Thanks to Portia Corman for interviewing me for this CBC Life piece:
Like many Canadian kids who went to the cottage every summer, I put a lot of things in jars. Toads, beetles, fireflies — anything I felt I needed more time to admire was held prisoner until I tired of it or my Dad forced me to release it back into the wild. I always poked holes in the lid because these were not things I wanted to kill or keep.
In fact, I wanted the opposite. The joy came in the releasing; the knowledge that this beautiful, mysterious creature was headed back into the wild to continue living. I imagined it arriving home to worried toad parents and telling the story of being held in a glass cage by a lonely sunburned girl with big, blue peering eyes.
Seems I am a serial jarrer when it comes to dating as well; catch, admire and release.
The pattern became apparent to me after a particularly magical first date. A handsome, professional man approached me on LinkedIn (yes, LinkedIn is a dating app for some people). He sent me a witty email, we exchanged a few notes back and forth and agreed to meet for brunch the following Sunday. I didn't expect much other than a stack of world-famous blueberry pancakes but after a couple of Caesars, the chemistry was undeniable so when he suggested we go to the liquor store, pick up a bottle of red and head back to his condo, I said yes. We had a natural connection; we laughed, sipped wine, swapped stories and yes, there was some affection as well.
So it came as a shock when I told him I wasn't interested in a second date.
At the time I couldn't articulate why I didn't want to pursue a relationship but it became clear to me in the cab on the way home; I like to store up perfect moments like snapshots in a photo album that I can flip through later. These precious moments become stories to recount as I lay in bed in the morning or take a long drive; always perfect, never tarnished.
A process I've come to call, 'jarring'.
And I'm not alone. Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist, senior research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and Chief Scientific Advisor to Match.com admitted she once fell out of love after returning from a vacation with her partner that was so fantastic, it made the prospect of returning to their normal life seem lackluster by comparison.
Sofi Papamarko, Founder of Friend of a Friend Matchmaking has seen a lot of good dates end up in nowhere land; "I've heard enough stories from friends and clients about amazing dates that, for whatever reason, were never followed by a second date. Maybe it's not a matter of the other person not having as great a time — maybe they were just 'jarring'".
But 'jarring' seems counterintuitive when you consider that 45% of single Canadians have admitted to trying online dating. If so many of us are looking for love why are some of us running in the other direction?
Hina Khan, a Registered Psychotherapist and Success Coach speculates, "It could be that on a gut level, they know that this person is a bad fit. But, if this is a pattern we have to look at it a bit deeper. Why are they 'attracting' or dating people that are ultimately not the right fit? This could indicate that the person may want a relationship but they don't feel they deserve one. So they keep dating people that reflect how they feel, not what they want."
Papamarko says, "It's one thing to never visit that amazing gelato place in Florence ever again; keeping that memory of creamy nocciola goodness perfect and pure. It's quite another thing to avoid getting too close to another human being after having a magical time with them — especially if you're yearning for connection or companionship in your life. To me, 'jarring' behaviour seems rooted in fear and pain avoidance."
But couldn't it be a natural outcome of the times? Recently, two men set up a site called Life Faker. The site ostensibly sells stock photos that people can pass off as images from their real, flawless lives. Packages include, "My Sexy Girlfriend/Boyfriend", "I Just Happen To Live Here" and "I Can Be Arty And Deep". The idea is that you choose the images you want to purchase and share them with your social network so your friends and followers think you have a perfect life. After you've chosen your desired packaged and clicked through to pay, the real intention of the site is revealed to you. It's a fake. Its purpose is to remind us of the "unhealthy behaviours on social media and their harming impact on mental health." Very tricky, Life Faker guys. However, the fact that people fell for it is a reflection of how valuable we perceive these flawless moments to be.
Indeed, the pursuit of perfection and FOMO isn't good for us. A UK study looking at mental health and social media found that the image-based platforms of Instagram and Snapchat ranked the worst for mental health and well-being and made young people feel inadequate and anxious.
In a culture where perfection is lauded and the prospect of deficiency causes dissonance, 'jarring' romantic connections could be seen as a tempting proposition.
And striving for perfection is facilitated by an incredible amount of choice. There are a plethora of dating apps to choose from. Each offers a slightly different way to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you're attractive, have a decent profile and download enough apps, you can receive literally hundreds of messages from potential suitors every day and go on an endless number of dates.
So why experience the inevitable downs of a relationship when you can constantly bask in the glow of the exquisite ups (aside from the obvious fear of dying alone of course)? You needn't. As someone who has been married before, I know exactly how putting that final lid on the jar would feel and like a lot of my friends, I'm clearly not willing to do so right now. Maybe I haven't met the right person, maybe I have unreasonable expectations or maybe, like a lot of people I know, I have a full, rich life and a network of emotionally supportive friends so all I need to complete my personal picture is a series of memorable dates to recount at will.
Whatever your reason for serial jarring may be, the key is to be honest and respectful about it.
Papamarko's advice is, "Make sure your dates are aware of where your head is at when it comes to meeting new people, because you don't want to inadvertently hurt or deeply disappoint another human being."
If you're a serial jar-er looking for a long term relationship Khan suggests establishing a clear idea of what you're after in a mate: "Get clear on what you do want and the character traits you're seeking. Once you get clear, an important question to ask yourself is, 'do I feel I deserve this person?' and if the answer is 'no', then there is some work to do around your self-image and how you see yourself."
And if you were ghosted after what you thought was a magical first date, take heart. Maybe you weren't ghosted because the date sucked, maybe you were jarred.