How to use online dating successfully
January 08, 2012

By Patricia Leavy, Ph.D.

Several years ago I saw my cousin with her new, love-of-her-life husband, whom she met online. I had never seen her so happy. If my cousin, a 40-something divorced mother of two could find such wonderful match online, perhaps I could too. Little did I know I would meet my husband a day after joining an online dating service.

Before jumping into online dating I took some time to reflect on my past relationships. I had made many mistakes, routinely picking people who could not give me what I really wanted, settling for less, and blaming them for my dissatisfaction. I had suffered the consequences of trying to substitute low-fat love for the real-deal. Once I realized my own role in creating my “bad luck” I was ready to make some new luck.

I joined an online dating site and within hours was bombarded with countless emails from prospective suitors. As I started scrolling through the profiles of these gentlemen-in-waiting I was horrified. These men obviously had not read my profile! For example, I already had a child but many of the men’s profiles indicated they never wanted children. I had also listed politics (and which party) as very important and many of these men were apolitical or wearing the wrong color on Election Day.

As I read on and on my horror only grew at my discovery: men weren’t reading my profile they were simply casting a wide net and likely emailing every woman within a certain mile radius and age range (my favorite was a 42 year old man only interested in meeting women 25-35). While it may have been easy to live in denial and just be flattered I had received an onslaught of emails, I didn’t have time for this. I had a career and a child and little time to skim through all of these inappropriate men, let alone to go out with them. I needed to take control.

Instead of going through a pile of emails from men with whom I was likely to have little in common, I decided to devote one day to looking at all of the profiles of men who met my search criteria. I then whittled down the large stack to three potential dates. Bear in mind, I didn’t think any of these men would necessarily be “the one” but I thought they would be worth hiring a babysitter and going out for a cup of coffee. I emailed two of the men, followed up by phone calls with each of them. After the phone calls I was only interested in a date with one of them. His name was Mark and we met the next day for brunch. It was a fabulous date. I never went out with anyone else and we were married two and a half years later.

While I realize my experience online is far from typical I am certain that my approach coupled with the value-system I employed on my date with bachelor-number-one led to my success in finding my great love. Here are my top four tips for meeting Mr. Right online:

  1. Take control. Instead of waiting to see who emails you, go through profiles on your own and take the lead in contacting men you’re interested in learning more about. Don’t be passive in your own life, take control—make your own luck instead of waiting to “be lucky.”

  2. Use value-based search criteria. When sorting through all the men in a 30-mile radius make sure to use value-based search criteria. Think about the kinds of things that make a true partnership over the long-haul such common interests and beliefs. What is important to you: politics, religion, education, etc.? If their sense of humor comes through their profile and tickles your funny bone that’s always a plus.

  3. Profile pictures aren’t important. We all know that attraction is actually the result of many factors—physical appearance, chemistry, and personality all come to bear. Yet by using profile pictures as a way to narrow down your list you are assuming attraction is based on physical appearance alone. You may wind up missing out on someone you could be really interested in. The only thing you can even begin to tell is whether or not he seems to have “kind eyes”—which is exactly what I thought about my then-future husband when I saw his picture.

  4. Overlook the unimportant stuff and focus on the big picture. Once you’ve developed your short list and you’re starting to date make sure to keep some perspective. It’s easy to get distracted by the small-stuff, like an odd eating habit or strange laugh, but these things are trivial. Focus on what really matters. Ask yourself the following: Does he seem like a good person? Does he strike you as genuine? Are you authentic when you are with him? Do you have good conversation? Can you envision having fun together? How do you feel when you’re with him? What does he bring out in you?

Remember happiness is a choice. Healthy relationships are based on the principles of partnership, not power, and they require two people who have self-respect so that they are able to respect and support another. Happy dating!

Patricia Leavy is a pop-feminist author/commentator as well as a leading qualitative and arts-based researcher. She is also the author of the new book, Low-Fat Love.

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