Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.
This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie explains why catfishing is never the answer to dating woes.
Question: I’ve been single for 15 years and recently decided to join a dating site. I’m not very confident about how I look so initially didn’t add any photos but when I tried to match with people I got told it was weird. So then I decided to use photos of my cousin who’s younger and a lot more attractive than me. As soon as I used those photos I got lots of interest. The constant messages made me feel really special and I almost became addicted to the attention. Now I want to meet someone for a date and I know they’ll be disappointed by what they see. How do I tell them that I’m not who they think I am? I feel so ashamed.
Answer: We all long for connection and to feel wanted. It’s understandable you enjoy attention from potential matches. But lying is never a healthy foundation for a relationship. You’ve ‘catfished’ these potential matches and you’re going to need to deal with it sooner rather than later.
What is catfishing?
Catfishing is setting up a fake profile on a social media or dating profile. While you’re a real person, the profile you’ve set up isn’t you. You’ve intentionally deceived people matching with you.
What should you do now?
You have two choices. You can either come clean before you meet your matches and tell them you lied or you can ghost them. Either choice is likely to feel awful for both you and them – but one may be kinder overall.
Ghosting feels horrible. The ghosted person is left wondering what they did wrong and doubting themselves. I think that would be a cowardly way out – and really unfair to them.
Finding out we’ve been lied to is awful and can feel really destabilising. For women, this can remind us of a very real lack of physical safety we often feel when meeting new people online. However, being given an explanation can help provide insight and an ability to move on.
The least damaging outcome for those you’ve misled is to be completely honest and offer a full apology. That leaves no one guessing about what’s happened or what they might have done wrong.
Here’s what an apology and taking full responsibility would sound like:
I need to tell you something. I can’t meet you. Due to my own self-doubt and lack of confidence, I used a friend’s photos when creating this profile. I know it was a dick-move and totally unfair to you and everyone else who matched with me. I’m so sorry. You deserve better. I’m going to go to therapy before I continue dating. I need to work on my own self-esteem so I don’t cause harm to anyone else in future. I wish you the very best going forward.
Then leave these matches alone unless they contact you.
Tell the truth on your dating profile
I’m aware that not everyone agrees with my hard line of telling the truth on dating profiles. I just don’t think lying (even white lies about age) are a good foundation for a relationship. The lies are eventually going to come out and they cause everyone involved unnecessary emotion.
Be honest on your dating profile. Consider getting help taking some good photos or writing your profile.
You need to believe in yourself
While you initially got matches because of the photos you used, they stayed because of the conversation – your personality. Keep that in mind.
Believe in yourself and what you have to offer. The right person for you is out there.
I really encourage you to seek therapy for support in building your self esteem. I don’t subscribe to the idea that we have to love ourselves before someone else will, but our sense of security within ourselves does impact the quality of our relationships. Seeing a well trained therapist can support you.
Isiah McKimmie is a Couples Therapist, Sexologist, Sex Therapist and Lecturer. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her on Instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy
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