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'Situationships' and 'Ghosting' - The mental health impacts of modern day dating

From dating fatigue to the sting of rejection, even the most confident daters are not immune to the negative effects of dating on psychological and emotional well-being. And for those who struggle with self-worth, these effects can be especially harmful.

If you’ve ever been confused about where you stand with someone you have a romantic interest or investment in, it’s possible you’ve fallen victim to a “situationship.” Or, if a potential partner went silent with no warning or explanation—you might have been “ghosted.” These terms have snowballed in recent years, cementing themselves as a new type of relationship status in modern dating culture.

But these types of vague relationships can be more than just confusing to the people involved—in fact, experts say they can sometimes have a profound impact on a person’s mental health, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety and deflated self-esteem.

It seems as though, with the rise of online dating apps, these undefined relationships are becoming the new normal.

According to social researchers, “Online dating has produced some of the most profound and widespread changes to traditional courtship that have been seen in decades—namely, its effects on fundamental interpersonal processes.”

“People have access to more options than ever, so much so that a single option feels disposable,” says author and CEO of Plum Dating and author of The Love Gap Jenna Birch. “This often leaves people second-guessing themselves and wondering if they could have done better. We place a higher value on the things we have to work for, or the things we take a risk to get.”

In a culture of dispensability, where relationships are recycled and dates ordered from a menu of options, it is easy to become disillusioned with the whole process.

If you are armed with knowledge, realistic expectations and most importantly, a heavy dose of self-compassion, it is possible to avoid—or at least minimize—some of the pitfalls and to date smarter, without compromising your self-esteem and emotional well-being.

Here are some tips for looking after yourself while out in the minefield of online dating:

  1. If you are feeling low generally, it is important to avoid dating apps so as not to exacerbate the situation

  2. Only use dating apps when you are feeling resilient enough to deal with the rejections and your body and mind will tell you if you do.

  3. Be clear on the sort of person you are looking for so that you don't waste your time pursuing people who don't match it, eg someone who shares the same values as you.

  4. Be open-minded as you go about talking to people online. Not everybody has great online communication skills, humour or confidence.

  5. Be compassionate; you get back what you give out. Being kind helps others and helps your mental wellbeing, too.

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