The easiest way to avoid the many traps of online dating is to get very clear about exactly what you want in a partner.
This has many advantages: firstly you can stop feeling sorry about all the people you have had to politely say “no” to. You can let them down more easily by realising that by not telling them so, you would actually be standing in their way to them finding their soul mate (as well as you finding your own).
So go on, get specific. Get out a pen and a sheet of paper and write down everything you can think of: appearance, personal qualities, spiritual qualities, family relationships, attitudes to money/exercise/politics etc. Once you have written your list, keep it somewhere safe and pull it out in a week’s time and review. Often you will find on a second viewing that some things you initially thought were important are not really, and vice versa.
It can be useful to analyse past relationships too when coming up with this list. From successful past relationships you should be able to get a sense of what qualities your partner had that you really valued and contributed towards a loving, healthy relationship. Less helpful past relationships are by no means wasted though. In fact they often offer the most useful information: What are your “non-compromisable” criteria? What could you not live with? If someone had this type of lifestyle would it cause a significant problem?
Friend or Potential Partner?
One of the ways your list will soon become invaluable as you continue on your internet dating journey is by discerning if the person you are chatting to will be a good friend or make a potential partner.
People often say to me, “I think I have found the ideal [guy/girl]. They like all the same movies, books and bands as me!” To which I reply, “So what?” Now on the surface this may seem like a harsh reply. Am I implying that those things are not at all important? No. However I am saying that those things are seldom enough to sustain a relationship. Often someone who reads all the same books and listens to all the same music is probably more suited to being a friend than a partner. In fact, one of the most fun things about dating someone new is learning new hobbies, discovering new songs and TV shows. It is a chance to learn about each other and grow together and more often than not you will come away with some new favorites.
So if similar interests aren’t enough, what is? Long-term relationships tend to thrive where there are a similar set of values. For example, if one partner values monogamy and another likes the freedom to see lots of people at once, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that there are likely to be some significant problems. Similarly if one person likes to spend their money pay-day to pay-day and is constantly broke, and another partner values financial security, giving money to charity and saving for luxury holidays, the differences may present a large barrier to a successful relationship.
Balancing Your Expectations
As you peruse online profiles you will probably come across lots of people that are expecting you to look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. Now it is by no means bad to desire an attractive, thin partner if that is what is important to you. However, what many people don’t realise is that such thin, attractive people are often that way because of a very specific lifestyle.
They go to the gym and lift weights, they love nature and go on hikes and runs in their spare time, and cook and eat nutritious food. So if by contrast, you are 70 pounds overweight, eat KFC regularly, and the closest you like to get to nature is by watching Discovery Channel, then you may not find you have much in common with the kind of partner you are hoping to snag.
Again this comes back to values. You may have also heard the phrase “like attracts like.” In essence this means if you want to get something/someone you need to be offering or giving something similar to the world.
The Final Step
You may be thinking, I have done all this, and I am not getting anywhere. I still haven’t found what I am looking for (cue U2 music here).
The final step is communicating clearly what you are looking for (both verbally and in writing). Being able to express yourself and your needs assertively is not only a very attractive quality for many people, because it shows a high degree of self-confidence, but also it is your greatest weapon in protecting yourself against some of the dangers of internet dating. Having a firm, loud “hell, no!” that you stick to will stop you getting into many dangerous situations.
This step is often a tricky one for most people and is an opportunity for growth. Remember that dating of any kind is one of the greatest gifts you will ever be given. It will expose your weaknesses and shine a light on areas of your life that need improvement in a way that few other things do.
If you are serious about finding a partner and your communication skills need some work, this might be the time for you to take a Toastmasters class, Assertiveness course or online Writing seminar. No matter which option you choose you are likely to come back with some new ideas for how to improve your online profile, as well as a good topic of conversation for your next first date. Good luck!