Just the Tip: Online Dating and the Goldilocks Dilemma

Passionate young couple having sex on floor at home, closeup

Just the Tip is a sex and relationship column hosted by queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Here you will find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as smart and compassionate responses to anonymous questions. If you would like to be interviewed or have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email  jera@jerabrown.com or DM Jera on Twitter @thejerabrown.


Thank you for your column. I’m a 41 y.o. cis straight woman and dating online for really the first time. I’ve had some yays and nays, more yays actually.

But sexually, I’m looking for more. I feel like I either have to present myself as “holding out” (not “easy”) — basically an upstanding citizen woman “looking for Mr. Right,” or the man in question is just way too eager about the obviously impending sex for it be a fun thing for me– I mean at that point, it’s just me playing for time, variation, a challenge, anticipation, jeez. Because so much of sexual tension is the question: will we? You know?

I would like to explore my sexuality big time. But with this dichotomy I feel, it seems like I either have to go straight for fetish dating sites, when that seems too specific for me, or just wait until I click so well with someone. But at that point, I might want a whole relationship. But if I don’t really see the man as relationship potential, then I wouldn’t mind a sexual one. I’d like a sexual one! But this person I’d have to really respect and trust, too, anyway.
So it’s an ouroboros!

Any tips for finding an open, neutral sex partner? Maybe I should go for a person in an open marriage? Or have sex with someone who likes me so much I feel I am not being right to them, taking advantage? The quandary is, if I liked someone enough to have a sexual relationship, I’d probably like them enough to have an actual one. Argh. I guess I’m looking for someone who won’t love me, but someone I can like. IS this even a question anymore? DO you have any insight?!

Thanks.

—Looking

Hey Looking, first of all, kudos to you for going after what you want and knowing what it is. And I’m excited for the adventures you’re going to have!

I’m just going to throw out some questions and thoughts for you (and anyone else looking for those rock-your-world sexual partners) to consider.

1. Is There a Time Crunch?

I totally hear you about looking for more and feeling like there’s only extremes: folks looking to hook up or folks looking to jump on the relationship escalator. And you’re looking for something in between. Something that’s more than just a release for the sake of release and something that’s more about exploring the sexual nature of the connection than the romantic.

So my first question is: what does it look like for you to wait for this? And what I’m really asking is: are you normally monogamous and/or ultimately looking for a monogamous relationship?

Cause here’s the thing. Those satisfying sexual partners are out there but they may take a while to find.

I’m wondering if part of the tension here is that you feel like your ability to prioritize sexual exploration has an expiration date, which is whenever you really fall for someone.

If you know yourself and know you’ll be more likely to thrive in a monogamous relationship (and there’s nothing wrong with that), it means accepting the limitations that come along with monogamy.

But if you’re eventually looking for monogamy and you’ve realized a sexual connection is super important to you, what would it look like to prioritize that connection in a relationship and basically hold out till you find it?

And if you’re not committed to monogamy in the future, would it take the pressure off to be more open about what you’re looking for? If there’s more of a cerebral or spiritual connection with a person, that’s cool. If there’s instant sexual chemistry, that’s cool too …

One thing I like about non-monogamy is that it basically leaves the door open for you to explore connections as you find them.

2. Putting Pressure On Connections to Be Spectacular

It sounds like you’ve been lacking in the sexual department and are making up for it now. But when you put pressure on someone else to be what you need, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

There’s a balancing act needed here: holding out for something/someone that feels really good and checking in with yourself to see if your expectations are limiting what that looks like.

About “the man in question is just way too eager about the obviously impending sex for it be a fun thing for me– I mean at that point, it’s just me playing for time, variation, a challenge, anticipation, jeez.”

I think two things could be going on here:

You’re not clearly expressing what you’re looking for. What would happen if you tell someone you don’t want to jump into sex because you’re looking for a better sexual connection that takes time to cultivate? Or you give examples of the kind of sexual connection you’re looking for? Kink, neo-tantra, etc.
They’re just not a good fit. If you’ve expressed what you’re looking for and they’re still jumping the gun, maybe you’re just not going to be on the same page.

3. Are You Being Really Clear About What You Want In Your Profile?

You know what you’re looking for, but are you articulating it in your profile or at the start of a conversation with new people? The good news is that you’ve explored enough by this point to know exactly what you want. But have you updated your profile and the ways you start conversations to match?

There is nothing wrong with being blunt from the get-go.

However, I have a caveat.

Many of us who date online are looking for that perfect set of parameters to find exactly what we’re looking for: the perfect set of rules to narrow down our search and ways to express it on a profile. For instance, I’ve also gone back and forth about whether it’s better to specifically look for folks in open relationships when I’m wanting to find casual sexual partners.

But it’s a problem when we get so mechanical about our search strategies that we forget we’re dealing with people. And what do we miss out on when we write people off based on limited judgments? Or how might we be dehumanizing them?

For me, at least, the people I’m most grateful for have never ever fit into my life the way I expected them to. I always meet someone with some expectation of who they’ll be to me and what needs they may fill. And rarely do I get it right because we’re too complex.

I can keep coming back to the need for balance: be able to articulate what you want and be open to the universe bringing you something else that’s equally good for you.

4. Don’t View The Duds or False Starts As Failures

If you’re doing a lot of dating, chances are that most people aren’t going to last or aren’t going to be what you’re looking for. I used to get really frustrated by this.

More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve met someone off Tinder or OKCupid and had a great conversation about expectations and felt amazing chemistry and felt really good about the situation … So I’d sleep with them believing this was going to be a lasting casual thing … Then, something would happen. They’d say something that made me question whether we have shared values or they’d ghost me or I’d go through a rough time and become clingier than I meant to.

In other words: I’ve had a lot of disappointing false starts, and I’ve had to stop looking at them as failures.

The thing is: these were all learning experiences. I learned so much about myself and about people, in general. And I hope that any of you who are online dating and feeling discouraged can maybe find some solace in the fact that you’re immersing yourself in a fascinating free class about human nature.

You have to accept that online dating is opening up a flood gate. There are more possibilities, sure. But it’s a tiring process. I personally handle the exhaustion of the search by taking long, long breaks from it.

If you’re getting frustrated, I encourage you to start asking folks more questions and see if you can’t be surprised by people. Or maybe it’s time to take a break, enjoy life in other ways, and wait and see what the universe has to offer.

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Jera Brown writes about being a queer kinky polyamorous Christian on their blog scarletchurch.com. Their sex and relationship advice column, Just the Tip, is hosted by Rebellious Magazine. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram @thejerabrown.