‘After 50 dates I no longer believe in love’

“No man sticks,” says Leonie (34) after more than fifty dates. Looking for that one nice man is an attack on her self-image and she now has a love-hate relationship with Tinder

Single again

“Ended three years ago Jurgen and I after twelve years of our relationship. Jurgen was able to continue living in our house and I bought an apartment in the city with the help of my parents. How happy I was those first months! I could do whatever I wanted, I didn’t have to tiptoe anymore, and for the first time in my life I had my own place that I decorated entirely to my own taste.

Then came Tinder

The first months I was rarely alone. I invited colleagues, cooked with friends or made sure I was somewhere under the tiles. Until the holiday season came and all my friends and colleagues made their own plans. They went on vacation with their partner and family, and suddenly I was alone on the couch night after night. To break the routine, I booked a mini vacation with my sister and sister-in-law on Texel. It was delicious. But when I put my bags in the hall on my return and no one was there to ask how I had been, I really felt a bit lonely for the first time. That evening I installed Tinder on my phone. I wanted another man in my life, someone to sit on the couch with, chat with and have sex with. That last one was really an eternity ago.

Apps and photos

Tinder opened up a world for me. What an offer! I saw men with dogs, beards, children, a dumbbell or a beer in their hand, swiping past. Often with only three lines of text, which didn’t make it all that easy. In any case, it is difficult to choose which man you want to talk to, because what do photos actually say? I handed out likes here and there and got a few (super) likes back. And so the first matches were born.

The first man I could have a nice chat with was Raymond. We had the same sense of humor and he also turned out to have an interesting job. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet live soon. Because he was abroad for work, there was about ten days between our first contact and the real date. Ten days in which he texted, sent photos and even called twice to ask how I was doing. Although we hadn’t seen each other yet, the movie of the two of us was already playing in my head. I couldn’t help it. Imagined introducing this man to my girlfriends or to my parents… On holiday together… Oh, and didn’t he mention he had a caravan? On Sunday afternoon it was time. At his request we agreed to drink coffee in ‘t Gooi, on a terrace on the heath. For me that location was almost an hour away, for him only five minutes by bike. Yet he arrived too late.

The moment he walked onto the terrace and raised his hand, I was shocked. This couldn’t be him! On my Tinder profile I had clearly written that I like tall men; I am 1.78 meters and do not want to tower over a man. However, Raymond was a full head shorter than me and didn’t even look like the pictures on Tinder. I tried not to show my disappointment too much and just make it a nice cup of coffee. That turned out to be quite a task. When we sat across from each other, there were awkward silences and we found few leads for conversation. After an hour I drove home, one illusion poorer but one experience richer. That first date taught me that you shouldn’t have too much contact before meeting someone. Because then you will project all your wishes onto that person and your imagination will run away with you. But ‘little contact beforehand’ is also difficult, because you want to know what kind of meat you have in the tub before you drive off city and country.

Wrong men

In the evening my phone was working overtime and I received one message after another: “How are you?” “You have a nice appearance.” “What do you look for in a man?” As soon as I actually got to talking to a man, the conversation quickly turned to their kids, exes, houses and renovations, sometimes even showing me pictures of porches and building projects. I was amazed at how many people give away, while you are still complete strangers to each other.

In that first year as a single I met a lot of men. Men who hinted at the first conversation that they had a fear of commitment, no longer believed in love, or who were open about their addictions, divorce or problems with their children. I didn’t really warm up to that. In fact, I started to wonder if I had a nose for types who only had problems.

My girlfriends, who previously thought I was just happy single, also started looking for me. Everyone had a single cousin, neighbor or colleague, so I got all kinds of names and social media accounts. In the meantime, pretty much my entire weekend consisted of coffee dates, lunches and walks. It made me pretty restless. What also didn’t help was that people around me started commenting on my failed dates without being asked. I was too critical. Or – I can vomit this one – I should learn to love myself first. I had a kind of love-hate relationship with Tinder. Even when I was dead tired, I could easily spend two hours in bed scrolling through all those profiles. And as soon as I woke up in the morning, I reached for my phone to see if I had any messages.

He wanted money!

Just as I decided to call it quits and throw Tinder off my phone, I got a message from Mike. He came across as a bit of a player, but I decided to give him a chance anyway. His messages were much nicer than I was used to. After a week I invited him to my house for sushi. Mike assured me he wasn’t out for a fling. He’d had it with all those one-night stands. Maybe my first impression was wrong after all, I thought, and he was much more serious than I thought. That same evening I went to bed with him and he also slept right away. When I was frying an egg for him the next morning, I felt quite happy. When we said goodbye, he said he would text me soon. But you guessed it: days passed before I heard from him. In conversations he was always confused and hasty. For example, I had no idea how he made his money. He did something with old cars and ergonomic chairs, selling houses in Germany, but he also renovated old houses in Italy.

During our first meeting he had told us that he had done volunteer work in Africa and that he had made a good friend. When he suddenly heard from him again after a week, he said that the friend had sent him a cry for help because he needed money. Mike wrote that he was almost afraid to ask me, but if I could spare some money. He himself was in no position to do anything for his friend. I felt everything that this was not pure coffee. Did he really think I was stupid enough to just transfer money? To top it off, Mike sent a photo of an old Porsche that he had given himself as a gift a day later. I immediately blocked him. What a fantasist! But I was especially sorry that I had become involved with such a type.

Oh no, not at all

Gradually I became unhappier and craved more and more for a normal man to netflix with and take a walk or go to a restaurant. When I heard from someone that you don’t find serious men on Tinder but on dating sites, I immediately created an account. That same night I came Steve against, a former colleague with whom I had always enjoyed working. Imagine: you’ve known each other for years and then it takes a dating site to get back in touch!

Steven liked the idea of ​​meeting and invited me for coffee at his house. It was nice and felt familiar. We made a follow-up appointment at my house, and I cooked for him. When we said goodbye, he started kissing me. He said he had always liked me. I didn’t know if I was really in love, but wanted to investigate anyway. We saw each other regularly for three weeks. Our contact made me very happy and was about to announce to the world that we had a thing for each other. But at our last dinner, Steven suddenly acted a little reserved. Or was I just imagining that? The next morning I received a text in which he said that he was not in love with me and that we should leave it at that. He said, “It’s not you, but…” What I couldn’t have imagined then was that I would hear that phrase many times over. It’s never up to me. I’m nice, handsome, tasty, sweet and special, but… in the end no man sticks.

I am now three years and fifty dates further. I went to therapy because I feel lonely and take every rejection so personally that I am upset for days. At the same time, after every ‘no’ I prefer to go straight back to the internet. My therapist has advised me to stop looking for a partner and do fun things, take up a study or learn to enjoy my life in some other way, without considering a man as a prerequisite for happiness. I partly follow her advice, now train three times a week with a running club and have taken Spanish lessons. And yet, with everything I undertake, with every networking drink or neighborhood barbecue that I attend, I keep looking around restlessly: is there perhaps another nice man?

This article previously appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of Marie Claire.

Source: Natasja Bijl | Image: Cody Black (Unsplash)

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