I’ll be the first to admit that the thought of on-line dating was always a bit weird to me, like desperation, even as a now forty-something. When my marriage dissolved, my ex-wife took the plunge on match.com. I laughed at it at first, until she found quick success with a great guy.
Her success – with someone not from this area – made me think about how we operate in this dating world and how it’s changed in recent years.
Just call me “Beta-Max”
Finding a love interest at a bar is getting as obsolete as a VHS tape. Success at on-line dating is everywhere, and once I started doing research for this article, I found dozens of people who had met on-line, even some that have been married for many years, right under my nose.
The choices these days seem limitless. Match.com, eHarmony, eLove, and plenty more, all for basic on-line dating; jdate for Jewish connections, ChristianMingle for people of that faith and a dozen others.
Paige, 41, of New Bedford, met her husband Geoff on-line and they have been married for seven years and have two children. Paige chose match because she found it hard to meet people otherwise. Geoff was one of her first three dates made in the first week when she decided it was time to “just do it” and make match work for her. But it wasn’t a love at first sight: though Geoff was her first date, and they had a quick connection, she carried through on the other two dates. She and Geoff stayed friends for three months before they started to date seriously.
“I had preconceived notions about what I wanted and it was a bit different than Geoff; I thought he was a fun and nice person I wanted to have as a friend,” said Paige, “and as time passed it became clear to me that he was even better than my preconceived notions of who I should be with.”
While Paige found love rather quickly on-line, she says that, like anything, there were hurdles and roadblocks to the endgame.
“Email communication can be hard, there can be misunderstandings; it’s hard to sometimes gauge others’ emotions. There are also all kinds of people on-line, some who want to casually date, some more serious, and some who just want to hook up for one night... I found some occasional communications were kind of creepy,” said Paige.
“Sometimes you just have to take the plunge... just because you chat with someone on line does not mean you have any kind of commitment. Be very careful, and meet in safe places in public and do not give out private information. If you continue dating, get to know not only them but their friends and family as you will get a better picture. Follow your instincts. Go slow.”
Though we’ll cover some of the pitfalls in a separate article where experts weigh in about on-line dating problems that have surfaced with their clients, the common denominator for many on-line daters is that they go into it looking for an immediate fix, hoping to find that one true love of their life right away. Paige and Geoff, they are rarities. People starting on-line dating should know this is something that’s going to take a lot of time and effort.
“You really need to have a good idea of who you are and how to express that in writing since that is what is coming across to others. If you have trouble describing yourself in words, your profile will be very easily passed over. It's not for everyone,” said Geoff, 42, who was new to the area when he went on match to meet people.
“It really broadens the number and type of people that you could possibly meet, especially if you are in a new area. It was difficult for me to just write a message to complete strangers, but I would do it again. If I had to do it over again I would be less self-conscious about writing and send more messages to more people.”
Wait ‘til you’re ready
Working two jobs and not wanting to find a love interest at a bar, Dawne, 23, of New Bedford, decided to try a number of on-line dating sites including plentyoffish and okcupid. She said while she talked to a number of men over the phone, it took her awhile to find one that she really wanted to date.
“At first it seems kind of impersonal and you really have to dig to find the good ones, but the advantages are you don’t have to meet up with someone unless you really want to, and you know you don’t have to meet up with them until you are ready,” said Dawne, who, like many, took a while to get over the fear of the unknown in on-line dating.
“It’s okay to be scared to take the plunge with all the unpleasant stereotypes you hear of on-line dating, but you will never know unless you try and the best part is there’s no rejection, really, as you're the one in control of the people who you chose to meet.”
Making it work
Stuck in a dead-end relationship, Peter, 35, of Dartmouth, decided to see what all the talk was about this on-line dating. He went out with two people, the relationship with one of them continuing for a brief time. He is still searching today, and he says the effort he puts in at first was not what it should be.
“I find on-line dating is a lot like on-line shopping. You have to be willing to spend some time, put in some effort. You have to pick the best pictures to represent yourself and be prepared to do a lot of writing,” said Peter.
“When I tried to half-do it, I got what I deserved. You have to put the effort in to get results. It gives me an unlimited amount of selection of women to choose from-like a one-stop shop, but you have to be careful because not everything is it seems. But I’ve just been dabbling in it. To make it a success I have to go all in or not do it at all.”
Whether it was eHarmony, which causes its applicants to go through a question and answer period with its matches before they exchange phone numbers, or match.com, where you can email potential interests through a match email connection, Michelle, 43, of Marion has seen it all. She is an example that it takes time to find the right person, even if – as is the case here, that person may be near you all along.
The sensible approach
“On-line dating seemed like it would provide me with a better opportunity to meet men who I thought would be a good match. It allowed me to customize my choices and I could choose the men I thought had the qualities or interests I wanted. At this age, you know what you want and what you’re not willing to settle for,” said Michelle.
“At 43, hanging out at bars or clubs really isn't the thing to do. Besides, as much as people joke about meeting a man at a grocery store while squeezing the melons, it never happens.”
A single parent with two young children and working a full-time job, Michelle said on-line dating allowed her to meet people when she could find the time. It allowed her to be more selective and to go on a broader search range in regards to distance and interests. She met several great men, many whom she is still friends with today.
“I walked away from each relationship or each date with something,” she said. “You really don't know until you try, and life and love are worth trying for.”
And now for Michelle’s love tale, right in time for Valentine’s Day.
After five years of on and off on-line dating, Michelle met her perfect match. Good friends for the past 25 years, Michelle and Chris had plans to go out to dinner with a few friends, much like they had done in the past. The two had never dated.
“I had just joined match.com earlier in the week and I got home and checked my email and opened my weekly matches (each week match finds five people for you of similar ages and likes). To my surprise, there he was, my friend for 25 years, the man who I was having dinner with the very next day, as a match,” said Michelle.
“So, I winked at him and he returned a wink and a laugh. The next night at dinner we joked about how we were matched up and decided we should take that chance to see. That began our love story. We have been together ever since. It took for us to be matched up on an on-line dating site for us to realize we already had something. “
Despite some of the hurdles facing the 20’s-40’s age crowd, older people say it’s harder it is to find a match, and on-line dating looks alluring. That doesn’t mean it’s the instant answer.
Linda, 60, of Fairhaven, said she has struggled with on-line dating because many men in her age group see themselves as 20-or-30-somethings looking for much younger women, or are looking for something very short-term. E-mailing 40-50 individuals on match, she has only received 4-5 responses and no meetings over the last three months.
“I know a couple of people who have found good matches, so I am encouraged. But this process is very ego-challenging when you say ‘hello’ and don’t even get a ‘no thank you’ or ‘I’m dating someone’ or whatever,” said Linda.
On match, if you see someone of interest, you can simply send a “wink” to them to show your interest or email them a quick note. There is no requirement to respond to those. Linda said, “You have to remind yourself you are only seeking one special someone.”
Experienced on-line daters say you better be prepared to wait up to six months or longer to find a good match. Patience, as in Linda’s case, should pay off. In this world of immediate communication and gratification, are people willing to wait that long for love?
“In a way, on-line dating opens up a new venue to those of us who do not fit in with the club scene or the Council on Aging,” said Linda.
“If your relationship doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t. Remember that all of our accumulated relationships are the chocolate cake of life and a loving partner is the frosting.”