Experts say grief has five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.
Much like grief (not ironically), online dating also has five stages.
However, the outcome of the five stages of online dating isn't as straightforward as it is with grief. Sometimes, you end up with Prince or Princess Charming, but other times, you end up with 80 cats. The science isn't quite worked out yet.
Wondering where you are in the online dating process? Here are the five stages you'll inevitably go through (and bounce between) before reaching peak cat-lady status:
1. Naïve Hopefulness
Everybody has heard dating horror stories from their friends: dates with zero chemistry, forced conversations, awkward moments with the bill, stand-ups, walk-outs, dreaded aftermath of hookups, stage-five clingers or people who showed up looking 20 years older than they looked in their photos.
But when you decide you're ready for online dating, you push their narratives to the side and deem all those horror stories unlucky. No way that'll happen to you.
So, you select an app from a wide array of lovely, readily available, FREE dating apps (let's face it, nobody pays for these things), set up a profile, answer some questions, cross your fingers and wait for the matching to begin.
It's a little scary but also a little exciting. You're absolutely certain you'll end up meeting somebody, and the sparks will fly.
2. Disgustful Deleting
About a day in, you begin to question the entire purpose of online dating. You recognize it's just how things work now, but it all feels so superficial and wasteful.
I mean, you swipe left and swipe right, but how are you supposed to know if you're going to like somebody from six photos and a paragraph bio?
How are you supposed to know if you're going to like somebody from six photos and a paragraph bio?
Then comes the onslaught of generic messaging — the “hey beautiful” and “you're absolutely gorgeous.” This is typically followed by a short, dull exchange, until someone is bored and moves on.
It's too much, too soon, so you delete your account. Being single has to be better than this, right? RIGHT?
3. Succumb to Modern Times
Eventually, after extricating yourself from the online dating world, you come to terms with the fact this is just how things work now.
You do some self-reflecting and decide it's time to give yourself up to the technological matchmaking gods because nobody meets people the old-fashioned way anymore (except for a lucky few).
After some thinking, feeling frustrated and more thinking, you brush off your old positive attitude and decide to give this thing the old college try.
4. Actual Dating
One day, you actually have a worthwhile, refreshing interaction with somebody on a dating app, so you and your shiny, new positive attitude decide it's time to take the plunge from online conversations to actual, offline dates.
And thus, the circus begins.
Some people are really fortunate in their experiences and only have quality interactions with others. Some of us, however, aren't so lucky.
As it turns out, sometimes, printed chemistry doesn't always translate to physical chemistry. You can't make sparks fly if there's no match to strike.
Printed chemistry doesn't always translate to physical chemistry.
A few dud dates might have you ready to revert to stage two, but remember, you're not a quitter. How will you ever meet anybody if you don't keep trying?
Not every person you meet is going to be the one for you, so relinquish any and all expectations. After all, first dates are just a time to feel each other out and see if there's even a reason for a second one.
Some of the time, there will be second dates and, hell, maybe even a third. That is, until you realize four dates in you actually can't stand how loudly the other person chews. Then, you're back to square one.
5. Happy Deactivation
This is the day all online daters hope will happen their way: when they get to happily delete their accounts, even if it's just temporarily.
There are a lot of great relationships that start out over the internet, and there can be a fairytale ending to the nightmarish process that is online dating after all.
There's usually a sea of idiots before you find that golden person.
But keep in mind, there's no step five without steps one through four (and several cycles between steps two and three).
From the success stories I've witnessed, I can say this: Buckle up and suck it up, kid. There's usually a sea of idiots before you find that golden person, who doesn't make you want to pull your hair out.
Plus, you'll always have cats and stage two to fall back on.