Q – After an unexpected divorce and two years of healing, I am ready to be in another relationship. But I have not been on a “date” since my teens! At 47, can I really find love on the internet?
A – In a word, yes. Marriages that began as a click on an internet profile are increasingly common. Why? Because adults today tend to have a limited social world, at least in terms of old fashioned face-to-face contact. We work, we parent, we see our girlfriends, and we don’t get out for anything else. We watch movies at home, we bank and order groceries on the computer, and we send texts rather than talk. Tangled in the World Wide Web, we seem more connected but are more isolated than ever. So how’s a girl ever gonna meet a guy? Forget the cute outfit honey; get thee to thy keyboard. Introducing your new matchmaker; your laptop.
Internet dating works. I know, because I have done it. Yes indeed, the relationship and sexuality expert found herself single (go figure). How the heck was I going to meet men? I live in a small community where it seems like all of the eligible bachelors are my patients! I can’t date them. So with a great deal of skepticism, I tried the online dating thing. I had some fun, met some good men, had a few lousy dates, and most importantly, I survived. I even learned how to date, something most of us in our 40’s never did in the first place. So here is my psychological advice from the front lines.
Cultivate the right attitude. Dating should be fun. You have nothing to lose by meeting a guy for an hour and having a conversation. Don’t listen to the freaked-out voice in your head predicting doom. The biggest mental block between you and finding a great relationship is dating anxiety. Will he like me? Will I like him? And the one I hear the most in my office – I don’t want to go on the date in case he likes me more than I like him and I lead him on/hurt him/can’t say no. NONSENSE. That is just a noble cover story for the truth; I am scared of getting hurt. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
A bad date won’t kill you. After all, what are the worst case scenarios? Maybe he will take one look at you and flee. Okay, well, then you get to practice being rejected by a reject. After a flurry of fun emails, I met a wine importer for dinner. We were excited enough about meeting that night that he bought Pearl Jam tickets for the anticipated second date. When we met, clearly I did not match his mental image (ouch). When he dropped me off and I said I would see him for the concert, joking “unless I get a cowardly email” (Dr. Cheryl knows the score!) His email began with “well, here is the cowardly email…” Sure, I felt stung, but I took my sister to Pearl Jam on his dime and we rocked a girl’s night out.
A far more likely dud date? It will be boring. I met a lawyer for lunch at a swank eatery in Vancouver. He chose the place, he paid, and I laboured to make conversation with a very shy guy. Oh well. He was sweet, but a man who can’t be my conversational match will definitely not score one-love on the court. Still, the halibut was delicious.
A good date is not a relationship. Really. Going out a couple of times does NOT mean you are going steady! That is the joy of being 47, not 17. As grownups, we can choose to get to know more than one man at a time. So do. Decide that you will go on ten dates. Then do it. If you like someone enough (and he you) you can decide to pause after ten men while you see if number six a keeper. Separate the concept of dating from the concept of finding true love. You will relax, have more fun, and be more open to being surprised.
After looking for harmony and various matches, I tried a Buddhist dating sight (there are specialized services for all sorts these days). I met the man I dated for two years; a travel writer who invited me to Tahiti, Venice, and Hawaii. He remains one of my best friends. The moral of the story is, whether the date was good, bad, or ugly, I still had fun. Each date, I got to practice meeting a stranger and getting over the initial awkward moments, then settling into the fascinating process of learning about a new human. I got good at dating. And you will, too.
From Click to Clicked; How to succeed with Online dating
Do create a detailed, flattering, eye catching profile. Post at least 5 recent photos ranging from glam to jean-no-makeup. Tell the truth about everything except your name. Use a pseudonym until you meet the guy in person and decide he is okay. Smart equals safe and safe equals having more fun.
Don’t spend weeks emailing. Fantasy (the internet dating curse) needs to meet reality, fast. Listen to me. Words on a screen are not actually real. Use the internet for one purpose; to establish contact, share a couple of emails, and if you are interested, make a date for a phone call. Ask for his number and set a time to call him. (I told every man that my policy was to keep my number private until I met him; only one guy had a problem with that. So he didn’t get a date, since lack of respect for my boundaries is a definite rule-out). If the phone call is good, meet in person.
Do meet for coffee or a meal providing you are a confident conversationalist. If in doubt, meet for an activity. It is far more relaxing to go for a walk, play mini golf, or listen to a busker at the seawall than to stare at each other over a table. I have a friend who invited an internet first date out on the boat with her whole family. They had a blast, and the fact that he said yes gave him both style and courage points.
Don’t allow crazy, unrealistic expectations (admit it, you like his profile so much you have already planned the wedding on the beach in Greece) burden what is a simple first date. Hint: the man behind the profile may be nothing like the description on your screen. Go figure. The shirtless hunk helming a sailboat on his quest to make a documentary about tribal tattoo art (yes, really) was 30 pounds and 15 years older when I met him in person. I still liked him (hey, he ran a marathon in a kilt, how cute is that) but he was not the man I thought I was meeting.
Do keep trying. Go on a lot of dates. Take it seriously; nothing worth achieving happens easily. Dating is your new part-time job. If the first date is not terrible, give him a second chance. Most of us are more relaxed and natural the second time we meet. Do make eye contact, touch his arm, and if you wish, share a kiss or two. But don’t have sex! He’s not a car, and this is not a test drive. It is a walk around the lot to see what you might like to drive later.
Don’t fall for the psychological illusion created by internet dating that there is an endless stream of great guys, each one more juicy than the last. Let’s say you meet someone you like, go on several dates, even become sexual and contemplate monogamy. Then you see a new fantasy in your inbox. Beware. After all, on a bad day even Angelina might want to exchange Brad for a new model. There is no Soulmate, there is no Mr. Right. You know who really exists? The great guy you are dating. Once you are involved, turn on your laptop and turn off your dating account. Now that you’ve clicked, there is no more need to click.