Please Swipe Left On Me

I have recently ended a short dating situation with a Tinder boy. We met a few times over the course of 3 months. I wasn’t too keen about him when we talked online but when I saw him, within the first 30 seconds, I knew I was in trouble: I was attracted to him. It was strange because there was literally a rush of anxiety sweeping through my body, alarming me that this wouldn’t end well. It didn’t end well. Indeed it ended very badly, leaving me with nothing but a bitter taste. It actually reminded me of what happened with Johnny.

During the entire first meeting, strangely enough, I had that same uneasy feeling with him as with Johnny. There was something about him — about the way he spoke and acted towards me — that made me feel very anxious and defensive. I couldn’t open myself up to him and act interested even though I wanted to like him. Well, it could have ended like that; however, with every drink, my wanting to like him (and make him like me) grew stronger and stronger (definitely way more than my intuition). My mind gradually shifted to thinking I shouldn’t be such a bitch; he wasn’t Johnny; he did say he liked me; plus I was single and tipsy and horny; it was okay to like him. And so it snapped “Fuck it”. I decided to give him and us a chance. I went with it. I gave in.

Soon I realised ‘fuck it’ was a mistake. In some cases, yes, ‘fuck it’ could lead to positive, interesting, even life-changing stuff but not always, not this time. That night, ‘fuck it’ was doing the same thing expecting different results. ‘Fuck it’ was violating my own boundaries. ‘Fuck it’ was a misjudgement that cost me cognitive dissonance, shock, anger, mistreating myself and a nasty ending. The thing is, we were two individuals with lots of flaws and issues who were inherently incompatible. We were two random people with no real connection who should have never met in the first place (same with Johnny and me to be honest). But we did meet and naturally, we struggled and crashed.

Looking back, it’s crazy to think that all of this could have been avoided if I had just swiped left on him on Tinder (or at least listened to my own intuition and stopped it before too late) Just a gesture on the opposite direction and I wouldn’t have had to spend 3 months dripping in anxiety and negativity. I wouldn’t have to carry with me another bad memory, another stone hanging over my heart, another bad impression of myself, another disbelief of love and lasting relationships, another “if only”. Well, If only I had just swiped left on him on Tinder, we would have never known of each other’s existence. We would have never hurt each other. We would have been perfect strangers passing shoulders on the busy street, maybe even exchanging interested glances.

I have to say it’s always good to put things into perspective like that. Putting it down to just another Tinder disaster story, which isn’t a surprise to anyone these days, does make the break-off easier. I have been through this before, or even worse than this — heck, I have been through Johnny and the likes before so I don’t doubt that I will survive this and soon get back to my happy, optimistic self.

Nevertheless, Tinder factor aside, I do want to acknowledge that my feelings were all real and it’s okay and understandable I felt (and may keep feeling for a while) sad. I genuinely liked him and cared about him even though I might not have shown it the way he preferred and I was fundamentally not the one he wanted or needed. I was especially empathetic towards him. I hope that he will find someone he loves and be happy. He wasn’t the villain in this story. He was just different. I don’t hate him. I don’t hate myself for this either which is important.

I wouldn’t deny that I did go through a phase when I was angry at myself for getting deep into this situation and I regretted my every decision about him (same with Johnny). But now I’m convinced that it happened how it was supposed to happen. It happened because I was still learning and I shouldn’t beat myself up over what was done. I should be proud that my thoughts and actions were true to my core values. I was kind and accepting even when he wasn’t to me. I was patient and I tried all what I could. I didn’t shut the door on myself.

And hey, compared to 2 years ago, I have changed for the better. This time, I did stop when I knew I had to stop no matter how painful it was momentarily. I didn’t feel distressed or abandoned even when he blocked me — I learned to cope with it and accept it. I thought of myself and my needs. I might experience strong negative feelings now and then but I didn’t look for a quick fix. I didn’t think it was a sign I should get back to him or get with a new person. I became aware what I needed was to process my emotions and accept the reality. Most notably, I didn’t at all feel the need to seek validation from him which was a massive improvement.

The experience has also challenged my approach to dating and opened my eyes to many critical things I hadn’t known about myself before. Now I know I definitely cannot rush things. I have to 100% respect my own boundaries and take my time to get to know people and let people know me — the first-30-second attraction is never enough of a foundation to build a meaningful relationship. If something doesn’t feel right, I need to immediately take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.

I understand I’m not for everyone and I should never waste my time and energy pleasing or proving myself to the people who refuse to see me positively. I cannot change their mindset about me but I have a choice to take no bullshit from them and leave them completely out of my life. I’ve also become much less carried away about the possibility of love. I don’t see relationships as an end-goal or a measure of my self-worth. Speaking of which, I don’t bring my self-worth into the mix when a relationship succeeds or fails. I know the outcome of a relationship is down to our compatibility, not worthiness — worthiness is irrelevant.

I used to be so devastated when a break-up happened. My anxiety would go through the roof. Nowadays even though I might still repeat past mistakes, it takes me significantly less time to get back on my feet and I’m much less likely to question my own value. I believe I know myself quite well at this point. I also believe the guys who have broken up with me did not know much about me at all (oops, never got to that stage which is sad and embarrassing but well…) and because they didn’t know much, they didn’t know what they were missing out on. It’s fair and okay.

See, break-ups don’t need to be hard. It’s just part of the trial and error process of dating which is healthy anyway. I might sometimes think about it and feel a hit of pain but I accept it and I will keep moving on. And don’t get me wrong — I’m not jaded. I still think dating is fun, going out on a Friday night is magical, waiting for texts is nauseatingly exciting. But — and this is a big ‘but’ — that energy and anticipation should be placed on the right person, one who is kind and respectful and feeling the same way.

Last but not least, I’ve suspected this for a long time but now I’m completely sure: Tinder isn’t made for me and I’m not made for Tinder. I don’t know how to deal with random people who have no background/contextual knowledge of me. I just can’t. Well, this might sound shit but I think I’m too nice for random people. I was so easily bullied and I hate it. In retrospect, I don’t know why I was even bothered by these Tinder boys especially when they never gave a shit about me and would pass me down in a snap of a finger as another Tinder girl. I’m done with it. From now on I really want to focus on myself, my family and friends, my mental health. I don’t want to have any agenda with people. If it happens it happens. If it doesn’t, it’s cool. Most importantly, I’ll draw boundaries and I’ll stick to them.

So please swipe left on me. Oh wait, no worries. I’ve already deleted my account.

Ellen Nguyen

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I like bagels