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Online Dating Tips and Advice
For You, Me, Baby Boomers and the Now Generation (everyone)
No matter your age, from 21 to 101, online dating, can prove to be a wonderful experience; however, it can be horrible IF you do not use the proper tools and preventative measures to ensure you are safe in the pursuit for Ms. or Mr. Right. Below are tips shared with me by other online daters and some I've experienced firsthand.
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?
A short fifteen years ago, meeting someone online was a scary and embarrassing thing. Now, per the stats by DatingSitesReview.com, approximately ten percent of the 54 million singles in the US use a dating service. In October, 2011, per Hitwise, online dating sites in the US had 593 million hits! However, until you gain experience in online dating, it can still be scary and embarrassing. I am hoping by sharing my experiences with you, you'll feel a little safer and you will have more self confidence in this growing phenomenon.
Now, to my journalistic questions:
Who? Online dating sites are geared to anyone over eighteen. You want to make sure that you are not communicating with someone under the age of consent! However, as you know, there are teenagers online pretending to be adults, some on their own and others directed to do this by their abusers. Be safe, always ask and get confirmation of his/her age. Insist on a current photo! Law enforcement agents also have stings going on, so, please be sure you are chatting with an adult!
What? Online dating is identified by individuals registering at an online dating site with the hope of finding Ms. or Mr. Right. You read through dozens (maybe hundreds) of profiles of the other registrants until you find one that you are visibly attracted to, then you check out what your commonalities are. Remember, beauty fades with age, so do not place as much emphasis on looks as you do on character traits. Recently someone said that you only want to date someone who is attractive enough to turn you on; otherwise he/she will be nothing but trouble. Sounds like he was speaking from experience!
When? Another Hub writer wrote that once you establish via emails, texts and/or phone calls that you would like to meet each other, do it now. Do not wait for someone else to capture his or her heart! Good advice. Why prolong the agony or delay your possible happiness? IF the person you are chatting with seems to be the man or woman of your dreams, why would you want to wait having him or her in your life?!?
Where? The "where" should be a place conveniently located halfway between your respective homes or offices. It should be a well-lit, safe place, such as a restaurant, coffee house or other public place. Meet inside, not in the parking lot! Most online dating sites publish safety tips, so I won't go into great detail here. However, I do want to remind you that although you think this person could possibly be "the one", he/she could also be a predator. Per the stats at the above mentioned site, 81% of online daters lie about various things (i.e. age, weight, height); however, I would also add that many are lying about their marital status, gender, location, etc. So, if they would lie about something that would be identifiable when you finally meet in person, what assurance do you have that they are telling the truth about anything else. Please use your sixth sense! IF a man refuses to publish pictures or at least share a current one with you, do NOT waste any time cultivating a friendship with him -- he has something to hide! In most cases, I would venture to guess that he is married. The second guess would be that he is not really an older version of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt or, for you guys, a female starlet like Jennifer Aniston or Dolly Parton!
Why? That is a question you should answer yourself. Why do you want to date? If you are looking for husband material, please do not look only at the ones who have listed marriage as their ultimate desire. There are many of us who are interested in long term relationships (not one night stands and not just someone for sex); however, when we meet the person of our dreams and fall madly in love, marriage would not be off the table then. Rome was not built in a day and neither is a relationship!
How? Let me count the ways . . . lol There are so many things to consider in the "how" category. I suggest first that you have a heart to heart with yourself and decide on some ground rules that you try to adhere to during your search for your love interest.
Sample Ground Rules for online dating:
1) Eliminate all prospects who do not offer you at least 2 current photos. If someone has uploaded three or more current photos and has gone into great detail about himself/herself, then the chances of him/her being on the up and up increase considerably. OkCupid.com has extensive personality tests, so if you truly want to see how your philosophies match, you should answer as many of the questions as possible and ask your prospective mate to do the same. Then, take time to review your answers! It's time consuming; however, wouldn't you rather find out BEFORE you meet if you are compatible, than after the date and you've wasted time and money, too? One man contacted me, wanting to meet; however, he did not have a photo. His excuse, his house burned down with his photos in it. What?!? Wonder if anyone else accepted that excuse! He's on a computer, most have built in cameras, most cell phones come with built-in cameras and if that still isn't the case, does he not have a friend who could take and post his photo? He posted BIG red flags all over the place. Needless to say, I refused to communicate further with him!
2) Communicate for a day or two, via the online dating site, then via personal emails (set up an email address to use strictly for online dating, that way you can delete it when you meet Mr. or Ms. Right or if someone becomes problematic), texting and/or by telephone before committing to meeting in person. When we get to the exchanging phone number stage, I use my cell phone, not my land line, which can be put into the White Pages' reverse phone look up to get my name and address. NOT SAFE at all!
3) Make up a list of questions that you can put into an email for him/her to answer. If he/she refuses to answer your questions, then Houston you have a problem! Good communication is one of the most, if not THE most, important trait in a great relationship, so do not meet someone unless you are able to communicate via the written and oral word. I recommend getting your questions answered in writing first, then have a long telephone conversation where you can clarify the questions and answers given. Someone who is lying about his/herself will not be too comfortable answering questions, so you need to identify this upfront. That way you can tell him/her that you are sorry, but you just do not think you are compatible. No explanation needed. They will figure it out!
Now on to a few personal experiences . . .
Clarify what the potential mate's desires are. IF he or she says "casual dating" or "dating" that pretty much sums up that this person is only interested in dating without a commitment, possibly only looking for a sex partner or a Sugar Daddy/Momma. That is what you must clarify! If he/she list "activity partner" you need to ask what type of activities is he/she looking for. Some have innocently (such as I did at first) checked that box meaning that they would love to attend concerts, go to museums, plays, etc. However, I have since figured out that the "experienced" online daters check that box indicating they are looking for a sexual activity partner. Obviously, for most of us (or at least some of us) we'd like the entire package -- a lifetime partner and/or spouse, someone to attend functions with, a lover, a confidant, a best friend -- you know, an "everything" person! Just in case the person you are communicating checked the wrong box, too, take time to ask! I had a couple of situations that I obviously did not clarify it well enough!
Ask about his or her family, especially about his/her children. No matter what anyone says, when you become involved in a committed relationship, you are including his/her children, parents, siblings, pets, etc. I would consider it an honor to become part of his family! And, so should you! And, if there are issues that make you uncomfortable, regardless of what they are, those issues will grow as fast and as much as the proverbial molehill grows into a mountain. These are things you should identify before you ever set a date to meet. This discussion could save you and your potential date a lot of disappointment.
Point blank, ask him/her IF he/she has ever been arrested for anything, ever. Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity or some minor offense; however, you still need to know that. A DUI/DWI or other points on his/her driving record will become part of your problem IF you get married. Believe me that was a rude awakening for me when I found that my safe driving record was tarnished and my insurance premium was going up when I got married. It did not matter that he had his own car and own insurance policy, with a different company, because we were married and that is a game changer for insurance companies! Since he had access to my vehicles they had to assume he could be driving them! That would have been a deal-breaker IF I had known that BEFORE we had gotten married. So, find these things out BEFORE you fall in love and get married!
If one of the online daters you are considering contacting has a comment that his ideal date would be to come to your house for dinner, I suggest that you pass on by that one. When you feel comfortable in having an "in-house" visit with him/her, I highly suggest that you go to his/her house first, preferably with an impromptu visit (meaning a day's notice at the most). The reason? That is the best way to gauge how this person lives on a day to day basis. You do not want to go in for a white glove inspection, that isn't necessary. However, if the carpet (or other floor covering) looks as if it has never been cleaned, if there are cobwebs in every corner, trash everywhere, the kitchen cabinets are overloaded with clutter and if you go into the bathroom and see cockroaches or other bugs all around the floor (dead or alive) and a commode that obviously has not been cleaned in months (maybe years), then you want to get out of there before your clothing is infested, too!
It's okay to see spider webs, dust on the furniture and floors that need to be vacuumed, but when it is obvious that this person lives in filth and isn't embarrassed having a first-time guest over, then you definitely have a problem!
I do not mind helping someone clean up before and after dinner, but on a first visit, I would rather not have to disinfect the entire house to feel comfortable eating there.
After you meet for the first time and you really like him/her, why not go ahead and get his/her first impression of you? Waiting will only be more painful later IF you are not what he/she is looking for. Pictures, as we all know, are one-dimensional and cannot show all of our faults. Maybe you have a hang up about dating someone with false teeth (the kind that come out at night). I have had that hang up since childhood because of seeing a relative without teeth. I think she said something like, "Come here let me show you I won't (can't) bite you!" Whatever it was, I never got over it. Sorry! It is best if you can identify these things before you meet face to face; however, when that doesn't happen, take time after you've chatted for a few minutes to discuss the things that you cannot accept. I cannot stand being around cigarette smoke, so dating a smoker is out for me! Hopefully, you can identify the things you and your potential date cannot tolerate BEFORE you take it to the next level!
Sometimes you will know immediately that you aren't "clicking", no chemistry between you and you won't have to ask; however, do not leave the other person hanging! Go ahead and tell him/her that it is obvious to you that the two of you do not have the "IT" factor. Split the bill, shake hands, hug or whatever you are comfortable with and part as amicably as possible. Wish him/her the best in his/her search for his ideal mate, then leave. When you park at the designated public place, be sure you park near the entrance and try to avoid a confrontation with him. IF you do not think this is possible, then do not end it in person, wait until you get home safely before letting him/her know that you just didn't feel the chemistry was there.
Chemistry? How will you know if there is chemistry between the two of you? I must give you a personal example here. A mutual friend introduced me to an out of state friend and came with him to my house to pick me up for dinner. When we shook hands it was all we could do to keep from hugging and kissing each other on the spot. We discussed this after our second date and the only way to explain it was our chemistry. It was passion, excitement, anticipation and every other exciting, descriptive word. No, there was no future for us due to his life's restraints, but I will forever be grateful for him "waking me up" and making me realize that my passion and desires are still alive and well.
Speaking of chemistry, you might as well go ahead and find out if he/she is a great kisser. That is so important! (At least it is to me!) If he/she is perfect in every other way, except kissing, I guess you could try lessons. AND a big tip here for the guys: PLEASE, close shaves before your encounter with the possible dream lady. I have been "bearded" and it is not fun! Not only does it hurt our sensitive skin it looks horrible for a week or longer. So, although you may be the best kisser in the world, I will pass on kissing you for a second time if you are not more thoughtful than that. Yes, the "scruffy, rough and tough" manly look is in, but it will not attract the ladies who want a kissing partner. Sorry!
The same with lovemaking, maybe he/she never learned how to be a great lover and maybe you could show him/her how. Only YOU can determine if the chemistry is there. Do your partners a big favor -- tell them how to please you!
During your pre-meeting questions if the person you are asking questions of comes out with an inappropriate comment and you are experiencing red flags popping up everywhere, whether this is in written form or verbally, I would just tell him/her that you are not interested in pursuing a relationship with him/her. If he/she becomes angry and sends you an angry retort, possibly even name-calling, just ignore it and do not respond. This person has anger issues and your sixth sense kicked in and let you know that this was not a person you would be happy with. He/She will only get more agitated if you respond and try to defend your decision. I'm a lover, not a fighter, so I try to avoid situations like that.
The adage that those who can't "do", teach, may be true in my case. I have learned so many painful lessons throughout my life, but I still find it easier to tell others how to find Mr. or Ms. Right than find the ideal mate myself. I have been told that I am a sexy, sensuous woman my entire life; however, I was also a bad judge of character. I let men take advantage of me. I continued to trust and believe every lie told to me. Gullible? Maybe. Or, maybe it was just that I was raised to believe in the Golden Rule -- do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. So, yes, I learned some painful lessons and I am a little more cautious than I was when I was younger, but I still cannot paint every man with the same broad brush. Hopefully, my ideal mate (not perfect, mind you, but ideal for me) is out there looking for me as his ideal mate, too. I am a hopeless romantic; I'm ready for my last love. The man I will eventually meet will, hopefully, prove the following adage to be true: "Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be". Good luck in your search for your last, forever love!
PS Since I believe laughter is the best medicine, no matter what the "illness" is, I'll end this Hub with a little male humor. Enjoy and keep smiling – it is how we will survive this search for our forever love. A male patient is relaying this story:
During my physical, my doctor asked me about my daily activity level, so I described a typical day this way:
"Well, yesterday afternoon, I waded along the edge of a lake, drank eight beers, escaped from wild dogs in the heavy brush, marched up and down several rocky hills, stood in a patch of poison ivy, crawled out of quicksand, jumped away from an aggressive rattlesnake and took four "leaks" behind big trees."
Inspired by the story, the doctor said, "You must be one terrific outdoors-man!"
"No," I replied, "I'm just a horrible golfer."