Dating in Vancouver: Stop blaming the city for your dating woes

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      Some of the common complaints people have about dating in Vancouver are that it’s hard to meet singles, and that people are snobby—and sometimes downright rude. While I understand that modern dating may seem more complex compared to the good ol’ days, it makes me wonder: is the city entirely to blame? Or could it be that our social and relational skills are declining?

      I’ve had only a handful of serious relationships in my life, and between each, I experienced years of being single. Sure, it got lonely at times. But for the most part, being single was pretty easy in the sense that I only had to consider myself. I didn’t have to answer to anyone, deal with someone else’s dirty dishes in my sink, or get nagged about my own dirty dishes.

      There was a period of time when I had become so comfortable being single that I got set in my ways. When I dated someone and experienced conflict, my attitude was: take it or leave it. While I thought I was being progressive, I was actually just being selfish. You shouldn’t have to change your values or core personality for anyone—but there’s a level of compromise, collaboration, and consideration for “we” that is fundamental to building any healthy relationship. Those are skills, and when you haven’t practiced those skills for a while, like muscles, they can atrophy.

      It took a lot of disappointment and heartache for me to realize I was the common denominator. Sure, I could blame my city, my age, my work schedule—but in reality, I was closed off to true intimacy because I had been burned in the past and developed defense mechanisms that ensured I’d stay single. It took reflection to see my blind spots, and a lot of inner work to develop the communication and relational abilities necessary to be partnership material.

      The reality is, the life cycle of a relationship—from flirting to dating to commitment—requires skills (and often, different skills depending on the stage). There are some people who are great at the dating stage because they have bright, shiny personalities. They’re charismatic, extroverted, and ooze confidence. They make for fun and adventurous dates. But they might lack the skills to be great at maintaining a relationship beyond the honeymoon phase.

      Research shows that the passionate, butterflies-in-stomach stage that is fuelled by dopamine lasts, on average, for 12 to 18 months. Afterwards, the relationship evolves into what’s called the companionate phase. The brain transitions from future-oriented dopamine to present-oriented chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin. Things feel more stable and calm during this stage, but to the untrained eye, one might think that the lack of intense sexual charge means relationship doom. This is often the point where someone will break up, saying, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” But really, this is a natural evolution of the relationship. It means you cannot rely on mother nature’s lust chemicals to do the work for you anymore. Instead, you need to cultivate the skills to nurture the relationship, keep things passionate, and communicate even when your ego is hurt. For a long-term relationship to thrive, you cannot be lazy, and you cannot be deluded that it will just run on love fumes.

      At the core of these skills is empathy—the ability to recognize and sense another person’s emotions and see things from their perspective. It’s the fundamental building block that enables us to cooperate with others, act with compassion, build trust, and make moral decisions. While some are naturally more empathetic than others, empathy is a skill that can be developed through practice. Without empathy, we are doomed in every part of the relationship life cycle.

      Being good at relationships requires skill. And like any skill, with awareness, effort, and pushing past our comfort zone, we can build those skills. It’s much easier to write negative comments about how horrible dating in Vancouver is. And maybe it’s got its fair share of challenges. But while you complain about the dire situation in our city, are you also working on your relational skills? Are you actively practicing your curiosity muscle, or do you default to judgment and criticism? Do you strive to understand others’ perspectives and build compassion, even when you disagree? Do you uphold basic etiquette such as making eye contact, asking questions, showing up on time, and texting when you say you will? Are you the type of person that you would want to date?

      If it truly is Vancouver and its bad dating pool to blame, maybe your answer is to move to another city for a chance at love. But since relocating isn’t feasible for many, perhaps a more productive approach is to focus on what we can control: ourselves.

      Want to up your dating game? Consider joining my Dating Bootcamp.