How to reel in online dates

Written by amy kniss
How to reel in online dates
(Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Molly Niles knew what she wanted from online dating: “If I'm ordering up my perfect guy I want tall, handsome, rich and smart.” Niles was a 33-year-old Pilates and yoga teacher who turned to the Internet after three failed relationships with men she met the “normal way.”

“I was so frustrated by my dating situation that I finally said, why not?” she said.

Niles’ situation was not unique. One in five people in a new committed relationship met their current partner through an online dating service, according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Match.com. One in six couples that married in the last three years met on a dating site, including Molly Niles and her new husband, Alan.

Niles dove into online dating with a devil-may-care attitude, but a few key pointers can help keep afloat Internet dating newbies as they dip their toes in the digital dating pool.

In his picture he looked like Brad Pitt … when he showed up he looked like Quasimodo.

Internet dater Molly Niles

Pack a punch with your profile

You have only three to four seconds to grab the attention of a potential date. Reel in the reader with a powerful headline and use your profile to paint a multi-dimensional picture of your life.

“I love kids and enjoy the outdoors” is generic. Instead, try “I take my niece and nephew hiking every Saturday, and we’re really getting excited about our backpacking later this summer.” This shows a potential mate that you are family oriented (and not intimidated by taking responsibility for children), that you like the outdoors and that you set goals and make plans to achieve them.

Put simply: “You want (your profile) to present a life that someone would want to be part of,” said Tina B. Tessina, aka "Dr. Romance," a psychotherapist and author of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.”

Tessina also advocated closing your profile introduction with a “tease” – “’I'll tell you more in person’ would be a good way to go,” she said. This creates a sense of intimacy and prevents you from over-sharing.

How to reel in online dates
(Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Embrace honesty

Niles feels lucky that she only went out with two other guys before she met her future husband. She struck out with her first Match.com date. “The problem was in his picture he looked like Brad Pitt … when he showed up he looked like Quasimodo,” she said. While most online daters aren’t expecting Brad Pitt, establishing false expectations with a misleading photo inevitably leads to disappointment and distrust.

“If you responded to your own profile, are there lies or omissions that you would feel make you feel you'd been duped?” That’s the litmus test that Dave Grossman, founder of CanoodleOnline.com, encourages his members to use when assessing their dating profile. If you do “lie” by omission in your profile, own up before the first date, Grossman advised.

Alan almost didn’t make the grade for a date with Molly Niles. He was outside her age range and only looked average in his picture. But Alan’s profile demonstrated he was thoughtful, smart, close to his family and a good uncle, Niles said. He showed enough of the traits Niles wanted in a mate to get her interested.

Meet your match

Keep your e-courtship short. Until your digital correspondence evolves into a real-world date, “you're missing so many of the cues you get from seeing a person face-to-face, not to mention from seeing him or her interact with other people,” cautioned psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina. That’s one reason relationship experts advise against drawing out online correspondence for more than a couple back-and-forth exchanges. Extended correspondence often creates a false sense of intimacy that can lead to disappointment when the actual meeting occurs.

While you’re at it, keep first encounters short. If you’re a good match, it will leave the other person wanting more. If not, it will give you an out before you resort to a fake phone call to escape. Coffee, lunch on a weekday or brunch all are fine options. Grossman was among the fans of shorter first dates. “You can always suggest extending into a meal if it's going well, but there's no need to lock yourself in,” he said.

Molly Niles planned to do just that on her first date with Alan, but their chemistry led them to extend their coffee date through lunch and a walk on the beach. “We had an easy, natural conversation that just flowed,” she said.

Keep it moving

The V-chat choice

Video chat provides an alternative to an in-person first date that gives you chance to interact and get a feel for how the conversation flows. Some online dating services, including Over35Match.com and WooMe.com, offer this option. “This gives both parties an opportunity to see the other person in a much safer environment,” said Tammy Slater-Kendrick, a relationship blogger for Over35Match.com. Whether you video chat (which is great for long distance prospects) or meet in person, it’s important to get beyond the computer screen or cell phone sooner rather than later.

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