14 June 2021
In looking for someone else, I found myself: dating and self-discovery
There are many benefits to dating beyond the obvious reasons why someone might be looking for a significant other or sexual partner. Dating can be used as a way to get to know yourself - your sexuality, your personal boundaries, desires, and goals. Lisa Moroz, a sex researcher, shares stories from people who have gotten to know themselves better through dating others.
What we see in others is often a reflection of ourselves. Sometimes we may feel irritated when someone exhibits behavior that we have trouble accepting in our own lives.Or we might admire someone else for presenting themselves in a way that we wish we could.. Our perception of another individual can shift depending on our mood. When we try to hide our negative emotions, we might come off as distant and chilly. And when we approach life with a positive outlook, our chances of falling in love actually go up. Knowing this, you can use your perspective to your advantage and learn more about yourself by opening yourself to new experiences. That's exactly what happened to the participants who were interviewed.
“I had no idea I had that much passion inside of me.”
Nadine. 24 years old. Designer.
“I used to think of myself as a plain Jane with an ordinary, dull life. Before I discovered dating apps, there was little to no room for love or sex. But then it just happened! I downloaded an app and started randomly chatting with strangers. I quickly discovered that I can actually hold a conversation on any subject. I had no idea that I could be so comfortable. When it came to sexting, I was shy in the beginning, and actually had to google some phrases while chatting. After some time and practice, sexting became so comfortable for me that it reawakened my own fantasies. Sexting made communicating my fantasies easier and I even got to put some of them into action! I had various sexual experiences throughout my two years of active dating - doing it in the park and in the car, with women and men - and now I know exactly what I like. I ditched my shame, gained confidence, and rediscovered my libido. ”
“I am enough and worthy of love.”
Anton. 32 years old. Programmer.
“I've always struggled with my self-esteem. Having a low self-image made it difficult for me to be myself around women. I was always trying to please them or win their approval, even if the way I went about it felt wrong and uncomfortable. After recieving some postive responses from women I used to flirt with, I worked up the courage to see if they would still like me if I acted like myself and not like someone else. I tried to be more open with the people I talked to, I shared more of my authentic self and my values. I became more open about my thoughts on dating culture and masculine emotions.. To my surprise, I wasn't rejected! The more I practiced, the more confident I grew. I eventually realized that people liked me for who I was, not simply because I was a convenient "real man" who bought gifts and took care of everything.”
“It turns out feminists can be bottoms too.”
Alina. 25 years old. Copywriter.
“I'm a feminist. I always screen my dates before I go out with them to make sure there are no sexists who believe they can control me just because I'm a woman. One day, though, my screening process didn't work. I was on a date with a guy who immediately started asserting his dominance over me: he ordered food for both of us without asking what I wanted and mocked me when I wanted to split the bill. As a feminist, I was outraged. But underneath my outrage, I noticed I also felt aroused. As I thought about it later that day, I wondered if I might want to explore a dominant/submissive experience. Why not? So I started looking for guys who shared my interest. There were quite a few like minded people on Pure! After exploring this idea, I learned that I actually love being a bottom. It doesn't change my values and not all tops are sexist. That had been an assumption I’d made that was incorrect. Now I get to enjoy myself in a whole new way.”
“Different people see you differently - use it to your advantage.”
Ira. 24 years old. Theatre director.
“You may miss out on a number of opportunities if you take dating too seriously. Receiving honest feedback and, if necessary, making changes in yourself can be really beneficial. We don’t see ourselves the way others see us! I recently started going to the gym to feel better about my physical appearance. In general, I think I am really motivated to grow, and part of growing for me is taking criticism. I used to strive to impress others with my knowledge, talents, and interesting stories. Not everyone was interested in what I had to say or share, but some people shared my interests or even suggested new hobbies and topics I might explore. I find that through connecting with others my world expands: I try new workouts, language courses, I read new books, and attend conferences. The point for me is to keep growing and changing.”
“Use dating to broaden your horizons.”
Lesha. 23 years old. Marketer.
“There was a time when I knew nothing about gender identity, people outside of the gender binary, or personal pronouns aside from she/her/he/him. My reality had been so narrow minded. If I heard someone say something about gender identities beyond the binary I dismissed it as if it were nonsense, philosophical musings by people who had nothing better to do. I had no idea what I was in for! I once went on a date with someone I had assumed to be a girl who told me that she was gender fluid - she identified as both male and female. I was skeptical but also incredibly intrigued. By learning more about my dates’ life and their perspective on gender, identity, and society I found a kindness within myself that I hadn’t realized was there before. By meeting someone new, I was able to see qualities in myself that I’d never seen before.”
"I think I'm bisexual."
Lena. 28 years old. Journalist.
“I felt lonely when I moved to a new country, so I decided to make friends using a dating app. I was talking with both boys and girls. I had no goal of starting a relationship. I met new people, got to know them, and had a good time. But, over time, I began to notice that I found the girls I spent time with attractive in a way I hadn’t noticed before - I was drawn to them, and I wanted to touch, kiss, and care for them. I wasn't afraid, rather, I was intrigued. This had never happened to me before, but then again, I hadn’t dated much prior. So, I started putting it to the test. In my bio, I mentioned that I was bi-curious. And that's how it started. Since then, I've met amazing women who have showed me the world of lesbian sex and relationships. As a result, I became comfortable with myself as a bisexual woman. If I hadn’t stepped outside my comfort zone, I never would have discovered all the ways that I can connect with people."
“I’ve realized that I want freedom.”
Katerina. 30 years old. IT specialist.
“For as long as I could remember, I'd been looking for a serious boyfriend. I’d dated multiple men looking to get married and I was pretty much obsessed with an idea for my life that for one reason or another never seemed to work out. On one date, a guy asked me, "why do you want a relationship so bad?" I didn't know what to say and that got me thinking. I admitted to myself that I really wanted a relationship because I thought it would improve my social status. I thought being a married woman sounded better than "I'm single". It’s not that I wanted to start a family, I was just terrified of being alone, and I felt that starting a family was a way to escape my fear. It's excruciating to learn that you've been lying to yourself for years but it’s also a liberating experience. I suddenly realized that I wasn't ready for marriage, that I wasn't ready to commit to one person, and that I didn't even know what I wanted. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to learn when you go out on a date. I feel fortunate to have discovered more of myself through dating. Life does not end if you’re not married by the age of 30, actually, quite the opposite. I can't believe I used to think I'd end up being an old maid with cats! Now I have a whole new universe to explore and I get to appreciate my independence. I'm happy to see how supportive people are of my freedom.”
*This article was originally published in Russian.