This is what modern dating is like when you’re demisexual

Identifying as demisexual means that I don’t feel sexually attracted to people unless I have a strong emotional connection with them

<p>For all my struggles with dating apps, I think they’re brilliant and I’m ready (for now) to see what emotional connections they can help me build</p>

For all my struggles with dating apps, I think they’re brilliant and I’m ready (for now) to see what emotional connections they can help me build

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This January, I decided to make a concerted effort to give dating a real go – but in the past week or so, I’ve started to feel completely overwhelmed by the whole process, and my head feels more scrambled than a Love Islander caught in a love triangle.

My resolve was such that I swiped on dating apps until my thumbs were raw from sliding over my cracked phone screen, and I’m now talking to five men simultaneously. Consequently, my brain feels like it’s caught in a Groundhog Day conveyor belt of “where are you based?” and “how’s your week going?”

Matching with people on dating apps is obviously a good thing – at the risk of stating the obvious, that’s the whole point – and I’m glad to be chatting with multiple men who seem kind and interesting. The thing is, I identify as demisexual, which means that I don’t feel sexually attracted to people unless I have a strong emotional connection with them. I’ve previously enjoyed wonderful relationships, but it takes me a long time to feel attracted to someone. I’ve only felt truly sexually attracted to two people in my whole life.

Needless to say, then, I’ve always struggled with dating apps. Not because I have an issue with the apps themselves, but because building emotional connections doesn’t tend to be at the forefront of the dating app agenda. By their nature, they operate mostly on near-instant reactions to aesthetic appearances.

When we swipe through people in a matter of seconds, there’s no room for the unique fizz of electricity that physical proximity (and, for me, a close emotional bond) can engender; and despite the prompts that many dating apps offer, I often struggle to get a true sense of anyone’s personality just from skimming through their profile.

Whether we like it or not, physical appearance is placed front and centre; and while this aesthetic element certainly works for many (and, of course, the electricity can build when people start messaging), I’ve never related to it. I’ve never once looked at someone’s face on a dating app and thought: “Wow, I really fancy this person.” I’ve never felt any sort of spark on a first date when I didn’t know the person previously.

I only realised I was demisexual very recently, and it was a realisation that brought clarity to all my dating experiences. Despite this, I don’t really feel at home in the world of modern dating, and this January, I’ve found the whole process more overwhelming than ever.

I feel like I’m caught in a unique dating paradox, because when I’m messaging five different people at once, I find it impossible to even begin establishing an emotional connection with any of them. But, equally, if I ignore most people, I might be denying myself a powerful connection. So I’ve ended up messaging multiple people simultaneously while feeling like I’m diluting the connection I have with each of them, like impossibly weak orange squash.

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The men I’m talking to are all perfectly lovely, but I feel like I’m on a lurching rollercoaster that takes place in the space between my tired eyes and my phone screen. Sometimes, I’ll feel excited to meet these men in person, and other times I want to drop my phone in the bath. I’ll flip between thinking how much I’m enjoying forging tentative new connections, and wondering what the point is when I know I won’t want to kiss anyone that I don’t have an emotional connection with anyway (that is, I assume I won’t).

So why am I doing it, then? The answer isn’t that I’m seriously looking for a relationship – I’m not at all sure that I want one at this stage– but rather that I’m interested in meeting new people, and I want to find out if I could build an emotional connection with someone I meet on a dating app.

The beauty of modern dating is that no one is making me do it. While I might find the process overwhelming, I’m choosing to do it because I think there’s a chance it could enrich my life – and I’m lucky to have that choice at all. For all my struggles with dating apps, I think they’re brilliant and I’m ready (for now) to see what emotional connections they can help me build.

Modern dating isn’t always going to be fun, but that’s OK. If it gets too much, the apps will always be there later in the year. As for how making those connections goes? I’ll have to wait and see.

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