Relationships

My Therapist, My Dating Coach

My Therapist, My Tinder Advisor

Our series of true dating stories continues with today’s essay by Jen Doll. After going through a rough break up, she turned to a therapist for support. But what she didn’t expect was for him to become her dating coach. Here, she shares his piece of life-changing advice…


A couple months ago, I got dumped. It was unexpected, right before we were supposed to take a romantic trip together. Of course, after a breakup, once you start putting the clues together, it seems like you never should have expected anything else – the red flags were lined up in a row waving in your face, and the only reason you failed to see them was that you didn’t want to look.

Still, I took it like a champ — at least, I thought so. I cried a little, I wrote it out, I sent some hardcore telling-it-like-it-is texts before I stopped texting entirely, and I shook my fist at the sky and vowed revenge.

Then I did what many of us do in these times of need. I got back on Tinder.

Tinder, the dating app, was where I’d met my ex, and my ex before that, too. Tinder and I had a pretty decent track record. Just spend a little more time on the old app — hello again, here’s a new photo, here’s a witticism or two — and, poof, another guy to date. He might last for 3 months or he might last for 8.5, but either way we’d learn and love and laugh together until we parted ways, because, as I often told friends, not every romance is meant to last forever.

But my last relationship had made me realize that I did want the forever romance. How to get it, however, was much less clear. I talked about this to friends, my mom, and a therapist, who, luckily, I’d started going to right before my breakup. “I’m not sure I’m ready to date again, but it’s good to get back in there, right?” I asked him, announcing that I’d reinstated my Tinder account.

“Well, let me ask you something,” he replied. “What do you want? What are you really looking for?”

He’d posed this question before, and I’d sort of hmmmmed it away. What did I want? Did anyone really care, except the guy in front of me whom I paid to care? But, surprising myself, I answered in a string of rushed syllables: “I want a silver arrow who shoots across the sky knowing exactly where he’s going! Who knows himself and what he wants!”

“Wow,” he said, never ruffled. “I think you need to say that. Put it out there! Write that on your profile.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said. My last Tinder profile had a picture of me in shorts with a fading bruise on my leg, and I’d written, “The bruise is gone.” Was I really going to go off about silver arrows, like some kind of self-help book come to life?

“You need to be able to say what you want — and put it on whatever dating profile you’re using — because if you don’t say it, it’s that much harder to get,” he said.

This seemed wise. “You’re like my dating coach,” I joked.

In my next session, I shared a few things from my list of wants, which included: someone who is socially aware and passionate, someone who is unafraid and wants to move forward, good-looking, tall(ish).

He smiled. “That’s great. Add that to your profile.”

Ugh, not this again. “I can’t!”

“Why not?”

“Um, Tinder isn’t really… like that,” I explained, and my therapist looked at me, confused. I was ever more sure he had never Tindered; he probably met all his girlfriends at psychology conventions or walking through Paris in the springtime. “It’s more, like, coy. Funny. Witty. You reel them in with jokes and then…”

He continued to stare at me blankly.

“It’s just not done…”

“Why not?” he said.

The truth was, I didn’t really know. Why was it that being clever and sarcastic and keeping people on their toes was more “acceptable” than asserting what you wanted and letting the possible dates sort themselves into those who wanted the same things, and those who would walk away and wish you well? For so long, I’d accepted the guys who liked me first, who seemed like they might get me someday, and I’d tried to make myself fit around them, to make us work.

Inevitably, it hadn’t. Maybe I’d been undermining myself from the get-go. This idea of knowing what you wanted and actually saying it, it was scary — but it resonated. I did that everywhere else in life. Why not here?

“Okay, I’ll think about it,” I said.

It took a week and a few glasses of wine but I did it. Or, more accurately, first, a younger male friend commandeered my Tinder account (he agreed with my therapist wholeheartedly) and then I changed it still more, because dating, like life, is something of a group effort sometimes. I wanted someone who knows himself, a good driver (I’ve ridden with too many bad ones), a person who was aligned with me politically. I also bragged about being able to ski on one ski — sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit funny while also tooting your own horn. And if someone didn’t get that, that was OK with me. I was looking for a real connection.

“You have to tell me about all the messages that come in,” said my friend, pleased with our work. “You’re going to get a lot.”

Like clockwork, there it was. “This profile,” messaged a guy, “It’s perfect. Thank you.”

I didn’t even have to go out with him. Already, my heart felt pretty great.


Jen Doll has written for The Atlantic, Elle, New York Magazine, The New York Times Book Review and other publications. She is also the author of Save the Date, a memoir about what she learned about relationships, friendship, marriage, love and herself after attending 17 weddings.

P.S. My boyfriend weighs less than I do, a seven-step guide to heartbreak, and the best dating advice I ever got.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Rachel says...

    Heckkkk this is too real. I definitely hide behind a quirky bio (“I’m not like the other girls because I’m Joe Biden–actually here are some real things about me”). It’s really easy to get discouraged and think I’ll never meet the very specific weird-but-cute dork I’m looking for, so I get nervous about putting out too many “you must be ___ to date me” vibes, which CLEARLY doesn’t make sense. So for me, it’s never been about playing the game, but trying not to take myself out of it preemptively. And it’s probably about that dumb voice that says I’m too different to find anyone. But hey! I like me, so even if I am, I think I’ll be okay.

  2. naseem says...

    Decided to try this out after reading this post! Backstory, I’m 27, 2 years out of a 6ish year relationship, been on tinder before and after going on 4 out of 5 date with total creeps, I signed off. Date number 5 was a great guy who became my *ahem* …friend. He’s fantastic but doesn’t want a relationship.

    Anyway, I do. So I’m back on tinder and this is what I wrote on my profile:

    “You: Kind, caring, considerate, optimistic, a good communicator, funny, educated, sure of yourself, not cocky, not a trump supporter.
    Me: All of the above. Iranian American “from” Bangkok. BA & M.Ed. Work for myself, dog mom, 5 star airbnb host, not religious.
    Here looking for something serious. Would like to be married w/ kids someday.
    Bonus points if you love Friends reruns, Aziz Ansari, dinner parties, traveling abroad, eating veggies, have been in a 3+ yr relationship before.”

    It feels a bit scary, putting it all out there. I haven’t had nearly as many matches as I did my first go ’round on tinder. But, my fingers are crossed. At least I know its weeding out some guys who don’t want the same thing!

    • Traci says...

      Naseem, may I ask how your update is working out for you currently?

    • Traci, I know this is way delayed and you may never read this, but IT WORKED. At the very beginning of July, I met my boyfriend (who is, hands down, the best human I know, and lucky for me, he’s mine!). He superliked me and his first message was this, “Hey Naseem, so I’m a big fan of your bio, you seem pretty interesting and down to earth. And great selection of pictures. I’d love yo get to know you a bit.” We’ve been together for 6 months now and it’s been the best 6 months of my life. He is everything I hoped for and so much more. He is so kind, loving, caring, funny, handsome, …really the whole package. He’s an adult third culture kid, just like me, also mixed race, from immigrant parents, loves dogs (I have one), and so full of life. We’ll be moving in together come summer — he’ll be starting residency (he’s in his final year of med school, doing emergency medicine), so we’re delightfully serious about each other. Everything about being with him is easy, and light, and comfortable. It’s the complete opposite of my past relationship, and an absolute breath of fresh air.

      He liked how direct I was in my profile and tells me that he likes how straightforward I am offline too lol. So, Joanna and team, thanks so much for posting this one. I owe you and Tinder big time. This man is a keeper.

      Traci, if you’re still trying to find your person, I wish you the best of luck and have confidence that they are out there somewhere (within reach!) :)

    • Naseem, I read your comment and how it worked for you. I’m so encouraged! i needed to read that. I was having a hard time today and wondering if I should try online dating(Tinder) again. It seems so miraculous when it does work perfectly for ppl and they find what they’re looking for, but maybe it’s not that hard. Thanks for sharing your story and giving me hope!

    • Hey Hannah! I can so relate to feeling like tinder/online dating successes feel out of reach, for other people, and so impossible they seem miraculous. I was right there with you in that boat until it happened to me! So, maybe you and I will get to be those “other people” who meet our life partners online ;).

      I’m so sorry you were having a hard day, but as someone who has been broken up with in a fairly dramatic way, and found love on Tinder, I can tell you with CERTAINTY, that good things are coming your way, and at the very least, you will be OKAY!

      If you ever want to chat, my email and ig are on my website. Just click my name. I’ve got a few tips I like to share with friends that make online dating easier (or at least they did for me). One tip is to make a first date uniform. Takes the complication out of getting dressed and frees you up to go on lots and lots of first dates without worrying if you look good/feel comfortable, etc. :) Best of luck, Hannah!

  3. Coco says...

    This is less of a comment and more of a cry for help, but I’d really appreciate any input of the great women on here! I’m in a newish relationship and this change (it’s also my first relationship, even though I’m 24) has really made my anxiety kickstart again. My head is full of “What If?”s and I find it hard to be open with him about my doubts, in case he loses interest/thinks I’m crazy/feels pushed… I know he loves me but it’s still hard for me to believe that a wonderful guy like him could love me. Does anyone have any advice for me? I do realize that not being open with him is way worse for any relationship that being open & honest with each other but man, this is HARD! No one told me about that in all those years I was single, haha.

    • Hey Coco,
      What you’re feeling is normal. It can be scary to be vulnerable with someone else, especially if you really like them or love them. Sometimes it takes time. So be gentle with yourself :)

      I don’t have any hard and fast advice, but one thing you said, “I know he loves me but it’s still hard for me to believe that a wonderful guy like him could love me,” makes me want to recommend this video to you. It called “The Biggest Disease Affecting Humanity: ‘I’m Not Enough’ by Marisa Peer”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lw3NyUMLh7Y

      It’s long, but it’s SO worth watching.

      You are worthy of unconditional love. You ARE enough, just the way you are. And if you do end up sharing your doubts with him, and he loses interest/thinks you’re crazy (you’re not, btw)/feels pushed, that’s okay. No use in pretending to be someone you’re not and being loved for being that person you’re pretending to be! There is someone out there who will love you for you, anxiety, doubts, and all, and it might just be him!

    • Shannon says...

      Hi Coco, I realize this comment is over a year old, but I wanted to ask you about how you were doing with this? I’m going through a near identical situation as yours, and I would love some advice or something to talk to about it!

    • Coco says...

      Hi Shannon! My comment is actually jut a couple of months old, but I’m very happy to report that we’re still dating! We just hit the 8 month mark, and I gotta say, I’m proud of us, haha.
      I don’t have the perfect piece of advice for you, but this is what (still) works for me, when I can feel my anxiety taking over: I write down my worst scenario (which is always: we break up). My worst fear, why worst ‘what if’. Write it down in great detail, to get it out of your mind. And then I continue the story. And then I realize, I will survive. It might take time and it will hurt for sure, but I will be just fine, eventually. I can’t make a single person the source of all my happiness and joy, that’s not fair to the person and it’s not good for me. So whatever happens with my boyfriend, I will always have my family, friends, etc. and, eventually, I will be alive and fine.
      And you have to be brave and be honest with your partner. You just HAVE to. I think this is a must. Just like Naseem said, you want to spend your precious time with someone who loves you for who you are! Who loves all of you, good and bad. Give him/her a chance to be that person! Open up to him/her (when the time is right). I know it’s really difficult. But if I can do it, so can you! :)

      PS: My boyfriend moved back to his home in the US, so we’re actually in a long distance relationship now (I live in Germany). It’s been quite the adventure. But hey, love is definitely worth the risk of getting hurt.

  4. Kara says...

    This This This! I am happily married, with a toddler, and trying for a 2nd baby at 30, and a handful of near-30-and-nervous friends have started to ask me how I did it, and my answer is always the same: “Hella slutty and no chill.” It wasn’t like, the Grand Plan, but it’s the truth. I whacked that tennis ball over the net a million messy times, and I never pretended to be casual about what I wanted. It was painful, often embarrassing, and very, very efficient. The world has what you want. There are 7 BILLION HUMANS. Go get it.

    • mile says...

      oh Kara! thank you… just what I needed to read :)

    • Mere says...

      OMG I needed to hear this too. Thank you! “never casual about what I wanted” – YES.

      I am revamping my online dating profile today!

    • alli says...

      I love this, thank you!

      this is exactly what I needed to hear.

    • Emily says...

      Ok wow I just read this comment and it was perfect. Thanks Kara!

  5. This essay and all the comments are such wonderful antidotes to all the “I wasn’t even looking” stories, which I have often found hard to relate to. Thank you :)

  6. Annie says...

    This! I took a screenshot, highlighted it, and sent it to my sister. so perfect

  7. Jackie says...

    This is how I met my husband! I decided that I couldn’t pretend to be “cool” anymore. So I renamed my profile on Match.com (in 2011) “Feisty? You bet ;)” and was super honest about the Barack Obama-like guy I wanted. And my husband and I have been together since then with one awesome toddler and another babe on the way. So I say go for the honesty in online profiles 100%.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, jackie!

  8. Lauren says...

    First of all, seeing a therapist to help you through a break-up is an amazing idea — I did it, and I felt like I got through years of suffering and confusion in a matter of months. At the very, very least, there’s nothing like hearing a true mental health professional confirm your own instincts about your new ex’s shortcomings.

    Second, following my break-up, I went on Tinder and wrote a profile that felt very authentic to me and what I wanted. I know you’re supposed to be cool, witty, and super brief, but it’s good to be direct if you know what you want — and I did. It helped me break through the noise of that crazy app, and if my profile wasn’t for someone, then they weren’t for me. So what, big deal. Not everyone has to love me. I ended up meeting a perfect guy within two months, and he’s everything I wanted.

  9. Bea says...

    Thank you so much for this article!

    I have always believed in being just as up-front, direct, and ambitious about my personal goals as I am about my career goals. I think too often we think that being “feminist” translates into being relaxed about marriage and kids timelines, “seeing where things go”, and not having high expectations of the guys we’re with.

    On a second date I told a guy that I wanted to be married at 25 and have a child before 30, and dating me meant being in some general sense supportive of that timeline. It didn’t scare him off (which made me fall in love with him more). We got married at 25, and 3 years later had our first child.
    Yay for honesty!

    Thanks again

  10. Rachel says...

    After almost a decade we finally convinced my mom to join a dating website to try to find someone. She always seems really disheartened about it because there seems to be a lack of quality guys in the area that she’s from on the websites. She’s had several dates but a lot of guys lack follow-up on the dates or ghost and I feel terrible because she takes it as “there’s something wrong with me”.

    I’m biased, but my mom is a catch–successful, beautiful, and independent. I’m pretty sure she just scares off a lot of men back home because she is so independent and doesn’t need a man to take care of her. I keep telling her just to keep being herself and the right person will come along eventually. I sent her this article today and am grateful to have a baseline for discussions like this with her.

    • Alexandra H. says...

      Rachel – your Mom and my mom sound like they could be twins. It is hard to see someone you love so much question their values. Hugs to our Mamas on their journey to find a partner who is deserving of their greatness.

  11. Betty says...

    Many moons ago when I was single and just trying to get back into the dating pool my therapist suggested that I do things that I enjoyed but would put me in contact with other people. (i.e. single men) So one night I went to a “singles” book club at Barnes & Noble forgetting that this was Valentine’s Day… So as I sit there realizing that all the single people were at least twice my age if not three times I notice the local news reporter come in with a camera crew. What are they there for??? They wanted to do a piece on “what single people do on Valentine’s Day”!! Seriously??? Needless to say I quietly slipped out the back. My therapist and I had a great laugh over my story and it still makes me laugh almost 30 years later.

  12. Madi says...

    I just can’t scream YES enough YES YES YES. Why are we embarrassed or ashamed that we want a relationship and that we want what we want whatever it is. I think this bravery and this advice could have saved me from some tears and some mismatched swipes, that being said those tears and swipes helped build the person I am now in the relationship i am in now.

  13. Kris says...

    I want to hear more as well!! Let me know where I can read you:)

  14. Rue says...

    Yesss!!! I just started a new relationship, and we met on OKC. He had open, honest descriptions of himself/what he was looking for in his profile. (I think I did too, for the record, but I’m willing to admit he probably had the better profile.) The turning point in our early message exchanges was when he started a sentence with “I’m going to be vulnerable and admit…” and told me one of his own sillier dating-wish-list criteria that I happened to fulfill. Of course, it still took meeting in person and having the vibe be great. And then going on a second date where we admitted out loud that we were both miserably nervous because now the stakes were higher. Which worked like a magic spell out of a children’s book: as soon as we said it out loud, the nerves largely disappeared and we are now in this super annoying stage of early dating where we can’t leave a restaurant because we get so absorbed in conversation and at this point I bet there’s a photo of us circulating among the waitstaff community in our small city, with a caption like, “WARNING: do not seat these people! They will take 45 minutes to attend to the check. And then continue to sit for another 45 minutes after they’ve paid. Gazing into each other’s eyes and giggling and then suddenly getting real serious looking just as you go over to do the ‘do you need more water’ thing, which everyone knows is universal code for ‘please get the fuck out so I can bus your table.'”

    • Catherine says...

      Haha, this is such a cute story and I am so happy for you! Who cares what the waiters think, enjoy it ;)

      Also, this makes me realize that almost every guy I’ve dated has told me at some point that he either started to really like me or found me the most beautiful in the moments where I allowed myself to be vulnerable (while I always regretted these exact moments, thinking I must have sounded/looked so stupid). Why are we so afraid to be vulnerable when it’s precisely what makes us human?

    • Rue says...

      umm you guys this relationship *did not last* haha, but it mostly had to do with me not understanding a few key compatibility things. like, I can better articulate now what I AM looking for, and it is unfortunately not this sweet but immature dude.

      so overall I still appreciate this advice, and I’m gonna go home and revamp my profiles with more specificity and see how it goes. I did just a few days ago add a pretty hefty paragraph to my OKC profile with some insights I’ve learned about how I structure my time, and what I think makes for a compatible partner based on this.

  15. Ali says...

    Love this! I’ve ventured back into dating and I’ve come across the forums at A New Mode that have sort of become my dating coach. Always interesting to see other people’s perspectives.

  16. My friend uses Tinder and she put on hers “at the first sign of crazy, I’m out of there” because she’d used it before and had no end of crazy males :)

    She ended a 2-year relationship with the guy that responded to that profile in February, but says she’s not ready to go back on…yet!

  17. Brilliant. I might give this a go. What have I got to lose? Too often dating profiles are boring. “I like wine, coffee, chocolate, reading the papers in bed on a Sunday” – who doesn’t ? Pen x

  18. I love this essay. I have never used Tinder, but imagine a lot of people don’t share too much – good for you setting the bar high!

  19. june2 says...

    Gee, I want in a man all the things I wish I was but am not – how will someone like that love me? And I don’t mean my opposite – more like the optimal part of myself that is buried underneath!

    • Katie says...

      I totally feel that, but I had a one time boyfriend basically tell me, ‘dude, be that for yourself.’ We shouldn’t wait around for or expect another person to make us better/cooler. It’s awesome if that happens, but we have to do the work ourselves.

    • Catherine says...

      I totally agree with Katie!
      I used to always say that “I need to admire someone to develop feelings for them” which basically meant I was only ever attracted to guys I thought to be way too good/cool/smart for me.

      Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work out.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      june, you sound wonderful and charming, even from such a short comment. i’m sure guys will love you, especially if you’re yourself. (easier said that done, but such a good thing to try for!)

    • Maeve says...

      Second Joanna’s comment!!! I just know someone out there is just right for you so keep being your fantastic unique self.

    • Anna says...

      June2, we are all works in progress (or as I’d like to think of it, beautiful art paintings in progress). As someone who is self aware and wants to do the work to reveal all the “optimal” parts of yourself, that already makes you attractive <3 Get out there and make some lucky guy very happy :)

  20. GFY says...

    Love this. It confirms what someone I know did to find her husband. She told me she was disgusted with the SF dating scene, which was nonexistent apparently, and so she marched (her word) into a dating service (late 90’s) and announced to the entire office that she was there to Get Married. She said every single person fell off their chair laughing. She ignored them and said that key for her was that she was %100 upfront about saying in her video profile that she was looking for a compatible husband with whom she could start a family. She is literally magazine gorgeous in an earth mama way so she got hundreds of responses, weeded through them, then set up telephone interviews and chose based upon their voices and how conversation went. When her future husband came on the phone, she said she really liked his voice and when they met she knew. He is a gorgeous, responsible, elegant family-man who windsurfs and flies yearly to maui for the waves when he’s not working at his own SF design firm. SCORE. They now have two stunningly beautiful children, boy and girl and etc…. It worked for her! She’d make for a very inspiring interview here actually!

    • Wow, that is a great story!

  21. shannon says...

    As a therapist I am also excited to see one featured so beautifully! He would be pumped to know how far his guidance has reached!

    Also I gotta add another vote for making a non-negotiable list. My husband had one and I fit it, and I also had one and he fit mine. It’s key to be both honest and very specific (ie, “shows respect and love for family while maintaining individual boundaries” rather than “loves family.”) It’s also very flattering when another person tells you that you fit their list!

  22. Aida says...

    More more more!

  23. Kelly says...

    Going through a hard breakup, and scrounging up the courage to get back onto the dating apps. Thank you for this.

  24. As a therapist, it’s nice to see an article where one of us has been helpful and made a positive impact. We don’t always get that feedback or get portrayed in realistic ways.

  25. zoe persina says...

    Great writer! I want to hear more! I realize it’s not the point, but…what happened!?

    • Tanja says...

      Me too

  26. RS says...

    I love this series, and this entry in particular. My own personal story is that for most of my dating life, I would say “I’m sorry I’m so ” as a method of fishing for whether or not the person minded this part of my personality. Ugh, I cringe just thinking about it. I finally met someone who said “stop apologizing, and just be you” like it was the most obvious, matter of fact thing in the world (I’m not even sure he looked up from the paper when he said it). In that ah-ha moment, I stopped apologizing, and for the first time I was just me. He is now, of course, my husband.

    • june2 says...

      So true. I’ve never had a man apologize to me about any kind of perceived personality issue, haha, I don’t think it would even occur to them to do that! I’ve learned a lot from men about confidence.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      RS i love that!!

  27. Rachel says...

    WOW! This is a perfect read for me. Dating-related thoughts I’ve had this week: 1) I think I just need to move out west (I live in Michigan)… the last two guys I’ve met/been seriously interested in both live in CA. One was in town visiting family and the other was here on business. 2) Do I need to get back into therapy to sort through my dating angst? So…yeah, stating exactly what you’re looking for in your dating profile? Brilliant! Editing my Bumble and Tinder profiles is something I can try today with minimal effort.

  28. Amanda says...

    Love this! I met my partner on OK Cupid and we were both pretty open about what we were looking for. He was so open about it, in fact, that I saw his profile initially and ruled myself out because I didn’t seem to totally fit. BUT I’m super lucky that he found me on his own, got in touch, and was willing to bend on what he thought were dealbreakers, because otherwise we would have both missed out. So I’d just caution against being TOO specific about what you want, because you might narrow the field a little too much. I mean, I’m awesome, and he almost missed me!

  29. Madison says...

    What happened next?! You can’t just leave us hanging like that ;)

  30. Shayna says...

    When I was online dating, I knew I wanted to find my forever human but didn’t want to be too prescriptive. On the bottom of my profile, I wrote that I was seeking someone with: (1) Intellectual curiosity (2) Fun in their soul and (3) Generosity of spirit. Lucky for me, my human has all three in spades. Little did I know when I wrote that, I was also looking for a partner to foster those three characteristics in me. The man who loves crossword puzzles, cartoons, and giving backrubs has certainly delivered!

  31. Em says...

    I had a stint on Match that reaped a slew of mindbogglingly horrible dates (one guy ran away from me in the parking lot–seriously!). But when I met my now-husband, the stories of those experiences are partly what endeared me to him, and gave him the courage to ask me out for, as he put it, a “hopefully not terrible date.” Even the ridiculous dating experiences can yield something truly happy down the way, so I am grateful for them now!

    • Kat says...

      I spit out my soup reading your comment! Who runs away from someone in a parking lot!?!? I had a pretty bad stint myself with online dating…the kicker of them all was a date that began with him saying to me, “Well. You look like a gay cowboy.” (That was his opening line, ladies!!) Granted, I was wearing a flannel shirt, but WTH?! I have since fallen in love with my childhood BFF and I agree, I’m grateful for those terrible experiences (mostly because they provide the heartiest of laughs!).

    • Paula says...

      On my worst online date, the guy asked me within 5 minutes of meeting if I had slept with anyone I met through the app. Me: “Really personal question, also none of your business.” He: “Ah, I see. You’re one of those uptight girls. You don’t swallow because of the calories, right?” Took me weeks to not feel nausea whenever online dating crossed my mind. When I did meet someone special, I was infinitely grateful to him for just being kind and respectful and courteous.

    • Emilie W. says...

      Paula that is awful!! I’m so sorry that jerk ever crossed your path! :(

  32. Char says...

    I fully agree with the therapist in this story! You have to say what you want (and also what you don’t want)! From a relationship, from life, from whatever… there is simply no point in not being honest and upfront about things. It’s a waste of time, and it’s frustrating! Nobody can read minds or hearts!
    I dated someone for three years; when we finally broke up, I was like, “I want to get married and have kids, and this is obviously not going in that direction!”, and he was all, “Wha???…” In all of our time together, we had never talked about what our individual ideal futures looked like. I was waiting for him to grow up, get his shit together, and move forward with me, and he thought I was happy and content to tread water in cohabitation with him. How much easier would it have been if we had just talked out things when we officially got together in the first place?
    Following this, I got involved with someone that had been a friend for many years. When things got to the point where we wanted to have a closed relationship, I just told him what I was looking for long term, straight up. It was terrifying! I actually expected him to run for the hills! His response instead was, “Cool! Me too!” Five and a half years later, we’re happily married with a daughter and another tiny human on the way!

    • june2 says...

      ooo, happy ending to bravery! love it!

  33. Sarah says...

    Did she go out with that guy?! What happened next?! Love this one!

  34. Cara says...

    I met my husband on Tinder as well and dated for about 6 months before meeting him, after getting out of a long relationship. At first, I had the mindset that this was a new world and I was free and wanted to dip my proverbial toes in the water and I did! It was great! After going on a few days and not really having any horrible, nightmare experiences, I just wasn’t finding HIM.
    I couldn’t agree with this more! I finally decided to just go for it and be serious and real. Everyone says that there are guys out there, even on Tinder, who won’t be scared off by a girl wanting a real guy who wants to get married and have kids. Very shortly after, I met my husband and that was that.

  35. Julie Balkman says...

    Read Real Love and Dating by Dr. Greg Baer. Changed my life! I read this with the guy I was dating. Now we are HAPPILY married.
    If you want to find out if they guy you are dating is committed, ask him to read this book with you…

  36. Lo says...

    WHY IS IT NOT DONE? Tinder is this super grey area where you’re looking for something, but not really, but still want someone, half the time.

    It was so infuriating! Just tell me if you like blondes, or if I have to like Star Trek to date you. There. Simple!

    Lo
    http://www.themixtures.com

  37. When we put our real selves out there, it’s a lot riskier than putting out an “easier” version of ourselves, but it’s only way to make real connections with people – friends, lovers, partners, spouses, anyone. When I was starting to date after my husband and I separated, I felt this horrible need to apologize for the “complications” of my life: that I’m in the midst of a divorce, have a young child, own businesses with my soon-to-be ex-husband, maintain a close relationship with him, etc. But then, after contorting myself for a while to downplay all that, I thought to myself, “Wait. If I’m hiding who I am from the person I want to love me, who are they really loving, anyway? How can I expect someone to love me, if I don’t show them who I am?” (I’m 38 years old, by the way; the learning never stops, ooof. Also, three cheers for good therapists.) The relationship I’m now in is unlike any I’ve had before. I feel loved for who I am, all of me, even the difficult parts, and I’m able to truly reciprocate that love. It’s taken (and continues to take) big leaps to get here! Asking for what we need and believing that we deserve it – it’s EVERYTHING. xx

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “If I’m hiding who I am from the person I want to love me, who are they really loving, anyway?” = LOVE this.

    • Paula says...

      I hear you, so well. I am terrified of not being loved fully, all pieces of me. In my past it seemed that men would get irritated when my “difficult parts” came out. I met someone on Tinder who I am absolutely smitten with, and I hope he will accept all of me. From the beginning, I thought to myself, “I will show him exactly who I am, no games, no contorting.” Funnily enough, I have the strong suspicion that he is also a little wary of not being fully accepted if he lets down his guard. I really hope I will end up having what you have now :-)

  38. em says...

    Agreed. The more true you are to yourself online, the more likely you are to meet your match. I had 6 months of fun online dating but connected with too many guys who were fresh out of a breakup and not ready to commit. I finally added a line in my profile about wanting a guy who knew what he wanted and goes after it, and a playful comment about the guy being ok with me whipping his butt at ping pong. I wanted a playful guy who could make me laugh. My (now) husband messaged me within a week challenging me to a game. I lost the game (badly), but got the type of guy I wanted.

  39. First off, a “Better Off Dead” reference is always a good way to go. =>
    Second, I met my boyfriend of 3 years on Match. I hadn’t planned to join a dating site while living in Florida because I knew I didn’t want to stay. But I also knew that the right person could talk me into staying. So that’s what I put. I was 38 and lonely in a new city–I needed some fun but I was also ready to settle down. I am still somewhat shocked that I met someone, *the* someone, but I knew that putting into the universe exactly what I wanted helped me get it.
    We moved to LA about 18 months ago but we’re talking about getting married on the east coast of Florida.

  40. Allyson says...

    I think I’ve had this exact conversation in my head before. I ultimately added “I may just be one of the crazy people who are actually using tinder to find their next relationship, not fling” to the end of my very witty/funny/coy profile.

    And then I promptly deleted Tinder after getting fed up with annoying boys a few weeks later haha

  41. Linsey says...

    Totally agree! I met my husband through OK Cupid and once I cut the cutesy language and got real on my profile, I met way more serious guys. I kept my “bio” short and sweet (2-3 lines) and then had five “bonus points if any of the following apply to you…” items with things like, “likes country music, is tall, likes sushi, can golf” and so on. Not dealbreakers, but things that would make us even more compatible.

    When my husband messaged me, he started by telling me how many of the five bonus items he earned (3/5!) and even though he still refuses to go to a country music concert with me, he has gone to the driving range with me in the past and has agreed to play 9 holes of golf this summer. Win!

  42. Celeste says...

    This is just super solid advice period. I’m rethinking my LinkedIn profile, now. What do I want? I want the opportunity to tell captivating stories, to make real connections with my audience, and to create content I can be proud of!

  43. Emily says...

    I’m in a relationship now but had my tinder years too… although I ended up meeting my boyfriend at my work, I dated various guys from Tinder, and the one who still stands out to me as the best fit was someone who did this on HIS profile! I remember reading it and thinking it was really refreshing. And although we didn’t date for too long (we were both moving shortly), that fling was by far the most satisfying out of any I had from Tinder. If we had stayed in the same place I would have pursued a relationship! So this advice also works from the other side of it :)

  44. Jenny says...

    Great idea! And honestly, men on Tinder seem to do this all the time. Why shouldn’t it go both ways?

  45. yael steren says...

    I’d love to hear more about what happened after. Wish she would’ve spoken more about it!! xx yael

  46. This is such good advice, I love it!! It’s so true though because really, how are you going to get what you want unless you state what you want? I suppose sometimes we have to go through bad things to make us realise what we don’t want, making it easier to know what we do want :)

    Chloe

  47. J. says...

    I also think lots of people fill out their dating profiles with innocuous cliches that don’t really share any actual information about them, hoping to attract as many people as possible – stuff like “I love to laugh,” “I’m close with my family,” “I like to go out and also sometimes stay in and watch a movie” (Like…everyone else?) You end up with a profile that’s filled out, sure, and everything you’ve said is perfectly reasonable and not objectionable – but it’s a sort of a defense mechanism. You want to avoid rejection so you’re just trying to be attractive *enough* to the largest group of people instead of being REALLY attractive just a few people who are really drawn to what you say. You really do have to dig deep and be honest to write a compelling dating profile!

    Also on OKCupid there’s a question you can answer in the Q&A section – “Are you looking for someone to date for a night, a few months, or the rest of your life?” When I was younger it probably would have seemed more chilled out to say “a few months,” but it felt really liberating to just answer honestly and say yes, my goal is to find a life long partner to build a life with! Why would I specifically want to go thru a break up in a few months?!

    (I’m in a relationship [via OKcupid!] but dated a lot for several years, and LOVE talking about dating, haha)

  48. Amber L Fitzner says...

    I missed the dating app phenomenon but I agree with this method 100%.
    I had been with my ex for 8 years and was married for 1. He could never tell me what he wanted or what direction we were going in. Anyways it ended right before a huge 3 week trip to Europe to celebrate my birthday. I ended up going alone and in al those quiet moments one might experience alone for 3 weeks traveling alone. I realized what I wanted out of someone if I ever found love again. I met my husband now about two months after at a bar of all places on halloween. On our first hang out about a hour in I just said look…. “I’m 30 and in the middle of a Divorce. I wont date you if you do drugs or don’t want kids. Not saying I want to have kids with you, I just don’t want to waste any time. There are plenty of other people I can just sleep with so if you don’t want these things let me know now. ”
    He said “ok” :)

  49. Em says...

    Love this! At age 20, I drafted a list of “essential” and “desirable” traits in a partner, but failed to actually expect these things from the men I dated. About 4 years ago, at age 24, I was in a similar place to Jen and, honestly, “over” the whole dating scene. A wise friend instructed me to revisit my “list” and create an OkCupid dating profile that explicitly described who I am, who I am looking for, and who need no apply. It was terrifying, liberating, and kind of fun. Within 48 hours, I was talking on the phone with an incredible man from the site; within 5 days, we met up for dinner, moved to a coffee shop when the restaurant closed, and then ended up sitting on the curb after the cafe closed talking until 3am; within a month, I’d closed my account after meeting one person from the site. That was 4 years ago, and we are still so incredibly happy together–he is the epitome of every essential and desirable trait on my list. It’s scary, but honesty and openness early on make such a difference…it’s will draw in the right people, and deter those who aren’t the right fit.. <3

  50. Laura says...

    I wouldn’t ask for it to be posted, but this intrigues me to see a screenshot of Jen’s Tinder profile! I cringed while reading the therapist’s advice of writing out exactly what you want, but it’s true. I wish online dating culture valued silly comments less and sincerity more.

    • Traci says...

      Great minds think alike, Laura!

  51. Lena says...

    I didn’t use a dating app 8 years ago but I definitely had a list and “projected that into the universe”: he had to live without roommates (in NYC it was almost impossible)., he must have a washer/dryer in the building, he had to have a nice perky bum (mine is kind of flat so I really wanted our children to have nice bum gene), must be FUNNY and chivalrous. I got everything from my list – a chivalrious Brit with perky bum, a true English sense of humour, who lived in a townhouse in NJ across from Manhattan, had his own washer and dryer and who is now my husband.

    So have courage ladies, get descriptive, even if only to yourselves :)

    p.s. I wish I also put “wants to have many kids” on my list as my husband is happy with only one child.

  52. Lauren E. says...

    I missed the Tinder boat (thankfully) but it always felt like online dating was the ONLY place I could truly ask for what I wanted. I went on OKCupid initially because I was tired of casually seeing someone for two weeks and then suuuuuper cool-like mentioning that I wanted a relationship instead of a fling and watching them bolt. When I went on OKCupid I laid it all out there – I want a relationship, I want someone to rely on and someone who calls me back (really aiming high there, right?). But I met my husband shortly after I signed up! Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I’ve always had an easier time asking for what I want from behind a computer screen.

  53. Nat says...

    after a very painful breakup one thing became very clear, it’s better to focus on you than on the wrong guy. So I subconsciously worked out how I would like to feel in my new relationship and what would be the qualities that my other half would have for the relationship to work that way. And when I met him, 2.5 years later, I recognized him immediately. 10 years together this summer, expecting our third kid and I love him more and more every day. And I love me more and more every day too, for having the guts to wait and faith in things working out.

  54. I says...

    It’s one of those funny teenage things, but I made a list of what I wanted in a partner when I was 16 and then expanded it. Attraction is the important instinctual part, but sometimes the rest of your brain needs to catch up. The list helped me see that the person in front of me was who I was looking for. My husband doesn’t have everything on my list (he can’t sing at *all*) but it gave me a framework to work off of and got my expectations out there so that I knew what there are too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how cool! what a great thing to do at such a young age.

    • Ha! I did that too. I still have the list. And although I abandoned it for quite awhile, when I met the guy that ended up becoming my husband I pulled it out just to see. Turns out my 16 year-old self was pretty wise. At least about that.

    • Research warrior says...

      I also made a list in high school, but since I met my love at the grocery store, meet-cute style, I never had the chance to lay it all out there in a Tinder profile (luckily). The funny thing is, my teenage list is so shallow and random – green eyes, left handed, plays guitar – with very few personality traits or values specified. But my relationship now has everything I would have asked for on a grown-up version of the list, and coincidentally, he is also an artistic green-eyed lefty! I think there’s something to be said for being clear with the universe, in any form. ;)

  55. This is good advice for life. Figure out what you want, then ask for it. Boys, careers, apartments, lattes.

    • Amanda says...

      I want this cross-stitched on a pillow.

    • Sara says...

      I’m with you, Amanda. This doesn’t-yet-exist pillow needs to be on my bed where I can see it daily.

    • Lis says...

      Agreed, and well said.

    • Robin says...

      Fourthed!

  56. Kelly says...

    I ended a 6 year relationship, gained 15 pounds, turned 40 and assumed I was over the hill and never going to meet someone again and destined for a life alone with 12 cats — I agree with Jen that Tinder is all about the witticisms and kind of guessing (well, he’s wearing that shirt, and with the picture located in xyc he must love abc…) anyway I tried it and met some decent guys, but I’m here to tell you that I WENT ON MATCH (which I was fearful was super uncool!) and within one month — yes ONE MONTH — I met a great guy and we’ve been together now for 8 months and moving in together this summer. On one hand, if I can gain 15 pounds and immediately meet someone, I’d say anyone can — but on the other hand, gong back to Jen’s therapists suggestions, because Match allows for a slightly longer form description, it allows you to be very specific about yourself and what you are looking for!

    • Maureen says...

      YAY…Good for you! I met my husband on Match :) Had a few more superficial types to sift through first (one guy told me my profile picture was kind of boring …I was nearly 50 and not sexy enough I guess…LOL).
      When I first was contacted by my now-husband, it was almost weird because it was so easy and comfortable. He was genuine and straightforward…wanted to get to know me and even asked about my boring pic! We laugh now about some of the lines on Match about walking on the beach/parasailing/cuddling by the fire…LOL I guess different folks/different motives…

  57. Sandra says...

    I broke up with my college boyfriend when I was 29, and after flailing around in the dating world again (this was pre-Tinder) the best thing I ever did was write a list of exactly what I was looking for. When I was younger it was 100% based on attraction. Anyone I felt like kissing was boyfriend material. :-) If you get to the point where you want something long-term it helps to be a little more intentional with your dating choices.

    Although it was funny to see good-looking and tall-ish on the author’s list. I met my husband when I was 36, and by then the more superficial things had long since fallen off my list. Attractive was still important (which is more about personality than looks), but mostly I just wanted someone I clicked with, someone with a shared sense of humor. My husband is actually different in some ways than the person I expected I’d end up with (he is more politically conservative than I am), but the first time one of us made a quirky joke and the other laughed I think we knew we had long-term potential.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “the first time one of us made a quirky joke and the other laughed I think we knew we had long-term potential.” = that is so sweet, sandra.

  58. YES. Oh my gosh, this.

    Almost five years ago, when I was 25, I went through a hard time with myself that started with a break up, and I started seeing a therapist who said something similar. When we discussed what I want from life, I would say things like, “I want to get married, if I find the right person…I want to be a mom, if I find the right person…” and one day she finally just said STOP. Stop qualifying what you want. Have the confidence to say, This is who I am, this is what I want from life — even if it’s just in the mirror! Or, in this case, on a dating profile. Being upfront about what you want, with others and with yourself, increases your likelihood of finding it.

    And for the record, I did eventually find my right person to do all those things with…we just got married in November :)

    • I says...

      Ahh!! I love this.

  59. Nectar says...

    ha, i’ve gone back on tinder a week ago and I’m still stumped on what to write on my profile.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  60. Laura says...

    I’m marrying a man I met on Tinder in less than 5 months! He’s the greatest thing ever and I’m so glad I went for it! You never know what can happen!

  61. Kellie P. says...

    Ahhh! I want to know more! This was my favorite dating essay yet.

  62. shannon says...

    YES! TELL ‘EM WHAT YOU WANT (what you really really want)!

    Also…perhaps the younger male friend deserves a closer look?? Just sayin.

    • talia says...

      I thought the same about the younger male friend!

  63. Catherine says...

    Love this! I am also on Tinder, also met my ex there, also struggling to find a real connection. Ugh. Your therapist’s advice sounds so wise and terrifying, I might as well give it a try too… I’ll just need lots of wine and regular reminders that nobody’s ever died from rejection.

    And I NEED to know what happened with that guy!

    • Ashley says...

      ‘Nobody’s ever died from rejection.’
      Thank you! I needed a reminder of this today.
      I am also on the Tinder circuit (exactly what it feels like, meeting the same type of people repeatedly- nothing wrong with them but nothing that seems to go anywhere after a month or so) and I think this is where I am going wrong. I’m going to be brave and actually put myself properly out there too!

    • Catherine says...

      Yes! We can do this :)

  64. Really love this essay! I’m married and have never even used Tinder but my dating-self can totally relate. Sometimes the simplest advice is the best–and the hardest. Be yourself! Why try too hard to appeal to so many when you’re really just trying to find that person who gets you.

  65. Annie says...

    YES. This is a great essay. I’m in my thirties and have always had difficulty fitting in with the part of culture that chooses quips, witticisms, and sarcasm over sincerity. So I have happily remained — how do you say it? — #uncool. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s awesome, annie! i have a hard time too with that kind of chatty/flirty/jokey small talk. some people are really good at it, but i just want to talk regularly :) that’s why i always love chatting with older people and people’s parents haha.

    • CR says...

      I thought it was just me! :-) I thought that perhaps I was taking myself too serious and that I should relax and talk about nothing but I just can’t fake it. I also have an easier time talking to older people. The conversations are more sincere and meaningful.

  66. Martha says...

    I met my boyfriend of now 2.5 years on Tinder, and I think I definitely had a dumb quote on my profile. If I ever need to go back on the app, I think I’ll try writing what I want. Life is to short to sift through crappy partners!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s awesome, martha!

  67. Sarah King says...

    Love this! Jen, you are a funny, great writer.

  68. Rachel says...

    I absolutely love this, and it’s just what I needed to read after ending a two year relationship with someone who was only interested in what he wanted. We owe it to ourselves to own and prioritise what we want, rather than hoping the men who express an interest in us will magically turn out to be just right for us. Thanks for sharing this, and if you’re still in touch with your therapist, please thank him, too!

  69. I love this essay. I have never used Tinder, but imagine a lot of people don’t share too much – good for you setting the bar high!

  70. Jill says...

    Loved this essay, I’m sending it to some friends who are struggling with dating life right now. I’m in a very long-term relationship so I’ve never used Tinder, but I think what the author’s describing is actually true of lots of so many things in life outside of dating. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of trying to meet other people’s expectations instead of defining your own goals first.

    Also, I know this is completely missing the point of the essay, but is anyone else wondering what happened with that guy at the end?? :)

    • Everyone. Everyone is wondering what happened to the guy at the end! ?

    • Kelly says...

      What Katie said.