Sue: "I’ve just gotten divorced and thinking about dating, perhaps online. Do you have any advice for online dating - I have heard horror stories and would like to avoid the obvious pitfalls."
OOOOHHHH, Sue...do I have some advice for you!
Online dating is an incredibly efficient way to search for someone whether they be a casual boyfriend or a serious partner. The reason that millions of people use dating websites is because they get excellent results. If you want it to be effective as well as efficient for you too, you have to use it wisely or it will use you! Those horror stories you've heard are true so, let's flag the pitfalls so you can avoid them...
1. Online Dating Websites are a Business
Don't be like a child walking into a sweet-shop - gob-smacked by all the options but naive to the situation. Online dating is now considered an 'industry' so, they work hard to extract money from either advertisers or subscribers - you. Websites are carefully crafted with colours, pictures, words and systems designed to draw you in to the process of 'finding the one'. I want to underline that point - psychological principles are employed to make dating websites seductive, almost addictive. You'll get all sorts of enticements and reinforcement for falling deeper into their web(site).
My advice would be to use it as a tool, being well aware of the effect it is meant to have on you, and actually spend as little time on the websites as possible.
2. Start With The Right Motivation
People are not to be toyed with. When you see so many people's profiles all lined-up like products on a shelf, it's easy to forget that each profile represents a living, breathing person with feelings, hopes, fears, problems and talents. In fact, 'productizing' people may be one of the techniques used by cynical dating sites to retain you as a paying customer - perhaps the next one, or the next one, or the next one will be the perfect match! Men are not a solution to a problem - they don't exist to ease your loneliness, boost your ego, pay your bills, or provoke your ex'.
My advice would be to treat others straightforwardly and with consideration. It doesn't mean you have to meet everyone, listen to their life story or minister to their problems but, even if you are never going to meet someone, be nice. Say 'no' when you mean no and 'yes' when you mean yes. You're effecting real people who inhabit the real world and your consideration will make the whole of society better by a miniscule amount. Choose not to use others, instead, come to the table as complete as you can be so that you're not a taker but a giver.
3. Yes, You Will be Judged
You are absolutely going to be judged by your appearance. No need to get all up-in-arms about it - that won't make any difference to reality. The fact is, we've always judged each other by our appearance. Even back the first time around, when we were young and perky, we judged by looks. It's just that, when we were young, were were all naturally, effortlessly, juicy and sleek. Plus, you are totally going to judge by appearances too so, don't be a hypocrite.
My advice would be to polish yourself-up for this round of dating. If you could do with a more flattering haircut, or a fresh wardrobe, or loosing a few centimetres, do it. Don't believe the friends who say that someone who loves you would accept you as you when 'as you are' is a bit stale. Be a vibrant version of yourself for your own pleasure and wellbeing. Be a vibrant version of yourself out of respect for the person you hope to hang-out with - why should they accept your second best?
4. Be Honest (two ways)
You will totally waste your time and annoy others if you are dishonest. Firstly, be honest about yourself. Say what you want and what you won't stand for. When we're very young it's possible we might move 100 miles away to be with our beloved, or adopt his 6 children, or learn to love living in a tent surrounded by goats but, at this point, you know what's true for you. If someone has to love your cat - say that. If you won't tolerate smoking, don't meet-up with someone just in case you like them and could overlook the smoking for a while. If you're a druid priestess - own it.
Further to this, I have spoken to a lot of men about online dating and the number one complaint they have is women posting photos that are not an honest reflection of their appearance. Most men have turned-up to coffee to meet someone who turns-out to be twice the age or size that the photo represents. Many men are now telling those women that they don't appreciate the deception and walking straight out of the date. It's awkward for the women but, what was she expecting would happen? People do not like being deceived.
My advice would be to know yourself, improve yourself, and be honest about yourself. The good new is, you don't need to be perfect to be appealing. Look around you - there are plenty of plain and ordinary people in happy relationships. But that doesn't start with deception.
The second form of honesty is to avoid fooling yourself about others. I have seen so many people waste time on a 'what-if'. If the guy is still married, he's not available. If he's in Scotland, he's not moving to Portsmouth. If he's a 19 year-old sports-model, he's not going to marry a women in her 50's. If he's just needs to borrow twenty thousand from you for the flight from Italy, he's a scammer. If he blames, bitches and whines in his profile, he's not ready for a relationship. It doesn't matter how cute, rich, eager or convincing he seems...it doesn't matter how many online fairytales you've read...it doesn't matter how much you wish it were true - it ain't.
My advice would be to develop enough self-respect and independence that you've not emotionally vulnerable. That means valuing yourself enough to protect yourself. (See a therapist is that's still a challenge). It means having a great single life so that a relationship needs to bring something special to the table to be worth it. It's easier to be honest when you're not needy.
5. You're Not a Chocolate Biscuit
When you apply for a job, you write a resume that highlights all your good points, overlooks your 'weaknesses' and does so in a formulaic, uncontroversial way. This is presenting yourself in the most palatable way possible - like a mass-produced chocolate biscuit designed to appeal to as many people as possible. Do not write your online profile like that. Contrary to most people's urge, you are not trying to appeal to as many people as possible - think about it - you are only looking for one person! So, in fact, you are trying to trigger a process of exclusion rather than inclusion. A huge mistake people make it to use online dating to flatter their ego by trying to get as much attention as possible, as though the more people who like you the better you are. Appealing to the masses from a distance is easy. Finding a true connection is hard and mutually exclusive of an attention-seeking attitude.
My advice would be to write a profile intended to filter-out as many people as possible. Promote yourself as a unique collectible appealing to a small number of specialist enthusiasts. If you write something true in your profile that would 'put-off' some people, you're on the right track.
It's what makes you different that makes all the difference.
If you get lost on the journey through online dating, keep coming back to these fundamentals. I could give you lots of tactical advice on profile-writing, dates, conversation and sex but, if you don't get the basic values right, none of the rest will work. On the other hand, you can make all sorts of tactical errors but still have success if you follow the advice above.
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