Online dating is becoming more and more common, with it now being the second most common way to meet a partner, behind meeting through mutual friends.
Having true friendships and relationships is becoming ever more recognised as being vital for a happy, healthy life.
Navigating this online world, however, can be daunting and unfamiliar for many.
I did my time in this arena and thought it might be something different to share a few pearls of wisdom I picked up along the way. I feel these will be helpful for those seeking to find a relationship with potential using online dating.
- Don’t fear saying what you’re looking for.
When I was on dating apps it was so refreshing and honest to see someone on their short bio say what they were looking for. Personally, I was looking to meet a person I could see potential of a relationship with and take it from there. I have absolutely no problem with people who were on there for one-night stands, or those who declared they were looking for marriage pronto (I experienced matching with both). Putting this in your bio, however, lets people know what’s you’re there for. This saves matching with someone only to find they’re not looking for what you are. Basically, it stops you getting your hopes up.
This also makes you be honest to yourself about what you’re looking for. Everyone is in a different stage of life, you shouldn’t force yourself to be otherwise. It’s harsh on both yourself and the person you’re connecting with to expect either one of you to commit more or less than you want.
- Write something of note about you in a bio.
It doesn’t have to be long, just something about yourself. It could be a hobby, something you want to take up, your favourite place to visit, if something big is happening in your life (e.g. buying a house, changing job, moving location). This really helps the person initiating conversation to come up with something personal to kick things off, which is often so much more enticing than ‘hey, how are you’? By commenting on what someone’s written it also shows that you’ve taken the time to read the bio and not just judged a book by the cover.
- Manage your expectations before meeting the person face to face.
When you connect with someone and things seem to be going well online it can be tempting to let your mind run away and get a bit excited. This is somewhat natural and dating should be exciting. However, with the online world people can be different or not what you imagined in real life. I find it’s best to keep your excitement in check until you’ve met the person. If things go well then, obviously, feel free to be excited!
Tips for this would be to think of it as seeing if you like the person in real life more than a first date. It can also be helpful to arrange an activity that could be cut short politely e.g. coffee rather than a full dinner. This way if the person isn’t quite what you imagined in a way that makes you less interested you can end things without hurting the other person’s feelings or making up an excuse which someone could see right through.
When you feel comfortable meeting someone face to face is a personal thing, some people like meeting up asap to see what the other person is like in ‘real life’, others like feeling like they’ve got to know someone more with lots of chatting too. My advice would be to try and be flexible and find a common ground both parties are happy with.
- Be yourself.
Whatever pressure you feel under to be a certain person, if you’re looking for a more long-term relationship, there is literally no point in trying to be someone you’re not. You won’t be able to keep this up long term and it’s unfair to the other person if you suddenly change.
If you want a relationship it’s going to be so much healthier and happier if it’s with someone you can be yourself around, the good and bad. It’s totally normally to want to portray your best self on the first few dates, but this is different from pretending to be someone you’re not.
- Treat each other as you would in ‘real life’- honesty is the best policy.
Many a time in the dating app scene you can find yourself chatting to someone and they disappear, or meet up with someone and hear nothing back. Sometimes you can meet up with someone, one of you say it would be lovely to see the other again and the other person agrees – then nothing or no replies to messages. Whilst these haven’t all happened to me I know of cases of each through chatting about dating apps with my friends.
What I learned with online dating is treating each-other with respect goes a long way. It’s hard to be honest and you can feel like you’re hurting someone’s feelings, but the chances are they’d rather know if you don’t want to continue seeing or talking to them. A simple ‘it was lovely meeting you but I just don’t see it going any further’ message or honest end to a first meeting is enough, no long explanations about the wrong time or you being in the wrong place! It’s not a really bad rom-com! I’m not saying it’s easy to either say or hear, but it is polite, respectful and fair.
- Make a pact with yourself about physical stuff if this is a worry for you.
This is a personal one. Everyone feels ready to get physically intimate at a different stage of a relationship. If you’re worried that dating online there’ll be a pressure to be more physical than you’re ready for, workout what you think you’ll be happy with. From holding hands, kissing or sex on the first or 50th date – it’s up to you. If you’re not ready to do what the other person is implying they’d like to do talk to them. This can be hard, but I think honest communication, especially about the hard to discuss topics, is often one of the most important foundations of a relationship – so it’ll get you off to a good start! If you want to slow things down, if the other person really likes you, they’ll want you to fee comfortable. When you’re poles apart in sexual desire I’m not saying it’s easy for a relationship, in this instance I’m more referring to being ready for a sexual relationship at different speeds.
If you’re worried about getting carried away in the moment and later regretting things or worried about saying yes to something you know deep down you’re not really ready for one idea is to think ahead. If you think you might be happy to progress a relationship physically by a certain point, for example – disclaimer: this very much is an example to make a point and not a suggestion – say giving and receiving oral sex on the third date but not feeling ready for penetrative sex, have this in mind and say you’d like to take things slower or you’re not ready to go to the next step quite yet if the other person asks if you are. You might get it wrong, you might be happy to progress things quicker or slower than you thought – this is fine, the above isn’t meant to be a relationship rule, it’s really more to get you thinking about what you’re truly comfortable with, this way you’re more likely to be able to voice your feelings.
The be all and end all seems, being honest to yourself and to the other person, I think, is always the best policy.