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Top Tips for Successful Online Dating

By Stacey Ross

I have met and made many friends and colleagues online before transitioning to offline relationships, so I can speak from first-hand experience when I share that the power of the Internet for helping to create long-lasting friendships is undeniable!

Years ago, I had my one and only date with a guy whom I had met on an online dating site, and while my short-lived experience (the date lasted a whole 30 minutes!) does not make me an expert, I did gain some valuable insight by watching close friends and family members use dating platforms such as eHarmony and Match.com. If singles have an ideal mate in mind, they surely can take a step forward in the love department if they approach online resources in the right way.

Many of us know loved-ones whose online experiences resulted in long-term relationships, or even matrimony. According to a 2013 Pew study on online dating, one in ten Americans has used an online dating site or a mobile dating app; 66 percent of these individuals have gone on a real date with someone they met online; and 23 percent ended up meeting a spouse or long term partner!

The study also shares that people in every major demographic are likely to know an online dater and are also likely to view the partners they met online in a positive way. More than half of all Internet users (59 percent) agree that online dating is a good way to meet people, which is a 15-point increase from the 44 percent who said so in 2005.

Here are my top tips for succeeding at finding long-lasting love online, based on life experiences and interviewing many who have engaged in online dating, even leading to marriage:

1. Know your goals and interests

Make them known from the get-go. No computer algorithm is going to be better than your strongest intuition (theoretically speaking, that is!). Some of the topics that are crucial when evaluating compatibility include: personality type, age range, interests, past marriages, common interests, physical attributes, educational background, professional status, and geographic proximity (just for starters).

Sarah: "I once met a guy in my 20s whom I thought might be worth meeting, but after he shared that he already had a few kids, I decided to decline. I was not ready for that commitment at that time in my life, and I found myself curious why he had not indicated that he was a dad of three in his profile, as well!"

Tim: "I came to find out the lady I was interested in used a photo of herself that was several years old! What gives? Honesty, I guess!? I really like when they accurately depict themselves."

2. Have a good grip of the lessons learned in your past relationships

Why? Because if not, they are bound to resurface. Again. And again. And again. If you hear a potential suitor speak negatively about his or her ex, especially without owning up to his or her own "lessons learned," that might be an indicator that that person is not good with commitment.

Claire: "A guy I met, who was returning to the scene after a couple of failed marriages, shared with me, 'The ladies seem to just be after me for my money.' Now, how could he not see that this was one of the features that he clearly flaunts regularly? Duh!"

3. Have a plan

Consider articulating to yourself and your besties the character traits, morals, values, and religious beliefs that are must-haves for your future mate. Are there areas that can be compromised even a little or are your convictions firm? Know this stuff inside and out, and the clearer you are with yourself, the easier and more successful you will be in your venture! It works!

Lesson learned: Opposing faiths, quite possibly, are a recipe for ..... something. Those with religious backgrounds tend to revisit their faith, even if they had abandoned it somewhat. Spiritual and religious compatibility are just as important in a relationship as, say, approaches to parenting and views on marriage and commitment.

Another tip: A person who is in the market for love but does not envision becoming a co-parent is better off dating those who are in the same boat. Don't think you can change someone's mind into wanting the "full package" (if you are single with kids), no matter how amazing you are and how cute your kids are!

4. Refrain from falling in love online

The other area to consider is that the element of fantasy can take a life of its own, and an over- investment of time online can pan out to much of nothing! Real-LIVE interactions and discussions are a much more sure-proof method for determining if the right formula is brewing for a true relationship. While someone might pique your interest, be careful of the "love at first click" trap or the casual dating syndrome that you might later regret.

Tom (68 year old): "I became reacquainted with an old high school friend. We always had an interest in one another but we built families and did not stay much in touch. Now decades later, I am a widower and I came to find that Barb's husband left several years back. In becoming reacquainted with Barb years later, I feel like those high school butterflies have returned! All I can say is that time will tell!"

5. Plan your first dates in a public place

I highly recommend, when possible, to not talk on the phone for more than an hour before you first meet and to not make the first date longer than a couple of hours. (If it was meant to be, you do not need a first date to string out for ten hours!). Also, it is a really good idea to refrain from prematurely sharing personal information that can come back to bite you (especially if you have kids!). Hold off and don't rush things!

Linda: "I have found that meeting up for coffee and having plans already set for the day is the best idea for the first date. You tend to have a good idea if you wish to see the person again about after the first 20 minutes or so. It is always good to stay a bit reserved when you meet new people. No need to be mysterious, but a good dose of precaution will never steer you wrong, plus you can still keep your options open! Yup, it took some trial and error to learn that one."

Matt: "I spent around a month corresponding with a lady that seemed really interesting and after the first fifteen minutes of knowing her I knew for sure that there would not be a second date. I regret having spent so much time with her online!"

6. Limit texting and emailing during the courting process

While not true in all cases, defaulting to texting and DM’ing tends to demonstrate minimal effort from both sides. It is hard enough to process the right cues in real life, so getting to know one another in the flesh (no, not in the buff!) and even on the phone or via video conferencing adds an element of communication which is far more genuine than just hiding behind a screen.

Phone calls are still preferable to texting. The Pew study mentioned earlier indicates that more than half of smartphone users (52 percent) have called someone to ask them out on a date versus the 37 percent who have texted the request. Keep it classy, peeps!

7. Take caution when kids are involved

What if kids from a previous relationship are involved? Consider the consequences of introducing your dates to your kids, particularly if they are younger. At the point you wish to introduce your partner to your children or ex, keep in mind that not everyone might be as ready as you are to hop into a new family dynamic. Besides keeping exes out of most discussions, it is smart to refrain from bringing your kids (if you are a single parent) into the mix early on. If the relationship has gotten to a serious stage, then that might be a better time to introduce the kids to your potential partner.

Kari actually met the man she would marry in a chat room, and over a period of years grew to bond with him and his kids (from another marriage), who also grew to adore her. Since there were children involved, it took a concerted effort to make sure that the timing and logistics were right to take that big step of marriage and create a new family!

Kari: "A HUGE plus since I knew they came as a package deal. I fell in love with him and his kids, and vice versa. I ended up going to church services with him and over the course of the next couple of years I was ready to convert and felt without a doubt it was the right thing, just as I had those same thoughts about him and his children..."

Establishing a sound plan with clear boundaries during your dating experience will ideally lead to a richer experience and less uncomfortable surprises. Try to use the Internet as a tool to meet and get to know someone, but not rely on it to build your relationship's foundation. No matter how much interfacing via technology takes place, it is the real-life experiences that become the glue to a healthy relationship! Likewise, be on guard, as in many circumstances you might find that people misrepresent themselves, for one reason or another.

This is why it is good practice to take your online correspondence offline as soon as possible, then if things are not progressing naturally, move on! And if you end up marrying one another, don't be shy to bring out your online profiles and frame them! Or you can keep the secret to yourself (that is unless your best man blows your cover!).

Oh, and if your one and only online date happens to sit (with his new date) at the booth right next to you (um, awkward!) during your first date with the man you end up marrying, at least you will have one funny online dating story to share!

Stacey Ross is an online consultant, social media enthusiast, freelancer and owner of SanDiegoBargainMama.com. A former teacher and middle school counselor, she is now a mom of two who researches and freelances about lifestyle topics involving family and well-being.

Comment by Tinger Woods, posted 1/13/2014, 8:48 PM:

I strongly believe that it is true that your profile must to be enhanced. You should not bragged into something that you are not really prepared. Hence, people should refrain from falling in love without meeting the person first. This is just a piece of advice. http://effortlessdating.net
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