How to be Successful Online Dating
Dating Profiles, First Messages, and Red Flags
As a relationship therapist and dating coach, many of my single clients who are looking for that forever love, come to me asking, “What am I doing wrong?” expressing feelings of confusion, hurt, and even outrage at the current state of the dating world. Today I want to share with you dating tips to navigate the online dating pool of uncertainty and discomfort so that you can enter the dating world with confidence and assuredness that you’re not alone in feeling this way.
It’s Not You…It’s Your Dating Platform
Okay, you’ve decided to jump in – to try out this online approach to dating, and what better time than now when social distancing is in full swing? It’s not like you can go to the bar or join a club to meet someone new these days, you have to get a little more creative and with SO many people circulating on and through dating apps and websites…where do you even begin?
When it comes to online dating, there are apps and websites galore for you to choose from. The biggest difference between using an app like Tinder vs. a website like OkCupid is that dating sites that require a questionnaire (or a financial commitment) tend to attract people that are more serious about looking for a relationship. Where it is more common to find people that are looking for a relationship as well as causal hookup up on swipe apps.
Using an app or website is not necessarily better than the other but it may be helpful to think about what you are looking for and to choose a site or an app depending on the type of person that particular platform attracts. I often recommend that people join more than one platform to increase their pool of people.
Don’t Believe Everything You Read
Dating profiles are intimidating – they’re intimidating to create and they're even intimidating to read. Dating clients will ask me, “How can I trust that this is real?” And it is true…people have a tendency to answer personal questionnaires as they would like to be, not as they really are.
We all want to put our best foot forward, especially when it comes to meeting someone new. So, it’s likely that there will be embellishments on dating profiles. Consider the profile similar to a first impression – while you aren’t getting the full impression of the person, you are seeing (typically) who they want to be or believe they can be if they aren’t that person already.
My advice here is to not jump to conclusions. Don’t assume that what you read in the profile is completely true, but don’t discount what the profile says because it seems to good to be true. So while the personality questionnaire may not be 100 percent accurate they may at least give some idea of who that person is or at least who they aspire to be.
Use the dating profile as a jumping-off point to get to know the person, not to judge who they are or aren’t based on the answers they filled out.
Finding Your Perfect Match: More than a Questionnaire
For many online dating sites, the questionnaire will allow you to connect with similarly minded people – those who have a high percentage of matching with you based on the answers that you filled out.
The truth is, there is no foolproof way to succeed in finding the perfect match but there are definitely things that will increase your chances such as having a great profile, clarifying for yourself what you are looking for in a partner and how to assess others for that quality, having a positive mindset about dating, having a positive mindset about yourself, identifying your shortcoming when it comes to dating and taking steps to improve those things, and obviously being willing to go on lots of dates!
Don’t discount a potential match because your “match rating” is lower than others. Dating requires getting to know people – talking, listening, and seeing where your compatibility is outside of the questionnaire answers you both filled out.
Your Dating Profile IS Your First Impression
You may get the opportunity to turn your matches into real-life dates, but the relationship ultimately starts from your profile. As mentioned before, dating profiles (creating and reading) are intimidating! Some of my tips for creating a standout dating profile are:
- Include good quality and thoughtfully chosen pictures. The pictures may be the only thing someone looks at – each picture should have a purpose that gives information about you (no selfie bathroom shots!!!!). It should also be easy to identify who you are in the photo (keep it simple, don’t include a bunch of group photos). For more tips on taking outstanding dating profile pictures, see: Denver Dating Coach: How to Get The Best Online Dating Profile Photo
- Share something unique, interesting, and important. Give people enough interesting information in your profile that they have something for a conversation starter. Saying “I like dogs and beach volleyball” might be an easy way to plan that first date, but ultimately doesn’t share anything about who you are.
- Don’t complain. I cannot stress this enough, don’t complain and especially don’t talk about how much you hate online dating in your profile (you’d be surprised at how often this happens).
When you find a match – or someone you’re interested in getting to know a little more, you may have the opportunity to send them a message. When messaging others, ask a specific question or comment about their profile, don’t ever a start a conversation with nothing but a “hey.”
Avoid Appearing Desperate
Dating apps are often used for casual hookups and brief interactions – and when you are looking for more than just a one-night stand it can be hard to come off as fun and flirty when you know that ultimately what you want may not be what 99% of your matches are looking for.
Be honest about what you are looking for in your profile, and then behave in ways that are consistent with what you want. If you want a serious relationship then don’t engage in behavior that is consistent with hook up culture – meeting up late at night, texting when drinking, etc.. Also remember that the main purpose of a first or second date is only to see if you’re interested in a second or third date. Relax and enjoy getting to know people without interrogating them about future plans on the first date to avoid coming off as desperate. Be patient, these things take time.
Beware of the Bright Red Flag
The biggest red flag is someone that waits extended periods of time between responses (days to weeks). People that are committed to this process tend to be responsive and make themself available. People that are looking for a partner are not wanting a pen pal. Limit your messaging to a couple of days and then find a time to meet in person (in public), that way you don’t waste time messaging someone for weeks only to find out that there is no real connection when face to face.
Dealbreakers – What Matters Most
Dealbreakers are specific to each person. You need to decide what are YOUR dealbreakers are before you begin dating. Some people feel like a difference in politics is a dealbreaker where that is totally fine for someone else. Be thoughtful about what you are ok with and what will end up destroying a relationship in the long run.
If you are looking for a serious relationship, a long-term commitment, you have to be honest with yourself about what works and doesn’t work for you. To say, “Oh, I can grow to love that about them,” or “It’s not that big of deal, really” will only hurt you in the long run.
Dating More Than One Person at a Time
Your matches are lining up, you’re feeling pretty good about your prospects and the conversations that are unfolding – but is it okay to date more than one person at a time? How many people you choose to date at a time needs to be dependent on each person. If you tend to jump into relationships quickly and put all your eggs in one basket, you’re better off dating multiple people at once. If you tend to struggle to commit, and dating lots of people supports that avoidance, try dating one person at a time.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to go about online dating – show up as yourself and be honest with yourself throughout the process. When things start to feel like “too much” know it’s okay to walk away, and if things start to “fit” then move forward. The wonderful thing about dating is you get to choose how you’ll move forward or when you’ll walk away based on your wants and needs.
Here’s to you and your online dating adventures!
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT
Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a couples counselor, premarital counselor, therapist, and life coach who is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.
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