Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: A 21st Century Guide to Dating

For the 21st-century love seeker, this article provides 10 questions that shine a light on true compatibility and what to look for in yourself, as well as partners.

21st Century Guide to Dating

This article explores the misadventures of online matchmaking by taking a closer look at what compatibility really is. Getting past the digital profile to who you really are is easier said than done. But by becoming your own emotional detective, you can discover what you need in a partner and use dating apps to their full potential. For the 21st-century love seeker, this article provides 10 questions that shine a light on true compatibility and what to look for in yourself, as well as partners.

While dating apps create endless romantic possibilities, compatibility can seem hard to find. Rejection, uninspiring dates and failed relationships make it easy to become disillusioned. But is this matchmaking tech falling short of expectations, or is a human problem the source of our lackluster love lives?

Internet or no internet, romantic gatekeeping is nothing new. Along with physical attraction, a ton of characteristics determine chemistry, and we're selective of our partners (or at least we try). But while many believe they know compatibility when they see it, unrealistic expectations of dating and relationships are common. And as it turns out, it's a cultural problem.


Don't Confuse Who You Are with What You Have

21st Century Guide to Dating

Inside and outside the dating world, we often confuse who we are with what we have. Adjectives that might describe what we do and like become nouns, or labels we wear to create a sense of identity. A person might say: “I am an architect,” “I am a music lover,” or “I am a dancer.” Self-prescribing identity with labels is helpful because it gives us meaning. But despite the benefit, labels are like belongings; they're what you have, not who you are.

You have preferences in music, style, restaurants, entertainment, pets, seasons, and more. You have passions and callings, careers and longings. But sharing “haves” with a partner pales in comparison to sharing the kind of person you are inside.

You are complex, with unique emotional needs, personality nuances, and values. And these traits are distinct from what you have, which gets to the trouble with online matchmaking.

When you make a dating profile, you're creating a self-portrait. You're hardwired to want someone like you, and labels help (i.e., I'm a people person, Beyoncé fan, and dog walker). And while it leads to common ground, your labels also overemphasize what you have vs. who you are.


Find Compatibility by Challenging the Status Quo

Sex enters the equation. You've stopped growing together before discovering greater compatibility. And an unsuccessful relationship that wasn't meant to be, actually never should have been in the first place. Reality fails to meet expectations.

But rarely do we question our expectations when it comes to love. Finding compatibility means challenging that status quo. Define yourself beyond the labels and ask reflective questions, and from that, find what you need in others.

You have to be your own emotional detective, and this comes from doing a self-assessment of your own traits (and how they might relate to a partner). And if you're unsure, that's totally normal.

10 Questions to Ask Yourself


So, before you dive in to find your perfect partner in the online dating arena, here's a list of 10 questions to ask yourself:

How open do you need your partner to talk about their true thoughts and feelings?



Many couples feel some things are best left unsaid, while others have a policy of total honesty. Your answer might be somewhere in between. 

Do you need a partner that appreciates space and alone time?



You might. And in fact, many relationships fail because one partner feels suffocated by the other.

Do you need consistent affection and affirmation to feel loved and valued by your partner?



There is no such thing as a “clingy” person. To feel valued, you might need more attention. And that's 100% OK.

How important is it that your partner share religious beliefs or deep-rooted values?



Some ideas make up the fabric of who we are. 

How do you show love?



Everyone has their own love language. To feel loved, some people need physical affection and other people need to hear it in words.

How important is sex to you?



People express intimacy in different ways and degrees. Being on the same page as your partner is the cornerstone of any relationship.

How do you handle conflict and what do you need in a partner to find resolution?



Know yourself and be honest.

How do you handle conflict and what do you need in a partner to find resolution?



Couples have different boundaries from social lives to careers.

What do you want out of a relationship?



Everyone has different goals, whether that's marriage, kids, or none of the above.

What kind of personality do you have?



Consider the type of person that might compliment your emotional state and extraversion.

Know Yourself and What You Need in a Partner

It takes time to know yourself and what you need in a partner. But understanding what compatibility is not, before deciphering what it means to you, is a great first step. In this sense, don't play romantic gatekeeper with interests and preferences. “Must love dogs” is not a love qualifier; it's a bonus.

Dating can seem more complicated than it needs to be in today's world. If you feel disheartened, you're not alone. But unlike ever before, you have more opportunities to find compatible partners. Sift past the fluff and know yourself. You'll unlock true compatibility.

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