Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Advice for Online Dating

I have a lot of clients who are, with varying degrees of effort and success, attempting to find relationships via online dating resources. They're on Match, OK Cupid, PoF, Tinder, Bumble (to name a few). 

In full disclosure, I did online dating off and on for several years and found it both frustrating and fruitful, depending on my attitude at the time. I did, however, pretty consistently have what one might call "success" at it, and so from that perspective I'm happy to offer suggestions. I made a lot of friends, as well, and as such had many fascinating conversations about online dating and what people's different experiences of it were. There were some pretty consistent themes that arose, and so I feel confident that this could, if nothing else, give people new perspective. Take or leave these tips based on what feels authentic to you, because that is my #1 piece of advice. 

So without further ado: 

1) Be YOU. Make sure that your photos, bio, quotes, etc all reflect an authentic version of yourself. You don't have to disclose everything up front, of course, but if what you're interested in is connecting with another human on a meaningful level, you have to present yourself accurately from day one. Few things feel more uncomfortable in the online dating world than to discover upon meeting someone in person that they are not at all who/how they presented themselves. To me, the greatest compliment one can give or receive in these endeavors is "You are exactly the same in person." I heard this a lot from men, in a surprised and appreciative way. This leads me to believe many others people are not presenting themselves super accurately. YOU, always. The right person is going to like you for exactly who you are. Also, remember that keeping up a facade is a LOT of work. Ain't nobody got time for that in 2017. 

2) To that end, put recent photos up only, unless you indicate in the caption what is different now or what year the photo was taken. Most of us do not look how we looked ten years ago, for better or worse, and so to present yourself as a younger or thinner or more fashionable version of yourself is false advertising, which we want to always avoid. 

3) Ladies, you need to know that men see it as a huge red flag if all of your photos are just of your face (especially if it's a heavily made-up face). For better or worse, they assume it means your body is ______ (something you don't want to show). Make sure you have full body photos on your page. They don't have to be sexy or in any way specifically intended to show off your body, just make sure there is a photo that shows accurately what you look like. This may seem shallow, but remember that we are all going off our first impressions, and we generally have to find the way someone looks appealing on some level in order to be attracted to them. Don't be mad that men want to know what your body looks like. Many of them have felt tricked into going out with women they normally wouldn't be interested in, so they are understandably wary if their experience suggests they might be duped again.  

4) Similarly, men, you need to know that if all your photos are selfies, that's a red flag. That suggests (to me, at least) that you don't have any friends to hang out with or to ask to take a picture of you at least. Put a group shot up if the people in it are comfortable with it (if that's all you have) or have a pal take a normal-looking photo of you that isn't in the gym or bathroom mirror. One or two of those is fine but not a whole series of them. We get it, you work out. We get it, you have abs. We get it, you use the bathroom. Whatever. We don't care as much as you think we do about your body. We care more about knowing you have friends/family who love you and spend time with you. Or that you've been interesting places or done things besides taken photos of yourself in mirrors. 

5) Write about yourself in your profile. Don't just talk about what you want or don't want in another person. Give the people reading your profile information about YOU. What do you do for fun, for sport, for entertainment? Where do you like to go? What are some interesting quirky facts about you? What are your favorite things? Think of it more as a resume' and less as a help wanted ad. Say who you are, and a person who is looking for someone with your qualities is going to express interest. 

6) On that note, please do not write your whole profile bashing all the men/women you've encountered so far. Talking about catfishing and whatnot or making threats like "You have to do ____" in order for me to even talk to you. Don't litter it with endless "don't be _____" and "don't bother messaging me if _____" and "no games" and negative/defensive garbage like that. That just makes you sound bitter and as if you've been on these sites for a million years and you're all weary about it. It also can make you sound impossible to please and little fun to be around. I would always suggest you make effort to sound like you're actually excited to meet new people. That's why you're on the sites in the first place, so be open to it actually happening instead of constantly poised to defend against imposters or expecting to be lied to or manipulated. For the record, I went out with a fairly large number of men over the years, and every single person was who they said they were. Most of them looked like their photos. It's not as common as you might think to be fake out by people in real life. 

7) If someone messages you and they aren't someone you want to talk to, just don't respond. That's totally acceptable. You don't have to explain why you aren't interested. If they start bothering you, block them or report them if necessary. Don't feel badly for not responding. Online dating shouldn't feel like a part-time job or a whole slew of new obligations. You don't owe anyone anything except to be respectful and honest when you do interact with them. 

8) Women, do not be afraid to message men first. Most men are not intimidated by women who make the first move; if they are, you may not be interested in them anyway! I found that if I reached out first, men were pleasantly surprised that I'd taken that step. The logic is simple: men like to feel desired, too. And some men are shy just like some women are shy. Whoever sees the profile of a person they are interested in first should just write to them or "swipe right" or whatever. Don't assume that if someone looks at your profile but doesn't reach out they aren't interested, also. Furthermore, if you are a woman who wants an egalitarian relationship without too much adherence to traditional gender roles (as I am), why would you wait for the man to reach out first if you're interested? 

9) I would always advise that you not message/text/email for too long before actually meeting in person. A few days or a week maybe tops. Because what happens if you do just message for a long time is that you potentially create a false sense of intimacy. You may start feeling like you really know this person and really like them...but then when you meet in person if you don't vibe with them, it feels really disappointing and confusing. If you have to wait a long time for some reason before linking up in real life, make sure you talk on the phone a few times to try and mitigate that false intimacy. And always be prepared for the person in real life to not quite be what you'd imagined, whether for better or worse. Don't get too attached to the idea of a person before you actually meet them. 

10) On the first date, I would advise you to always assume you're going to go dutch. Some men are always going to insist on paying, and that's fine and appreciated. I'm not going to argue too hard when a man insists on paying for my drinks or whatever, and I do think it is a good look, to be honest. But ladies: you have to at least OFFER to pay for your own stuff- and be prepared to- and be totally fine with it if he agrees to split the check. I'd say 2/3 of the time on a first date the man paid, and the other 1/3 we split it. I'm not saying women should pick up the tab on the first date; I'm just saying it's not fair to always expect that men will pay. This isn't the dark ages. We've got to be able to pay our own way. Similarly, if he picks up the tab the first time you go out, if you're able to, next time offer to pay (and mean it). It's a good reciprocal gesture. He may not let you, but I think you should at least offer, and be gracious either way. 

11) That said, if you actually ARE that concerned about gender roles, make sure you say that up front. "I am a more 'traditional' kind of woman who expects men to be chivalrous in certain ways" or "As a man, I always pay because I think a woman should be treated a certain kind of way". That's cool if you're into that; just make sure you don't present yourself as anything else or you're just setting both of you up for disappointment. 

12) This should go without saying, but make sure the first time you meet up that it is in a public place where you both (but especially the woman) feel safe/comfortable. Women, do NOT give a man your address on the first date. Do NOT have him pick you up, no matter how "traditional" or "chivalrous" you or he is. Women, do NOT go to his house for the first meeting. Men, if she does offer to come over or have you to her house on the first date, this is a potential red flag in terms of her boundaries and worldly wisdom or sense of self-preservation. Women, I also advise (because I'm very mindful of safety and because frankly this whole "meeting strangers" thing can be scary) that you always give a trusted friend the man's full name and the name of the location where you're meeting him, and tell her that you'll text or call her when you get home safely. ***(All this being said, if the whole purpose of getting together is for sex and you're both clear on that, then you may have to violate these general safety rules unless you can meet at a hotel or someplace neutral, which would be ideal). 

13) After a first date, if you liked the person and would like to see them again, you should always send them a quick text afterwards stating as much. Just saying "I had a good time with you tonight" or "Can I see you again sometime soon?" is nice. It eliminates that whole waiting period of "does s/he like me? should I follow up? should I ask him/her out again?" Similarly, if you didn't like the person or would definitely not like to see them again, don't follow up. If they do, a quick "Thank you, but I don't think we're a good fit. Best of luck!" is a kind response,  vs. just ghosting them. In my opinion, it is always rude to not respond to someone you have met in real life who is being kind to you. But once you've said that, you don't owe them any further correspondence. And that is reason 2945 why you never give a stranger your home address. 

There's way more, but I've run out of steam for the day. I'll leave it at this and add to it later. Hope it helps! Happy dating! :) 

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