Why won't anyone date me?

Tré
asks:
I’m a 21 year old bisexual male. I’ve never been in a relationship, and I’m currently looking at guys to date. I’ve been on Grindr for a while and I’ve had some hookups, but it seems like I can’t find anyone to hookup with. It just seems like no one wants me. At all. I get blocked all the time and I’m told that I’m fat and ugly. I’m not unhealthy or sloppy, but I’m not skinny or muscular. I’m also on 11 other apps and I get the same responses. I see guys younger than me getting in relationships and guys being interested in them, but it just seems like no one wants me. I’m never good enough for anyone and I have a lot to offer. I have a place, I’m working full time in the medical field, I have a brand new car, and I’m working on my second degree. All the guys that told me no wound up choosing guys that aren’t even on my caliber. It’s embarrassing. And quite frankly, it’s depressing. What is my life worth if I can’t find a life partner? Why is it that I’m always being rejected but others are just fine being picked ? When am I going to be good enough?
Sam replies:

I'll be honest, Tre: dating apps can be a great option for some people, but you're far from the first person to come to Scarleteen brimming with frustration over your experiences on them. While they can put us in the orbit of cool people who'd we'd otherwise never meet, they can also pressure us to behave a certain way, expose us to harassment or, as you're discovering, make us feel incredibly down on ourselves.

I bring all this up because, while there are lots of things to address in your question, I suspect the platforms you're using are playing a big role in how depressing this all feels. I reached out to Adam England, who writes our "Hi, Bi Guy" series, for some thoughts on your question. He covers the struggles of dating while bi, and these are his recommendations for how to make this whole situation less disheartening.

It can be frustrating to deal with rejection on dating apps, but do your best not to take it personally. It’s easier said than done, but often people can have quite a ‘disposable’ mindset when using dating apps, swiping left and right without a second thought, and without taking everything about the profile in front of them into account.

Dating apps aren’t the be-all and end-all either – there’s plenty of opportunity to find dates outside of them (Covid restrictions permitting) and you might find that you have more luck away from the apps. It’s not a sprint, and the right person is out there somewhere. You just may not have found them yet.

I want to hone in on Adam's comment about this not being a sprint. Dating, whether online or in person, involves chance and luck. You have to be in the orbit of someone you're interested in who's also interested in you, and it's rare for that to happen right away in a given space. That doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to increase your chances of finding dates, but it does mean that patience is key to the process.

Adam's point about mindset is also important. How you frame your dating experinces plays a big role in how defeated you feel by rejection. For example, you say in your question that you've had success finding partners in the past. I would keep that fact in mind for those moments your brain starts playing the, "no one ever wants you" song. The same goes for assuming everyone out there is having more luck than you; it may feel that way, even be true in your social circle, but given the number of questions like yours we -- and lots of other advice columnists -- get, I promise you that there are lots of people dealing with the same struggles as you. Those struggles aren't some sign you're uniquely unworthy of a partner, just evidence you're a person like everybody else. The more you can keep an open and positive mindset, the less down you'll feel (and you'll also avoid coming across as bitter to potential dates).

In terms of more things you can do to improve your online dating, let's address the fact that you keep getting blocked. You can dismiss some of those interactions you can dismiss. The ones where people insulted you? Dismiss those. That sucked, but they did you the favor of showing themselves to be massive jerks who do not deserve your time.

If those are the only people blocking you, then I'd leave it at that. But if you notice you're regularly getting blocked after reaching out, I'd take time to look at your approach. Are you trying to start a conversation, even a small one, before asking if they want to hook up? Are you asking questions or responding to things in their profiles that would make them go, "Oh, hey, this guy is interested in me, not just messaging anyone he comes across?" The more you focus on being polite, respectful and treating other people like they're not disposable or interchangeable, the less likely you are to get blocked.

You're also expressing a lot of embarassment over seeing guys  you say are "lower caliber" than you are who are getting dates. I encourage you to chuck that mindset out the nearest window.

We have the phrase "Comparison is the thief of joy"  in our cultural vocabulary for a reason. Ranking ourselves as above or below others often results in the unpleasant combination of feeling crummy about the ways we don't measure up and looking down -- intentionally or not -- on people we see as not measuring up to us.  Those comparisons can also leak into our behavior in ways we don't notice, but others do. We might come across as insecure because we're trying to demonstrate our "value," or as smug because we think we're better than everyone else. Both of those things are big turn-offs to potential dates.

Trying to decipher why a potential match on an app chose someone else over you is also an exercise in frustration. Unless we ask them, we can't know why people who are functionally strangers to us chose the partner they did. Attraction is way more complex and varied than a lot of us believe, so there's no single set of qualities that will appeal to every potential partner. Fixating on why someone else was chosen over you, especially when you have barely any information about them or the person who picked them, is a great way to stress yourself out while getting no useful data.

I do think you could take some time to reflect on how you're presenting yourself. In your question, everything you highlight is about external things, like your job or your education level. If you're taking a similar tactic in your dating life, that might be working against you. People want to know what you have to offer as a partner outside of material things like money. The more you communicate who you are as a person and what you'd be like as a partner, the easier it will be for someone to tell if they want to get to know you further.

That's not to say success or stability isn't attractive to some people; it absolutely is. But when people are scanning through dating profiles or chatting with someone in person, how many degrees they have or the newness of their car is probably not what they're focusing on. What they are looking for? That question puts us right back at the "attraction is varied" idea.

Here are just a few things people might be looking for when they look at your profile:

  • Physical or aesthetic appeal: This is especially true if the apps you're on are mainly about casual, sexual relationships. This can be a sucky truth to confront, but none of us is going to be everyone's cup of tea. Think about it this way; you've probably passed up on plenty of profiles because the person in the picture didn't catch your eye. There's nothing inherently wrong with that; we all have preferences. But it helps to remember that someone passing on you for that reason is about their likes and dislikes, not your worth as a person.
  • Shared interests and values: Having at least some hobbies, favorite media, or other activities in common makes first interactions with a potential date easier to navigate, so lots of people on dating apps are looking for them. Values may seem less important if you're looking for casual sex, but discovering someone holds views you loathe can kill arousal incredibly fast. This means that some people will look at your profile and go, "Nope, not for me" based on things like that alone.
  • A clear sense of what you're looking for: It's tempting, especially when you're not having much luck on apps, to make what you're looking for very broad in hopes of capturing someone who's interested. But this can work against you. It can read as a little desperate, like you just need to fill the hole in your life marked, "partner." It also makes it harder for people to get a sense of what you're like and whether you're interested in what they have to offer. On apps where people are making quick decisions, they're more likely to just pass on you than sit and wonder if you could be a good match.  If you want to see clear, disctinct declarations in dating profiles, the last question in this article offers some great examples.

If you take one thing away from this answer I hope it's this: your worth as a person is not defined by your romantic or sexual success. We all have intrinsic worth as people, one that isn't tied to how "successful" we are in a given area of life. Building a strong sense of self-worth can be hard, so it's natural to look for outside confirmation that you're awesome and desirable. In the end, though, there will be times where all you can rely on for validation is yourself. That doesn't mean you're pathetic or silly for wanting a partner, or that you should pretend you're not lonely. It's just that making those feelings the center of the story you tell about yourself can sap a lot of joy -- and a lot of chances for connection -- from your life.

What I encourage you to do is find activities and connections that fullfill you. What hobbies make you feel like the best version of yourself or provide experiences that affirm and energize you? What ways of engaging with other people, whether that's community service or a table-top gaming club, make you happy? Are there non-romantic relationships, like with friends, family, or even yourself, that you can put energy into?

The more you're able to build a full, rich life that doesn't center on a romantic partner, the easier it will be to deal with those moments of loneliness or rejection because it won't feel like you've lost the one thing that could make your life worthwhile. In my experience, living life that way also brings you in contact with cool people who think you're awesome. And if some of those people want to date you, you get to consider that a bonus of a full life, rather than the goal of it.

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