Have you ever thought about how you could be turning Internet dating from a blessing into a curse? Last night at Thanksgiving dinner, I found myself engaged in several frustrating conversations about Internet dating. Not one person I spoke to had much of anything positive to say about their experience with it. While I didn’t hear anything I haven’t heard hundreds of times before, I left the party feeling sad about what a bad rap Internet dating gets.
Before I go any further, I need to confess that I am a HUGE fan of Internet dating. This isn’t just because I met the love of my life on JDate thirteen years ago. There are many reasons why I think it’s a blessing. Before I elaborate on the positives, I need to say that I am exasperated when I hear people moan about being single one minute and then berate Internet dating the next.
When I found myself single at 39, I was willing to do anything to get dates. So, for me, Internet dating was the best thing that ever happened. For the first time in my life, I was able to get lots of dates with all different kinds of men. I went out with a doctor, a lawyer, a yoga instructor, a writer, etc. Nothing about this journey was easy for me… but didn’t expect it to be. It took two years and I went out on nearly 100 first dates before I finally found Benjamin, but it was worth everything I did to find him!
Let’s face it: most people aren’t very mature when it comes to matters of the heart. For some reason, we want finding the right partner to be effortless, like it is in the movies. I am glad I figured out that this was a bunch of hooey. I realized that finding the right partner takes time, effort, and a willingness to face disappointments and heartbreak along the way. Unfortunately, most of the heartache we experience while dating is because take so much of it personally. We get upset at the tiniest hint of rejection. To make matters worse, the Internet dating puts us in touch with so many people that it’s like dating on steroids. Online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s very provocative and, if you give up too easily, it ain’t gonna work. To date online you need to be resilient and you have to really be committed to doing whatever it takes to find true love.
When I posted my first online dating profile, I told myself that I was going to give my all and that quitting wasn’t an option. I truly believed that there was someone out there for me and I swore that I would not quit until I found him.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that the Internet is the only way to meet someone. I think you should use every possible avenue you can find to connect with other available singles. Having said that, if you’re serious about finding a partner sooner than later, I think it’s a huge mistake not to include Internet dating as part of your plan.
Last night I was in with a new crowd, so when people went off on Internet dating, I had to bite my tongue pretty hard to stop from saying something I would regret. Here are a few of the comments they made along with the responses I would have wanted to give.
Guest: I didn’t have one good experience with online dating!
What I would like to have said: People can be disappointing, whether you meet them online or offline. But there are good people out there, too. You just have to know how to spot them. I don’t know if you’re choosing the wrong ones or if there’s something else you’re doing that isn’t working, but you’re the common denominator in all the dates you went on. You might need to work with a dating coach to find out what’s really going on. Look, blaming Internet dating is not the answer and it isn’t going to solve the real problem.
Guest: I know it works for other people, but Internet dating didn’t work for me!
What I would like to have said: So, how long were you online and how many dates did you go out on? I ask this because, normally, when people tell me that online dating didn’t work for them, I find out that they didn’t really give it a chance. If you try one of those Match.com free weekends, or even if you’re on for a few months but don’t go on many dates, you aren’t really giving it chance. You might not want to hear this, but I know people who dated online for years before meeting the right partner. It can take time, but if you hang in there, it works. In fact, online dating is now the third most popular way people meet today. I would think anyone who really wants a partner and hears that statistic would get online and stay online.
Maybe online dating didn’t work for you because you didn’t have an engaging profile or pretty pictures. You need to have someone, preferably a professional dating coach, look at them and give you feedback. Most people can’t write their own profiles. When I write a profile, I spend an hour interviewing a client and then it takes me a good two hours to write something engaging and unique in the client’s own voice. I also do their pictures. I was a professional fashion photographer for fifteen years so I know how to make people look natural and not posed in front of the camera. This kind of photography is called lifestyle photography. I get people moving and laughing for the camera. I make them look beautiful, but I also capture their personality. If you seriously want to be successful at online dating, you must get good professional photos done. It’s the best investment you will ever make!
Guest: I got lots of responses, but I could never get people to go from emailing to a date so I gave up.
What I would like to have said: There are lots of reasons why this happens. You can’t get caught up in trying to make sense of it. There are so many people online and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with emails and forget about someone you’re communicating with. I’m sure you’ve done the same thing. If there’s someone you’re really interested in meeting, you need to put it out there that you’d like to meet, and you need to do this quickly—strike while the iron’s hot!
Let’s say you’ve been emailing for a couple of days with someone you really like. Just write this person and say, “Would you be open to taking this connection off-line and talking on the phone or even meeting for coffee or a drink?” If you’ve been emailing with someone and they drop off your radar, don’t be afraid to reach out and see if he still wants to meet. You get one chance to poke someone. So, send a light, playful message: “Hey, what happened? Abducted by aliens? Kidnapped by pigmies? Joined the circus? Inquiring minds want to know!” See if you can get them back in the conversation, then, when you get a response, suggest meeting.
I know a lot of people say that, as a woman, you’re not supposed to suggest a date. I think this is absolutely ridiculous. I assure you, if a guy is interested in getting to know you, he will be happy you took the initiative. If Charlize Theron asked some guy to go get a drink, I don’t think there’s a man on the planet who would say, “You know, Charlize, I was going to ask you out, but now I can’t go out with you because, when a woman asks me out, it’s a real turn-off.”
Guest: All the men who contacted me were in their seventies!
What I would have like to have said: One of the hardest things about waiting too long to seriously search for a partner is that, as we age, we become less attractive to one another. When you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, people who are up to 10 years older still look pretty good. But when you’re 50 and you’re getting messages from 60 or 70-year-olds, it’s a whole different ballgame. The problem is that many men want to date women who are at least 10 years younger. Women today also want to date younger men. But here’s the rub: technically, a woman can have sex with anyone, but a man needs to get an erection to have sex. There are younger men who are completely content being with older women. I am very good friends with a couple where the woman is ten years older than the man, and they adore each other… but they’re not the norm. The truth is that, as men age, they have a harder time getting hard, and they are drawn to the younger women who can turn them on. This isn’t because they’re immature. It’s biological. My best advice to women who are dating online is to increase their age range to at least ten year older then they are. Benjamin is nine years older than me, and at 64, I think he’s as hot as the day I met him.
Whether you’re dating online or offline, it’s tough. Dating brings up all kinds of challenges that we don’t want to face. If nothing else, online dating affords people the opportunity to meet many more prospective partners than they ever would have met socially. I know it is easy to see Internet dating as a curse, but I for me, it was one of life’s greatest blessings.