Research shows that more than 40 million Americans (that is 40% of all U.S. singles) turn to the Internet to find that someone special. It has definitely become a successful way to meet someone who is compatible. One in five new relationships and one in six new marriages are the result of people meeting on an online dating site. And, according to Singles in America survey results, online dating is the top way that singles over fifty meet potential dates.
But if online dating is new to you, I’m sure you have many questions or concerns. You may not feel comfortable right way speaking with other people online, or you might just be worried about the technology, the components of a good profile, or important safety rules. Here are some good tips and strategies to make the most of your online experience.
1. Make sure you are ready and know what you want.
Contrary to what your friends may tell you, studies show there is no “pre-determined time period” that you need to wait after a divorce or loss before you start dating again. There is no hurry, so take your time before you enter the dating world again. Ask yourself if you are truly ready to commit to and care about another person. In addition, do you know what you are looking for in a relationship partner? Sit down and make a list of fifteen qualities (no more, no less) that you would like in a romantic partner. These are the characteristics that are a priority to you and they need to be very precise. Defining the type of person you want to be with is a little like making a shopping list before you head out to the grocery store. It streamlines the process, keeps you from making random choices, and helps you to not waste time.
2. What to disclose in a profile?
The golden rule is to be honest in your profile and with the photos you post. Like many people, you might be tempted to shave off a few years, a few pounds, or over exaggerate the truth. However, by being truthful, you actually increase your odds of finding Mr. or Ms. Right. After that, you are looking to disclose general information about you—your age, your religion, if you have children, your general interests, your background, and the underlying values or principles that characterize you. I encourage people to think about it this way: If someone asked you to describe yourself, what would you tell them. What phrases and qualities best describe you as a person? You don’t need to say everything in a profile, because if someone likes what they see in your profile, they’ll ask questions to get to know the rest of you. And just like your work resume, be sure to check your profile for spelling and grammar.
3. Turn to friends or the dating site for technology support.
If you are not familiar with technology or are unsure about what to write on your profile, ask a friend, relative, or co-worker to help you out. These people are really good at focusing on all the wonderful unique characteristics that they like about you. In addition, most online dating sites offer tips and technology support to help you get started with the process. Be sure to post a few photos showing you and what you love doing. Take your time to think about what photos best illustrate who you are (and no selfies, please!). Don’t let a lack of familiarity keep you from participating in online dating.
4. Reach out to many people and take your time getting to know someone.
You can’t tell if you’ll connect with someone simply by reading a profile. Chemistry is revealed through conversation, and you have to have one to know if the sparks are there. There is no limit to how many members you can approach or respond to with online dating. Further, relationships develop faster online; we are more likely to reveal and respond to personal questions without the distractions of physical appearance. My advice is to wait at least one week before you meet face-to-face. Before you meet in person, move the conversation from online emails and messages to the phone. During a phone chat, you’ll get a better sense of whether your personalities click.
5. When dating, you always want to proceed with caution and awareness
You might be surprised to learn that there’s no reason to be more apprehensive about meeting someone online. Nonetheless, there are several safety rules to remember. First, when you give someone your phone number online, use your cell, rather than your home or work phone. If things don’t work out, cell phone numbers are much easier to change. Next, if you do meet in person, always pick a public busy spot like a coffee shop or a mall. Don’t have your date pick you up or drive you home for the first few dates. Also, tell a friend where you are going to meet this person, what time and your date’s name. If you know your date’s full name, don’t be afraid to Google them and check them out in advance. Don’t leave your personal items unattended on your date, and don’t drink too much on the first meeting.
6. Listen to your gut.
Trust your instincts. Pay attention to early warning signs that someone might not be legitimate or might not be presenting themselves honestly. For example, does he want to know all about you but is vague about his own life? Is the phone number she gave you out of service or unable to accept messages? Does this person profess love or devotion within hours or days? These are all red flags. Be sure to look for consistency in behaviors and answers to your questions and don’t let anyone talk you into something that is not in your best interests.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available on Amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.