It’s a numbers game. It’s hopeless. People suck. I found my true love. Whatever your experience of dating is (or has been), it never hurts to get some advice from people who have spent significant time thinking about it.
FlexMami, or Lillian Ahenkan – a Sydney DJ, MTV presenter and radio host – is one of those people. She says even though everyone seems to look for love at some point in their life, there’s a real lack of nuanced conversation and objectives around dating because people are often embarrassed they’ve had to “resort” to an app to meet potential beaus. She argues that people should look at dating in much the same way as job-hunting or fixing their finances.
“It’s one of the few areas where many of us have big opinions but very few of us are putting in the practice and the work,” she tells Broadsheet.
FlexMami took part in Dating: a Survival Guide, a talk at the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House, in March 2019. She was joined by author and podcaster Sami Lukis, who discussed sex and dating for people over 40, and Alexandra Tweten, creator of Bye Felipe, a podcast, book and Instagram account calling out dudes who turn hostile when rejected or ignored. The event was hosted by Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby.
What follows is FlexMami’s advice so you can have a more successful dating life.
Stop passively dating, be active in the narrative of your life
“A lot of people have this picture of who their perfect partner is, and are waiting for people to come into their life who achieve that goal. Waiting for people to orbit you and enter your life and then assess whether they’re appropriate for dating is the wrong way to do it.
The consequence of passively dating is that you only allow people who orbit you and approach you to enter the circle, which naturally means you haven’t chosen them, they’ve chosen you, which means you’re settling – a terrible foundation for any relationship. You’d never settle for friends.
You need to approach people, start conversations, ask people out. People don’t want to do that, and I understand that, but that means you won’t get results in the way you want them. Stop waiting for the thing to happen – you need to be active in the narrative of your story.
Also, think about what you’re looking for – do you want someone to challenge you emotionally, or challenge you mentally? Do you want a life partner? What are you actually after? Being assertive about that is really hard for a lot of people because they’re just happy to be chosen. Figure out what you want.”
Be open to human experience, don’t block it off
“People stigmatise connection and online dating but it is fun to share affection [and] to share your life with someone so be excited about it – even if you come across someone you don’t think is your person.
So when you date do things that are fun and stuff you don’t normally do. Maybe that’s going to a nice new restaurant or playing badminton.
What I’m saying is don’t block yourself off or become submissive to experiences. Online dating apps are a good way to challenge that and can be a way to test your skills. It gives you access to people outside of your small world and subverts what we’ve all learned, which is sit still and your person will come. Your person is not coming because they’ve learnt the same thing as you [which is to wait]. What are we all waiting for?
Also, [your dating experience] is affected by any insecurities and misreadings … If you’re pursuing dating with an inflated sense of ego – thinking you’re super entitled and don’t feel you should try – you will start to believe that, and everyone who could be an option is not good enough, tall enough, or smart enough.
We spend a lot of time projecting fantasies and we need to get out and into reality ... Try and think of the whole experience as quite nice, because when you start to date you realise people are all just looking for their person – they hope it’s you too. And sometimes it’s not and sometimes it is. Worst case scenario, block them and move on.”
Look inwards and ask, “What am I bringing to the table?”
“Are the things you’re asking for in your grasp? For example, you want someone emotionally intelligent and yet you play games every time you interact with them. You want someone who will communicate clearly, but you won’t even say hello worrying whether it’ll be weird, or whatever.
I suggest taking the Attachment Style test by Diane Poole Heller. It looks at the way you attach to someone and how you interact with your parents and authority figures.”
“My most important advice is to be shameless. We fall into the trap of investing time into the wrong people, and often that is because we project so much on them. Instead, build a foundation by asking shameless questions and telling them what you want. You may start to believe the negative self-talk when you could simply ask them what they are thinking.
Instead of internalising things, share them with the person, so you can either remove them from the dialogue, or simply make yourself feel better. Get it out of your system. For example, you might think he looked [at you] funny during sex and you take that to mean he doesn’t like curvy women. It might not be that at all – he could have just pulled a muscle in his leg.”
Be strategic, pay for the app
“You’ve got to be in it to win it – it’s a numbers game. But because dating apps work by creating an addiction – you need to swipe to see who has liked you – you can get frustrated.
A friend of mine told me to pay for dating apps. I said I’m not investing in that, and then I looked at what else I pay for Spotify, astrology apps and I pay for an Uber when I could just walk for 10 minutes. …
You’re busy, you have lots of things to do. If you pay for the dating service you can see everyone who likes you, which now means you can see everyone who has matched you … it cuts the addiction and guesswork out. Reroute that Tequila Sunrise money and put it in an app, even if it’s for a month.”
WANT MORE ADVICE?
Alexandra Tweten says:
“Always be your most authentic self, not what you think the other person wants. If they don't like the genuine you, they’re not the right one for you.”
Sami Lukis says:
“Be honest and upfront about what you’re looking for. Dating in our forties and fifties is very different to dating in our twenties and thirties, when many of us were searching for a husband/wife/baby-daddy/baby-mumma. Not everyone in the 40-plus dating game is looking for a serious relationship and plenty of divorcees don’t ever want to get married again. Some are just looking for casual companionship or a “situationship”. If you’re honest about your dating intentions from the start, it’ll avoid heartbreak later on.”
Myffy Rigby says:
“Get off the app as soon as possible, and meet in person. There's no point creating a fantasy persona in your mind. You’ll always be disappointed. Send the first message, and send something funny. No one’s going to thank you for waiting. If they don’t reply, then they’re a waste of your time anyway.
Don’t freak out about what you’re wearing and what they’ll think of your outfit. Be comfortable and confident. That’s so much more attractive than a new pair of shoes. And expect the worst, and be pleasantly surprised. It’s likely the person on the other end is thinking the same. Online dating is a hot human soup.”