I got an email a couple months ago from a friend who wanted advice on online dating. She wrote, “You have been very inspiring to me, watching you date online with a ‘positive’ attitude, and I was wondering if you had any tips for me. I desire more than ever to find a companion and someone to share life with, and I’m trying to get in the mind set. It just feels hard to date online positively! I made a Match profile, and have gone on some sad first dates … depressing.”
You see, this year, I set a goal to go on 50 dates. Which is crazy because I don’t think I’ve even been on 20 dates in the 20 years I’ve been “of age” to date. But because of that poor track record, I wanted to figure it out. What am I missing? Why am I not dating? Am I a bad date? Am I just undatable? Do I not give off the “right vibes?” What gives? So really, this is an experimental year as I try to learn: How to date.
And we all know–I’ve been online before (exhibit A and B) and not with a very good attitude. So I took her email to heart and tried to determine what I was doing differently this time around to result in a better experience. I am NOT an expert. I’m honestly making it up as I go. But here are 10 things that have made a difference for me this time.
1. Diversify your portfolio.
Currently, I’m on eHarmony (most expensive, but I think that provides for higher caliber guys, although the number of matches/communications is lower than other sites, plus it’s a slower process because you have to go through the site’s guided communication first), Match (moderately priced, good selection of good guys), LDSPlanet (Mormon-centric site, super inexpensive, large selection of men but I’ve not been impressed at all, really cumbersome site, I’ll not be renewing once my subscription is up), POF (free, humongous selection, lots of communications going on at once, sometimes skeezy, but less skeezy than Tinder).
Once your profiles are set up, make a commitment to spend “x” amount of time each day searching for, and communicating with, matches. It can be a little much to juggle (seriously, four sites is insane, but I have that dating goal to hit so I’m willing to put in the time), so I set up a spread sheet to help me keep track of conversations and things I learn about the guys I’m talking to so I don’t get them mixed up. Also, it’s a little known fact that the more you engage on the sites, send emails, etc., the more the matching algorithms will love your profile and serve it up to the men on the other side of the equation.
2. It’s all about the numbers.
Dating is a numbers game. The more options you open yourself to, the more likely you are to find someone you click with. This means you’re going to talk to a lot of fools and it means you’re going to go on more than a few bad dates. But remember–it’s all about the numbers. Just keep shooting the ball. Eventually you’ll make a basket and you’re going to perfect your skills in the meantime.
3. Let go of your “rules.”
“The guy has to send the first email.” “I won’t respond to ‘winks’.” “I refuse to communicate with men who don’t know the difference between your and you’re.” I’ve used all those excuses before. Until this time. This time, I’ve let go of the rules. Who flipping cares who sends the first email? If you see someone who interests you, message them! Get your money’s worth.
Also, engage with people you wouldn’t otherwise give the time of day to. So your “type” is tall, dark hair, blue eyes, and elbow patches on his tweed blazer (sigh). But who knows–your type might also be blonde, stocky, funny, math wiz. Just let go of your expectations for what your guy should be. Because you really don’t know. And how sad to pass over someone who might really be a great fit for you in a way you never could’ve imagined simply because you’re so concerned with your list.
4. Move as quickly as possible to “the meeting.”
Sometimes the messaging drags on for forever before it becomes texting, and then the texting drags on for forever before the meeting. This is a waste of time, in my opinion. The rubber doesn’t meet the road until you talk in person, face to face. I recommend putting in just enough time messaging/texting that you have a moderate idea of who they are, and then if they haven’t asked you out after a week (two max, and that’s pushing it), encourage the process with a casual, “Hey, we should meet up sometime.” Own it. Know what you want. And let me tell you–you don’t want a texting buddy. Who has time for that? I already have enough friends.
5. Don’t put up with crap.
Oh, there are some nasty men out there. And they say some nasty things. And clearly they think they can act/speak that way because some women have allowed it. But don’t be one of those women. Delete. Block. Period.
6. Stop worrying if they will like you or not.
In the beginning, I found myself filtering my actions–saying things like, “oh, he’d never like me”–and declining potential matches because I assumed they wouldn’t be interested in me for whatever reason. But then one day, as I stared at a profile I liked, I thought, what do I have to lose?
Message who you want to message. Who cares if they don’t respond? You’re no worse off. But what if they DO. You have to try. You owe it to yourself (and to the credit card you used to pay for all this nonsense). Because seriously–you’re awesome and you have so much to offer someone. Too often, especially after a dating drought or a difficult breakup, we feel “so lucky” to finally be on a date. But you’re forgetting–he’s lucky to be on a date with you. (I have that printed on my mirror just so I don’t forget.)
Own your awesome, ladies. Believe in what you have to offer.
7. Sometimes you need to take a break.
I’ll be honest–sometimes there are weeks where all the matches or messages I receive are either idiots or gross. Sometimes I’m exhausted by the search. Sometimes it stings when, over the course of a week, you send 40 emails to 40 men you’re interested in and no one responds. Or you go on date after date after date and they result in nothing. It’s easy to feel rejected, dejected, and a little hopeless. In those moments, take a step back and breathe for a few days or a few weeks. Center yourself and recalibrate.
And then dive back in. You’ve got to keep trying.
8. Be safe.
It should go without saying, but don’t give your full name too soon. Be vague about your profession, place of employment, birthplace, etc. Do not give your home address too soon. Do not go to his house too soon. If you’re nervous about giving your phone number, use a free messaging app like Kik to communicate outside the dating site. Use a nondescript email address created just for your online dating profiles. Always always always meet in a public place for the first few times. And use the buddy system–text a friend your date location and then text them again with your safety status when you arrive, leave, and get home with the door closed and locked.
Don’t be stupid. Be safe.
9. Lower your expectations (but not your standards).
Despite all my dedicated efforts in online dating this year, I honestly have no expectations. If I find a relationship, great. If not, having dinner with someone will not kill me (unless he’s a murderer, see No. 8 above). My only goal is to just date. And while I’ve had some doozies, I’ve also met some really nice guys and had some really interesting conversations.
Having said that, my original goal was 100 dates this year. I figured that would be easy, especially being on four sites. I mean, there are thousands of single men in this big city! But once I began weeding through the profiles, I realized–I do still have standards. So even though I’m willing to look at matches outside my “type,” I’m not communicating with every man who sends me an email or a wink. I am not desperate. You, are not desperate.
And while marriage might be your ultimate goal, worrying about that with every match and every date is exhausting. No one can know the end from the beginning. So enjoy the beginnings. Have fun meeting people and just say yes to life.
10. Choose to see the bright side. If the bright side doesn’t exist, at least find the humor.
Like I said above, I’ve met some doozies throughout this process. I’ve had some horrible dates. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been annoyed. I’ve been sad. And I’ve been pissed. But I’m choosing to enjoy myself. Every time I meet someone, I go into it with the goal of being a good date, rather than having a good date. This shifts my mindset away from what I’m getting from the situation, but to what I’m giving to it.
Of the 20 dates I’ve been on thus far this year, only one has resulted in a second date, which resulted in a nine-week relationship (see No. 2 above). Getting a match online is the easy part, finding a connection is where it gets tricky. But you have to choose to show up. You have to choose to put in the time, and you have to choose to look for the good in other people (even if they’re weird). Plus, most of my bad dates, weren’t necessarily “bad” but rather laughable. So if you can’t find the good (which does happen on occasion), I promise you can find the humor.