The Internet has widened the gene pool of potential dates, but it’s clearly still buyer beware. If you’re one of the many people who has tried Internet dating and walked away shaking your head, take heart. Here are a few tips:
The 40 (-plus)-year-old (altar) virgin: If you’re dating someone 40-plus and altar-avoidant and your goal is a life-long committed relationship, have a serious conversation with yourself. While bachelors and bachelorettes do sometimes wed late in life, many are satisfied being single and aren’t always honest that they plan to stay that way. So when you hear, “I’m single because I just haven’t met the right person,” don’t con yourself into believing that you’re Cinderella or Cinderfella. Ask your love interest if she or he can imagine committing to one partner for life. Then, do a reality check to determine if the relationship is advancing toward a stronger commitment and intimacy. If not, either drop your dreams of marriage and stay, or leave and find someone who wants to wed.
Rubberband man (or woman): He or she is recently single and walking wounded, but working hard to hide it. Some well-meaning, but emotionally stunted person tells Rubberband, “The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else.” So Rubberband posts a profile and is delighted to discover that she or he is still desirable. The problem is that it’s only been one month since she returned the engagement ring. In the meantime, you’re imagining a future with Rubberband. Suddenly, Rubberband snaps, “I’m just not ready for a relationship,” and you’re a mess. Hey, shield your heart from rebounders. Ask about previous relationships before you extend an invitation to meet for coffee.
The cyber-mixer: Watch out for the real-estate agents, dance instructors, nutritionists and personal trainers who use Internet dating sites to boost their business. Introductory coffee dates transform into sales calls faster than you can say “commission.” Your “date” pops business cards into the palm of your hand and leaves: another marketing mission accomplished.
And don’t try this from home …
Cyber-stalking: You read a succulent profile and respond by immediately spilling your heart into an e-mail. Later, when you check your in-box you discover … nothing! So you check your intended’s profile to see if they have been active in the last 24 hours. Yes! She or he has been online! Stop already. This is just as weird and obsessive as driving by your ex’s condo.
Getting your money’s worth (aka, the grass is greener): You joined an online dating service, and within three weeks you’ve met a wonderful man or woman. But you just don’t want to commit because there are more than 60 days left on your membership. What if someone better comes along? Psychologists say that Americans are unhappy, in part, because we have too many choices. Stop looking on the other side of the fence.
Your perfect match: A female friend I’ll call Penelope joined an online dating service, but didn’t post a photo. She very quickly received an e-mail from an intelligent, witty and accomplished man. He didn’t have a photo posted either, but the connection was so amazing, Penelope didn’t mind. After several exchanges, he invited her to dinner. She agreed on the condition that he e-mail a photo so she could recognize him at the restaurant. He did and she fell out laughing. It was a former boyfriend. She canceled the date. If you notice that the profile or e-mail exchange feels too familiar, ask directly for details so you can be certain who you are talking to.
I hope this helps. And if you have questions about Internet dating or stories to share about your experiences, send them to me for inclusion in an upcoming column.