary strengths and differences, as opposed to wanting this sort of mythical person who is exactly like me in some ways.

The Myths of Modern Dating

Damona: Yeah. That's been an interesting shift actually as dating apps have expanded their reach. And now there is the belief that I can find the perfect partner. Some people are a little too dialed into that. And one concept I've been talking about all year on Dates and Mates that I will also be exploring more in the book is empathetic dating.

I am really trying to impress on my listeners how important it is to be empathetic in your dating search. And not always center yourself in the narrative of this love story. 

Dr. Lisa: Are you saying the “what's in it for me?” Damona, is that what we're talking about right now? 

Damona: It's the “what's in it for me.” And it's also just this idea that people are sort of characters in your life story and it is about me, of course. And so every action that they take is somehow a reaction to something that you've done, or in some way is there to fuel you to make your next choice or move in the relationship. And this is a really difficult concept, I think, to put into practice, especially, as we are on dating apps and people are looking at option after option. And I've said this for so long that you've got to become a real person. If you're, if you just stay in the app and you never meet up in real life, that's not your boyfriend. That's your pen pal. And it's not a real authentic exchange. I believe in real time, synchronous communication.

And I believe that we really learn about ourselves, relating to these people that we meet as possible options, but so many times as we are looking at this, the Cheesecake Factory menu, you understand you're looking at the Cheesecake Factory menu. And you start to think, do I want fries with that? Do I want a salad? I'm ordering up my perfect partner. Rather than, I'm in the kitchen at the Cheesecake Factory building it too. And I can appreciate the potatoes themselves in their raw form. Even if I don't choose to have the fries. I know I'm going way deep on this cheesecake analogy.

Dr. Lisa: Like truffle oil, we could go, I'm also a fry fanatic. So you're speaking my language 

Damona: A hundred percent. But, I think it’s really the key to unlocking this next level of what we're going to experience with dating apps being such an unbelievable tool to be able to make connections. 

I talked earlier about divorced daters entering the dating scene and we're seeing a huge increase. A 300% increase among user profiles saying that they're recently divorced since 2017. So this is a trend, it's not going away. It doesn’t mean more people are divorcing, but it means that people have a place to go. 

As all my Dates and Mates heard, before, if you were divorced, and you wanted to date again, and you were in your fifties or sixties and your life was set, your job was set, your friend circle was set, your church was set, all of those places where people used to meet, then you were just like waiting for someone in the PTA to get divorced, chasing her out, chasing around all the same single dads, right? 

So the idea that now, especially women can re-enter the dating scene and feel sexy and feel seen and have options. I think it's a great thing, but it's a new tool for a lot of people and we just have to learn how to use it effectively and how to use it in a way that's really compassionate to the people that we meet.

Empathic Dating

Dr. Lisa: And if that's okay, I would love to talk more about that. And I know we don't have a ton of time left, but you used the phrase empathic dating a couple of moments ago. And you have OkCupid, you have the Cheesecake Factory menu, there's everything in the world. And how do you take the ideas of empathetic dating and begin to apply them? 

And I know that we'll get the whole story when your new book comes out in 2024. But in the meantime, what would you advise people who are like, yes, compassion, empathy, but how?

Damona: Well, the first thing I would ask my clients is, look at all of the things that irritate you about dating today. First of all, don't put any of them in your profile. I don't want to read that. Like, I can tell someone's whole relationship history by reading their profile and hearing them say, “Don't even message me if you are not faithful and loyal. Don't even message me if you are a smoker. If you have kids from another relationship, if you're X, Y, and Z.” 

So we're going to erase that and let them start with a clean slate. The next thing that you do is, look at the behaviors that are frustrating for you and see how you can do the inverse of that. So many times people will say to me, I hate being ghosted. It is the worst, I've been chatting with this person online and then all of a sudden they just left. And I'll ask them, if they can look back through their messages for me and let me know if they've ghosted anybody else or failed to respond, like they say, oh I matched with this person and they didn't send me the first message.

How many times have you not done that? And I asked them to really take ownership of the way that they move forward on the dating app, not with the expectation that the other people are all going to magically do the same, but with personal responsibility. And I find that really makes you date from a fuller place, but it also makes you feel a little bit more in control, because obviously you can't control other people's behaviors, but you can control what you put into the mix. And I'll have my clients, if they decide they don't want to see someone, and it's totally up to you. Anyone that you haven't met on a date, you don't. I also have to remind people of this. Don't go if you're not feeling enthusiastic about it. You owe that person your best self and your best time. So if you're not feeling it, don't go, but tell them where you're at.

I have my clients do this thank and release strategy. You thank them for whatever they've given you. Even if it's grief, if they've given you grief, it's information that you can use in how you're going to relate to someone the next time. 

So you thank them for their time. You thank them for connecting. You wish them lots of luck. And then you move on. You unmatch, you go on about, and you don't hold on to those feelings because that starts to hurt us as well. When we keep carrying that frustration, that overwhelm, that disappointment from date to date, you thank and release them without any expectation of what they're going to say back or how they're going to handle it, but you send them love and thank them and release them.

Then you can close that loop and feel more whole yourself. 

Dating With Compassion

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, no, that's a wonderful strategy. It really is like getting clear about what positive qualities you seek in a partner, even in the beginning stages of dating, and really becoming committed to your own integrity around being that person.

And just that, I am going to live in the light in all of my interactions, and giving other people a chance. I think it's very easy for all of us to excuse all of the weird and questionable things that we do personally, because we have reasons. Bad mood, they did this, I was just reacting to that.

We make sense to ourselves, but it's very easy to judge other people and attribute things to their character that we ourselves may do. 

Damona: A hundred percent. And I've been reading a lot of Brene Brown lately. And, she talks about how it changes your perspective if you believe that people are doing the best they can. And I think this is also a core belief of empathetic dating. I really believe it's funny. 

My dad challenged me on this. He was like, you really think people are doing the best they can? I'm like I really honestly do, with the information they have with the upbringing they've experienced, with the pressures they have at work and finances and all that. I think that people are doing the best they can. With COVID, let's give ourselves and everyone else a break. We're doing the best we can. It's not always in everyone's best interest or whatever. But if you can just adopt that philosophy of, everyone you meet is doing the best they can with the tools and resources and education and empathetic capacity that they have.

And you just, like you said, you live in the light, you send them love and light and you hold your boundaries as well. That is the most empathetic thing you can do for yourself, and for others. 

Dr. Lisa: Totally. Yes, you have to have those healthy boundaries for sure. But I love what you're saying Damona because it's like, how do you practice being loving throughout the whole process? Even if you're talking with people who aren't going to be your ideal partner. I think it was Louise Hay who said we are lovable because we are loving, and to allow yourself to practice really being loving towards others as like great practice to be a great partner in relationship to somebody else who deserves that. 

I think that's the thing that gets flipped for a lot of people. As you were saying before, people become the star of their own movie and stop asking themselves, how do I be a really great loving partner? Cause that's it. That's a different experience completely. 

Damona: And we also have to have that same empathy for ourselves, even though we're not centering ourselves in the narrative, we have to also come to dating as whole, as we can make ourselves. We're not looking for someone to fit. Our missing puzzle piece. We have to come to it whole. 

So I also have my clients do a gratitude practice. I had my clients last January do a 30-day gratitude journal. And every day, just say one thing that you have gratitude for. Even if that thing is, I had a hot shower today. Because some people didn't.

Just having gratitude for what you have, because when you date from a place of fullness, you're looking for someone whose energy matches that, and you can both hold together and amplify and uplift one another, rather than if you come in, thinking of all this stuff you don't have and the relationship that you don't have, you’re starting out from a period, from a place of want and need.

I've just seen too many times, that doesn't form the relationship that you're really desiring. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. What words of wisdom, this is so much good stuff. And I love it. I so appreciate you giving us an overview of the dating trends. Thanks to OkCupid, but also I just love where you're going in your work, because that's what I hear throughout our conversation today.

There's been such a window of opportunity for growth that has opened up in people's lives because of this kind of quiet time of the pandemic, and it’s beginning to emerge in relationships. And I can't wait to learn more about your book. It sounds like you're really thinking a lot about how to help people understand those old beliefs and really bring those into the conscious awareness and do that growth work you were talking about so they can have really authentically healthy relationships.

Damona: Absolutely. It's a magic moment that we're in right now, where we have a lot of the tools, we have the knowledge. And we have this space to be able to work on ourselves. And, whenever we emerge from this pandemic, emerge from it as more whole.

Dr. Lisa: I love it. So share with our listeners before we end, where they can learn more about you, your work with OkCupid, if they want to keep tabs on your book, when it comes out. And I would love to talk with you more about your book when it does, but where should they find you in the meantime? 

Damona: Thank you. I am every week doing the Dates and Mates podcast at datesandmates.com, or wherever you're listening to this podcast right now. And for OKC. I think a lot of people don't realize it's free. It's a free app. So if you're on that fence, the whole thing is free. There are premium features that you can become a member to unlock, but if you're on the fence, just try it out, just download it and dip your toe in the water. And then if you need more support and help from me, come back to dates and mates.com and I will get you started.

And of course, I'm on Instagram. Twitter or Facebook at Damona Hoffman. So that's where you can get the updates on the book. 

Dr. Lisa: The forthcoming book. Okay. Going to be watching your Instagram. And, as soon as it comes out I'm going to pounce. 

Damona: Thank you so much for having me. I love our conversations too, and I love all the work that you’re doing. Dr. Lisa: Such a great conversation. Thank you so much for coming back. And I can't wait until our next one.

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