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Online Dating – Tips for Success: Part I

By Annie Scully

Okay let’s be honest – if you are over 40, a parent, have a pretty fixed routine and suddenly want to start dating again, it’s not going to be that easy!

You aren’t going to find “the one” hanging out at a local bar, and most of your friends, neighbors and co-workers are probably already married, in a relationship, or know far too much about you to risk getting involved!  

Luckily in this digital age, there are plenty of online dating sites where you can find and meet single, like-minded people. Whether you are looking to match-up by location, common interests, or even religion, the Internet can do a lot of the hard work and get you started on the right track.

From the market leaders, like Match.com or eHarmony, to one of the smaller, free sites like Plenty of Fish, there are literally hundreds of online dating sites to choose from.

But this isn’t an article about finding the right site – each person has different tastes and priorities and will need to find a service that suits them. It’s about avoiding some of the inevitable pitfalls that can make online dating seem such a daunting experience for first-timers.

So, from an online dating veteran, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction!

The Profile

When it comes to your profile, keep it real and keep it honest. Don’t set yourself up – or your dates – for disappointment by promising them something you can’t deliver. If your idea of the outdoor life is the occasional drive to the mall, then don’t give them the impression that you love a 10-mile hike every weekend!  

Initially, I agonized over my profile: what could I possibly say that would make me stand out? But I found that keeping it brief and genuine was the best tactic. You should be specific on some details – age, kids, general interests, etc. – but not so much that you allow potential suitors to form too strong an opinion before they meet you.

Similarly, you don’t want to be too picky about specifying your likes and dislikes in a potential date. For practical reasons, it’s OK to be specific about location or religion, but if you’re a woman that dislikes sports, then you might want to keep that to yourself rather than immediately eliminate 75% of the male population!

Always include a nice photo in your profile but avoid the $300 studio shot with the retouches and the blown-back hair. And smile. A good picture with a nice smile will do more to attract attention than anything else you put in there!

Once you are comfortable with your profile, have a friend review it. Better still, have a friend from the opposite sex take a look.

The Search

At first, you may be overwhelmed by the interest you receive when you post an online profile. New profiles are often highlighted on dating sites and personable, eligible women are always the most popular.

But there are some red flags that you need to look out for as you work through the e-mails and profiles that come your way:

  • No photo – they are usually trying to hide something or from someone. Also, if there is a photo, check for a date; some can be several years old!
  • Marital status – if they say they will tell you later or leave it blank, it usually means they are still married or are seeking a one-night stand.
  • Misspellings – I was always turned off by multiple misspellings. I’ll forgive one or two typos, because everyone makes mistakes, but a serial misspeller….? It shows a certain sloppiness that might carry over into other areas.
  • Constantly online – if you see someone who’s always online, it may mean that they are just trolling for multiple dates and are not serious about their search.

The Connection

Once you do make a promising connection through a dating site, it is important that you move it into the real world as soon as practically possible. Again, if someone just wants to chat online, there may be something not right, especially if the e-mails only come late at night or during office hours.

However, do make sure you speak to someone on the phone before you meet them, although don’t spend too much time in a phone relationship either. Again, if they avoid talking to you on the phone, there might be a problem!

As for that first meeting, even though you may have established a great connection online, it’s still essentially a blind date and you need to make sensible arrangements to protect yourself.

With the right approach and a certain amount of dogged persistence, online dating can be a fun and rewarding experience. Whether you are looking for marriage or just a committed relationship, there’s no reason why you can’t join the millions of people that have found their happy ending!

Comment by Ashley, posted 7/10/2009, 12:07 AM:

Thanks a lot!
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