By Melanie Jacobson
I find lots of great stuff on the Internet. Cute shoes, deals on appliances, my husband.
Yes, I met my husband online. Current studies suggest that 1 in 5 relationships begin on the Internet these days. Five years ago, I chafed at the stigma attached to Internet dating. Now, most people typically respond to our “How We Met” story with a shrug and an accepting “Cool.”
Even without the statistics pointing toward online dating as the leading avenue for finding new relationships, I could see it anecdotally in my friends and family. Two aunts, an uncle, our church meeting chorister, and two coworkers all met their spouses this way.
When my husband and I met, people wondered why either of us would have bothered trying online dating. The question has since shifted to wondering how we navigated it successfully. The secret to making the transition from profile to worthwhile is simple: Be real, manage your expectations and look for authenticity in others.
In my case, online dating was a great fit because I was in my early 30s and living in a city with a small mid-single population. Add in single parenthood and a career, and I didn’t have time to drive out to dances every weekend. I turned to Internet dating as an efficient, low-risk option for expanding my social circle and maybe even finding love.
Jessica Berrio, a single mother in Provo, Utah, turned to online dating for similar reasons. “If I was going to rely on meeting men through chance, it would probably have to occur at Walmart, while I am shopping with three young screaming children, or in my sleep,” she jokes. “With online dating I could select possible candidates with a click of the mouse and literally browse hundreds of profiles all in the comfort of my home.”
Richard Irving, 52, married his wife last October after meeting her online while he was living in Missouri. “Coming from an area with little to no singles, it gave a person hope,” he says of his decision to turn to a dating site. He and his wife now heartily endorse taking this more modern approach to courtship and marriage.
Like more traditional courtship and dating models, not every online dating experience will be a stellar one. Sometimes they are hilarious, even when they aren’t fruitful. Jessica Berrio recounts the guy who proposed marriage by e-mail two weeks after they chatted online for the first time. “I stopped talking to him after that,” she says.
Karen Peterson, 34, of Anaheim, Calif., shares her own odd experience with an Internet blind date.
“I met a guy I had texted a few times at a restaurant. He had just finished with a dress rehearsal and was in character for an opera he was in and his character was a homeless person,” she said. “And he was on crutches too since he had broken his foot a couple of weeks prior.”
There are horror stories, too. Allyson Donavan, 45, of Lake Forest, Calif., has learned to weed through guys who have tried to con her out of money, making suspicious requests for funds within a short time of meeting her. “Still,” she says, “the pros far outweigh the cons.”
Just like traditional dating, successful online dating requires common sense to keep you safe and help you narrow your options to the candidates best suited for you.
1. Start by checking out multiple sites. Most dating sites will allow you to join with a free trial membership. This allows you to get a feel for different sites and determine which ones best suit your personality.
2. Post a photo. It will significantly increase the number of people checking out your online profile. Not posting a photo makes it seem as if you have something to hide.
3. Make sure your photo is current. No matter how great your virtual connection is, if your appearance deviates wildly from your photo, you will come off as dishonest in your first in-person meeting.
4. Fill out the questionnaire on each dating site completely and honestly. It helps potential suitors get a good grasp of your personality and sparks more interest.
5. Take your time to establish a connection, but not too much time. You don’t have to meet right after the first email exchange, but dragging out the face-to-face meeting can lead to disappointment if you lack the same chemistry as your e-mail exchanges.
6. Always meet for the first time in a public place and make sure that a close friend or family member knows where you are. Set a check-in time with someone you trust to let them know that you’re fine and where you’ll be for the rest of the date, too.
7. Be honest. Evaluate why you’re looking for a date. Is it for fun? Is it for companionship? Is it for commitment? Once you know what you’re looking for and you’re up front about that goal with your potential matches, you dramatically improve your chances of finding who and what you’re looking for in return.
It took me three years and my fair share of jaw-dropping “Did that really happen?” stories, but what started with the click of a mouse ended up in a true “happily-ever-after” for our growing family.
Melanie Jacobson is an author and blogs at readandwritestuff.blogspot.com.