On tinder and relationships

16/08/2020: And empirical take on Sternberg's duplex theory of Love with an introduction inspecting whether Tinder is as terible for men as most studies assert. It's long.

I quite obviously started writing this post long before its release date, approximately three months before the one on gaming. The reason for the long uninterrupted pause in writing can be attributed to three factors:

All of these, I am somewhat proud of, although there were obstacles along the way. Important life decisions were made, recovery from the very last surgery for a while had to be completed, serotonin syndrome had to be undergone, relationship crisis required facing in an uncompromising way, even some alcohol had to be drunk. But since 2020 started, unlike others, I have been regaining control of my life. It started with building healthier relationships, restoring old friendships, and lead to my accepting of personal failures that accumulated over the last thirty months but were overshadowed by success of graduation and despair of cancer diagnosis.

None of this came to me free of charge, though. I had to make choices. Some of these required going through emotional distress and arriving at initially unwanted realisations. At this point, they all seem to have paid off in the end. Despite the pain caused to others in their result. And yes, I only mention others second this time around. Because in all honesty, I am the one I will be forced to live with for the rest of the life. So, while there are social institutions in place around me, and which please everybody in my vicinity, It is my choice and my choice alone whether to continue contributing to their further progression.

To be clearer, you can view every friendship, romantic relationship, club membership, and even academic or professional affiliation as a social institution, regardless of its stage. By shortlisting a university, you are contributing to its prestige, as a student, you influence its league table position, once you go for a PhD, their teaching ratings depend on you, and even once you leave, their alumni profile reflects your legacy.

And its the same with romantic relationships. Attraction to someone affects one's behaviour, which may or may not be spotted, having crush affects the potential dating value of an individual, revealing it to your friends might reduce the dating pool of said crush, and so on. It is not easy to get through this web of interactions, especially due to the factor of asymmetric, or (especially among adolescents) even imperfect, information.

Obviously, looking at it this way is not exactly right or convenient. You should understand your strengths and be keen to show them off while approaching the partner. But being aware of what you might cause and how you might be judged by the society where, somehow, having a strong opinion is important for survival, you probably find it better to stay put and wait for a hint obvious enough. Or not.

But the former holds for me and caused me to spend more time in relationships that could have happened than those that actually did. And I suppose that is one of my stories of love, should I Build on top of Sternberg's duplex theory of love. Platonism in relationships plays significant role, acting as a condition for love. Not that I would never try building relationship from the physical side, it was time that taught me how important a prerequisite admiration is to my forming of a sustainable adult relationship.

The key difficulty resulting from that is that admiration can transform into worship and worship puts dating almost out of question. It is just too difficult to approach that cute girl from my class who always has her answer to whatever question is asked written down almost immediately but never raises hand. And that despite my own reputation as a mentor to juniors and chaperone to peers.

Even though I did manage to initiate contact in person and build it into a relationship in few instances, it more often than not lead to finding out about lack of compatibility or misunderstanding of each other's essence. Tinder, on the other hand, helped me find out what kind of girls were out there, realise that not all of them used the app for NSA encounters, remain candid through the zero-impression, align expectation, and prepare for making the first impression in person.

How to Tinder

With this use case in mind, there are few rules to follow to avoid the undesired.

While the success rate was very low nonetheless, but there were some very interesting experiences. Ones I was of reminded while reading Sternberg and ones that go beyond human imagination.

Personal Experience

You might need an illustrative timeline to get through the following

The very first one

In person, 2 months with a 2-year brea in the middle, recovery story

We were classmates. I was a smart slacker with rather harsh attitude toward my surroundings, especially the girls. She was there when I joined and she was unconventionally pretty, unconventionally smart, and had awesome sense of humour. There was nothing about her not to like, in particular as a friend.

The next important bit was how similar our socioeconomic background was. She also had her share of life and emotional experience, even back then. Not as much as me, though. I was broken. And I think it was fairly obvious. After the three months of mutual interest, many hints, and colourful fantasies, it was her, who grabbed my hand in the darkness of closed-down swimming pool lobby.

Before, and well enough even after, I progressed a lot. I started actually liking things. And people. My grades improved and I cared about shit other than my fucked-up past for the first time since years before. She opened me up. And I was happy, and I loved her endlessly for it. I wanted to give back and I was giving more than she could take, especially from someone with history of volatility issues. That was why she ended it right after Christmas break.

And in retrospect, she was right to do so. But then, it hurt. It hurt to the extent that I made a 360. I cried like crazy, left the campus on the day, got two-week suspension for it, was ordered to go home every Wednesday and banned from staying over weekends. And that was not helpful since being at home caused more instability and staying at grandma contributed to my turning into an uncontrollable vessel. I was expelled in April. And it was my fault.

Two years later, we tried it again, and from what I perceived, it was cool. We went to a zoo, I stayed over at hers, made my time to visit her weekly, enjoyed most of it. But she could not take it, for whatever reason, and broke up with me again. And then stopped showing any emotions, which I had difficulty understanding. I had to go, I had to move on. And move on I did, by vanishing from her life for good. And even though I received a letter full of tears, I knew resuming contact would lead to nothing but more false hope, more unrequited love, more mixed signals, and more pain.

I still bare her memory with me and remember her as my first love of sorts. We were too young and too far apart geographically. But I do not think I want to see her again.

The rebound

In person, 3 months, collection -> art story

It was during my uncontrollable time. She had seen me at senior prom of my older classmates, was a friend of a friend, and she reportedly liked me. It took me a short while to look her up and meet up later. Our first date was the only time I bought girl a flower. We went out couple of times and discovered each other physically, to a degree. I saw a really pretty girl in her and did not mind our differences. From what I know, she was in it for experience.

But to full-on love her, there were barriers. Direction of the relationship was absent, she was losing interest over time, and I was still too much into my previous story. So, she ended it. But only after I had already gone through the hardest phase of social position reassessment.

The one that wanted me

In person, never actually happened, art story -> garden story

Being the new kid in a year group and a class that have both been established for a while is not a thing I wouldn't be used to. We used to move around pretty frequently: from my maternal grandparents' home in Prague to an affordable flat off the city limits, to what used to be an only pub and store in a countryside hamlet, to house my aunt moved out of, to an airy uptown flat, then a tiny flat in a massive housing estate, and finally to a comfortable terraced villa near the city limits, from where I've been jumping around from to the UK, the Netherlands, and whatever is next.

This time was different, though: I did not change schools because of moving, and I felt like I needed to make a good impression out there. So I started trying to make everyone think that I'm just like all of them. I was not, though. My parents were not rich, I couldn't wear A&F or Superdry nor had I the money for the technology I was interested that all the others had. I was not a sports champion nor high performer in public competitions. And in spite of all my lies and pretence, it was probably notable.

She could tell but did not really mind, probably because her background was not too different, and she understood the difficulties of blending in. We had our lunches together in a nearby school refectory, talked a lot, even visited tearooms together with others. And I could tell she had her interest in me all the way through the end of high school. But I knew I could not really awaken the right feelings in me no matter how hard I tried. Still, she kept moving around, displaying her love through contribution to my wellbeing and the enormous number of favours for which I am very grateful. But no, I did not ask these of her. Maybe once or twice.

That was the first time I rejected a girl. Never directly, people knew, though. They kept nudging us closer together. And even though our stories were very much aligned, I did not have my feelings under control then. Not enough to have stable relationship. As much as it felt bad have, we moved on since then, though. And that is fine.

The one that lost me

Facebook, 2 months virtual, in-person meetings around it, long-lasting non-descript relationship otherwise, Recovery story

She was 11, scared, and new to a boarding school I had been expelled 5 months earlier. Her story was grim but her heart pure and mind bright. Having wallet identical to that of a friend and a former classmate of mine, she struck up a conversation with him and tried to bond with him. A kind Christian boy, one she would still not expect any wrongdoing. She was right but for him being rather introverted and mostly engaged with the closest of his classmates, he was not entirely capable of investing the massive amount of time and attention she sought to compensate for.

He mentioned this in front of me and since I was going through an uneasy time, understanding how difficult it must have been for her, I texted her. And I gave her as much as I could, at least in the virtual space. She obviously started to have strong feelings about and toward me, which I appreciated but had to streamline into more of a brotherly, even fatherly, relationship. I was there when she needed, listened when she struggled, made up bedtime stories for her, motivated her, and did all I could to support her shaken existence. We even met couple of times. I gave her hugs, we spoke little, and it felt great.

It did not take too long before it got better. Her confidence grew, problems slowly changed, our communication wavered between periods of her giving life full attention and her school year and upbringing of her grandmother with a past success of bringing up a methamphetamine junkie and a non-violent violent offender that spend good time in prison. I felt proud of her with each and every bit of her success.

When she was fourteen, I was slowly starting to have little different feelings for her. She was growing up. She developed an intriguing side, to which I really liked. She developed interests some of which were like mine and others, through which she learned skills I came to admire.

The summer after, we even almost called it a relationship, but I was going through another wave of difficulties. We went out for a walk around Prague along with her mother and her Flemish close friend, maybe more than a friend. It was fun and I really fell for her then. But it was not the right time. She could not deal with my depression. Although she had been there too. That hurt but I could not demand such a thing from a woman that was still half kid.

Recovering required time and it was me who took a break. Doorslam. Resentful but necessary.

We crossed paths once more. It was much quicker and contained romantic element from the beginning. But after a while, she felt a need to experience more, plenty more, and more than just me. I tried taking it for another while, struggling to hold together with all the heartbreak and continuing love of both parental and passionate nature. Scary. But we had a conversation that made me realise that I really had no longer a place in the life of hers because she just no longer appreciated me. Too self-interested and indifferent to impact of her actions on others.

And that may be good. Because she seems alright now. And I am still proud of it. Even though the last time we texted, two years after our preceding parting, I realized I no longer like her for her heart or wit. Practically, she became a normal young adult girl with fairly normal interests, marginally normal boyfriend, and who knows what else. And that is good. And I am proud that I played some role on her path. She is not for me, though.

The mutual crush we never talked about

In person, did not happen, business story

Among all the people in our year group, there was only a handful of protruding personalities. The tiny dreadlocked pirate, the bro-girl, the smart and knowledgeable one, the Queen of England, and myself, I guess.

An independent observer could tell that about a year into my presence at the institution, the latter two shared some interests, knew they were unique and probably even suited to each other, and even hinted teach other from time to time. Trouble is that I was not confident or rich enough to be able to make it.

And when it seemed I was, through a set of means, it just was not right anymore. Because I overplayed it with the other girls through opportunist actions at that point. Do I regret that\? Somewhat. I just really missed some affection and looked around to get some. Anything. And with all of them, I would happily make affairs develop into something lasting.

Well, the others were never really interested in that, and she, the one that could be, did not really want to be with a slut. And to go through the initiation that was among my means back then.

The one that fixed me

In person, 5 months, sewing & knitting -> business story

Half way through my studies in the United Kingdom, a Dutch girl dropped into a conversation I had with international student group counsellor, right after I mentioned 9gag. Turns out she liked me and was happy to accept my date proposal. We went bowling before taking a long walk through Plymouth central park. She straight up took me to her dorm where we browsed 9gag for a while and made out a little later. I was interested in continuing the story and so we did, except she took it as more of an opportunity detached from her life. Especially because I told her too much truth about me too soon.

So, my all-out approach, great for removing any kind of future disappointment, blew everything up before it began. Yet, the relationship became full of feelings, enjoyable activities, walking, and all that I wanted from it.

Departing at the end of the year, she established that we are no longer together, and we decided to call the experience a summer love. The last time I saw her was in Brussels a month later when we decided to share an extra weekend. And it was awesome, and I loved everything about it, including the city, which I had until then resented for its being a capital of a non-country and a seat of all the EU administration body snobs. And I took in every minute of it.

The last ten made me miss a bus to the airport, and an empty phone battery forced me to seek a Brussels City Taxi. The guy I was referred to due to his specialization in the 60-kilometre Bruxelles Sud to Charleroi trips drove his Citroën Berlingo at 180 kilometres per hour, which caused the car to seem like it was going to fall apart. It did not and I got there 15 minutes before my flight's scheduled departure, which was perfectly fine with the €10 security check priority and the fact that Charleroi is a fairly small airport. So, those ten minutes cost me a total of €200. 33 cents a second. And it would be absolutely worth it had the airplane not had 2-hour delay.

The one with my best friend

In person, off and on totalling 3 months, multiple stories

This one had been dragging on for ages. The first time, I heard about her from my cousin, her year 3 classmate. Time went by and she joined the same boarding school as I did, went to the first swimming club session I did, and we spoke some. She bit my hand. And I liked the plenty of craziness we shared. Then came the social pressure.

My classmates and immediate peers did not pay me much respect for anything I did or was into. I mean, there were some and at this point, I know I can do with few but at a boarding school, this kind of stuff is really important. On the other side of the hierarchy were aces, people who got involved in student government and clubs leadership. And their opinion mattered. It just was that way.

She may had been an ace back then, but she was one of the youngest among them. Through the seniority principle, I cowardly dreaded the prospect of slump in my social value. So I went on to battle the feelings. When I gained value, there was one mutual attempt at something but the same people who now accepted me displayed their concern. And I was a coward again and boy, did she hate me for it.

It was like having two knives embedded in my chest, probably just in case my heart was on the right. Because I was weird enough for that. She may had been still just a kid but she had already had a lot on her plate like I did, known how to show her empathy, and maybe even liked me.

Only after the very first one, when opinion of the aces no longer mattered to me, did I decide to go for it. And it looked great, for about a week and a half. In particular because I was no longer the only boy in her life, and because I was more problematic than the others. There was a deep connection, though, no denying that. That's why there were intermittent sparks. Usually followed by doorslams, with one taking little over two years. My typical period, I suppose. Though the very last one was not my play.

Second act is set about two months into my first year of studies in Ostrava. I was looking up a flatmate on facebook and similarity of their names rendered her name on top of the results. So I texted her, found out she had a relationship with a guy working in Germany. And I guess I had her torn between him and myself.

He was older, richer, and much closer to her than I was. And he was into marihuana, which I did not really like, but in her case, I suppose it was justified. I was just a student. Smarter but less coordinated in terms of what I wanted.

Still, we tried it together. But the distance and my purist insistence she stops smoking weed and gets to the levels of smart we were always forced toward were not a great thing to be going on in a relationship nor the thing she really needed.
It hurt, though. But the doorslam that followed did not make as much noise as they usually do. It was more agreed than declared. But it was legit.

Then we connected again, about 9 months later, around the time I started therapy and got stuff sorted the one that lost me decided to not be with me for the first time. I visited her at home, some 200 km from my Prague location and things looked alright and it was for the first time we both openly established that we are more friends than anything else.

Throughout that period, things were moving from bad to worse and I did my best to support her, although she was dealing with it herself, somewhat. And while it is a cliché we hate, I feel like saying that it had proven her strength.

She helped me a lot, too. I was pondering my true sexual orientation and she was the one person I was able to talk with openly.

Eventually, things got better for her and somewhat more difficult for me. I had trouble dealing with a full-time job alongside being an international student, pretty much only visiting home. There was a high demand for me, I had written an article about it.

Anyway, it ended with me asking for time off. Basically another doorslam. Not very well justified, I know. At least, relatively to all the other breaks we had, and those in other stories in this article, it was a short one. Less than nine months later, we met during an easter holiday, discussed our stability, relationships, and ended up kissing. We thought we should probably give it a go and so we did. But it just wasn't what either of us needed. And that just kept hanging in the air. Not very long after that, when I had already left to finish my senior year of studies, she found a great man, you could say the right one. On Tinder. I like him too and spending time with them, doing whatever.

The one with a sociopath

Tinder, 8 weeks, garden -> collection story

Even the single one night stand I had ended up in a twisted attempt for a relationship. When you meet someone on Tinder, things go by market rules. The first impression sets the perceived value of either individual and the degree of frustration or sex-drive or whatever may as well represent your propensity to commitment. You make one point on the supply curve in the market for your gender as well as one point on the demand curve in the market for gender you are interested in. What you need is therefore a simultaneous constrained equilibrium across two markets, about which you have none and imperfect information, respectively.

The imperfect information is caused by the first-impression effect. Suppose you make that of a cool and calm guy that you are, and she magically decides to talk about stuff that is somewhat personal. But then the 'only had one boyfriend' forms into 'had sex with 10 people' and you become somewhat wary. Regardless, agree on trying it out with her, because you were literally the only one to leave some mark on the armour covering her emotional being. Because you think there is one. Except there is not. And you are disappointed and commence to assume you are a really bad deal in your supply market.

Well, the next time she came from England, it ended up with me actually shown her and her sister to the hostel, which was rude and did not make me particularly satisfied with myself, but not more rude than they were.

The one that was for the show

In person, lasted a year, student-teacher -> addiction story

No matter how cute an impression you and your partner make on the surroundings, it is usually not worth it once it merely crosses your mind that it might be just for the show, regardless of whether it is you, who is the one in love.

Trouble is that breakups are hard. Especially when your counterpart in the pact persists with denial and bargaining that is unavoidable when you cannot just let them shake it off in private because they live 1000 miles away and their only place to go besides your place is a hostel downtown. And forcing somebody you deeply care about despite not loving them is not appropriate. We played this game for 9 months. Every time we had seen each other, I brought up that our relationship should come to an end, then the - verbal or non-verbal - "at least sleep with me" suggestion came up from the other side, I caved and she assumed that my breakup intentions were gone for ever. Or at least for the moment. Because sex fixes everything, right\?

Not really. For some people, maybe. But without romantic motivation, I perceive it most meaningless. Having a stunning girl for NSA might earn you bragging rights, especially in the United Kingdom, and you might or might not have a period of physical ease, based on how used to it you are. For me, the latter never comes when I do not feel absolutely open and myself in the presence of the person.

The one that came after all the pain

Tinder, 8 months and counting, sewing & knitting -> fantasy story

And the current one. With plenty of great memories, time spent together, mutual support, and interesting projects. If things will continue going on like this, you'll definitely hear more about this one.