This post has nothing to do with photography. (Which, ironically, means it will probably get more hits that any of my photography posts.) I have been debating whether to write this for some time, for fear of seeming unprofessional or completely random. But, people ask me about this topic ALL the time (last week, most recently), so I decided to take the risk and forge ahead. If you take any of this advice and find someone special, make sure to call me when you need portraits together.
Why do people ask me about online dating? Because I am a modern-day love-story statistic: I met my husband on EHarmony, where I was a member for three months. Prior to that, I also used Match twice, for about a month each time. Over time, I probably went on dates with at least 20-30 people I met online. I actually had 4 dates in one weekend once (i.e. Friday dinner, Saturday coffee, Saturday dinner, Sunday hike). My friends – especially the married ones – loved hearing my Adventures-In-Dating stories. (I tried telling them it wasn’t as fun as it seemed, but I don’t think they believed me.)
Obviously, there is no “formula” for any kind of dating, but my list below highlights 1) things that turned me off about other people and 2) how I steered clear of drama and maintained my sanity when deluged with profiles of people who were clearly jerks or spouse hunters (or cheaters).
But, before I get to the tips, I thought you’d get a kick out of these profile photos Nathan and I each used on e-harmony. (So, this post does in fact have a loose association with photography. Right?) Clearly, we are meant for each other.
- Be Honest. Dishonesty Category #1: Lying about yourself. If you meet in person, your lies will be exposed, so why bother? Example: I once went on a date with someone who said he was 5’7.” I am only 5’2,” but I was taller than him in my 3″ heels. Dishonesty Category #2: Keeping online dating a secret from friends, family, and co-workers. Keeping online dating a secret happens for 3 reasons, all of which were deal breakers for me: 1) because you are cheating on someone (not acceptable), 2) you just want to hook up, not a relationship (not what I was looking for) and/or 3) you feel embarrassed (bad sign about your confidence). If you don’t ever tell anyone that you met someone online, does that mean you are willing to spend the rest of your life lying about how you met? What will you tell your children?
- No “Spouse Shopping.“ If the first thing someone asks is “what are you looking for in a husband/wife/partner?” they are spouse shopping. When I got questions like that right off the bat, I always walked. It felt needy, and made it feel too much like a business transaction (i.e. let’s skip the romance and go straight to the wife checklist). Pay attention to the questions people ask you, not just their answers to your questions. What they ask first you tells you what is most important to them. Which leads to #3:
- Move Slowly in Online Conversations. If a particular topic is not something you would normally discuss on a first date, it’s probably not an appropriate thing to discuss online before you even meet in person. Examples: “tell me about your parent’s marriage” “how important is sex to you” “what’s your biggest insecurity” etc. These are very personal things. Treat online interactions before you meet in person like casual, cocktail party conversation. If you don’t connect over simple things like to where and what to eat for dinner, the heavier stuff doesn’t matter. Keep it light! Doing so helps protect your heart and your privacy until you know you are mutually interested.
- But Meet In Person Quickly. Get the relationship offline and in person as soon as possible. People are very different in person and on the phone. Arrange a first date as soon as you can, or at the very least, a phone call. I once had a date with someone who I seriously thought could be the “one” based on our online interaction. At our first meeting, I could tell it wasn’t a match the moment I saw him in the distance at the restaurant. Sometimes, you just know based on how people carry themselves.
- Ladies: Don’t Wait for Him To Ask You Out. I found that many men hesitated to ask for my number or a first date because they don’t want to look pushy, or like a serial killer. Seriously – they really do worry about this. So, ladies, if you know you want to meet someone, offer your phone number or suggest a time and place to meet in person. It’s hard to “flirt” via email – guys can’t read your signals like they can in person. Be up front about it and get on with the show.
- The Asker Pays. A guy once asked me out and suggested a really nice restaurant, despite my suggestion of meeting for a drink or coffee. Then, he didn’t pay for me. That’s just rude! The opposite is true – if a woman asks a man out and then takes him somewhere expensive, she should pay. This is very important, because lots of online dating gets expensive! (See #7 & 8.) If you can’t afford a series of restaurant dates, then do free stuff, like hiking, picnics, etc. or just meet for coffee or happy hour.
- Date Lots of People. Online dating is a numbers game. You’ll get sent a bajillion possible matches in your online account (I got about 600 in three months on eharmony), of which you may actually want to meet 10%; of those, you may in fact meet 5%, and of those, you may actually connect with 1%. The only way to find good people is to go on lots of actual dates (see #4). I had three dates the weekend I met my husband.
- Assume Your Date is Seeing Other People, Too. And don’t take it personally. Neither of you should stop seeing other people, or cancel your online dating service account, until you are clearly interested – mutually. The upside of continuing to date around is that if someone bails on you, you still have options, and you won’t spend much time feeling sad and lonely. Please know I am not saying “sleep with lots of people.” That isn’t my point. I mean dates, literally, fun dates where you are getting to know each other. No drama. No putting someone on the spot on the 1st date by asking if they are seeing other people. That’s not fair.
- Give Your Online Membership at Least 3 Months. At first (especially on e-harmony) you will get matches slowly, and you might get discouraged. But they build exponentially over time. Also, it takes a while to go through “the process” and you need to give people time to respond. People are busy. Also, they may “disappear” for a few weeks because they are dating someone else (see #8). That’s okay! It’s not cheating if you haven’t even met yet! I disappeared on Nathan for about 6 weeks because I was further along in the process with someone else. We dated, it fell apart, and I contacted Nathan again. He never asked me for an explanation (wise) and we picked right back up where we left off. Our first date was about 2.5 months into my subscription.
- Apply the 2nd Date Rule. Unless the guy lied about his height, didn’t pay at an expensive restaurant he suggested, wore a stretched out tee-shirt to a nice restaurant, forgot to clean the garbage out the passenger side of his car before he picked you up, asked you when you started your period, or was otherwise inappropriate, rude, offensive, or mean, go out with people at least two times. (Note: all of those things happened to me. No joke.) Case in point: my first date with Nathan was at a nice restaurant. He paid and was very nice and thoughtful. I just didn’t feel like we connected and I didn’t think I’d see him again. But, I decided I should at least take him out for a beer, since he took me on such a nice date. That 2nd date was better, good enough for a 3rd. And the 3rd was even better…so I went on a 4th. And voila, 18 months later, we were married.