Dear Neil: I have dated several different men I have met on the Internet. Do you have any thoughts or advice about Internet dating?
Curious in Longmont, Colorado
Dear Curious: In a relatively short period of time, Internet dating—meeting someone through a singles dating service such as Match.com or Yahoo Personals—has exploded in popularity and has become quite commonly used.
But some people get stuck in Internet dating—staying there for years—sifting through hundreds or even thousands of potential partners, but seldom truly connecting with anyone. In fact, it’s my observation that a fair number of people who log on to singles match sites get trapped there, never finding that special someone they claim they want so badly.
Why? Many people are playing the numbers game. They are sifting through a large cross section of potential applicants, hoping for that one person who takes their breath away. But because there are so many choices, they get into a mentality of looking for reasons to reject potential mates: S/he is too tall/short/fat/old, has children, wants/doesn’t want children, isn’t attractive enough, smokes, doesn’t earn enough money, doesn’t live close enough, and so on. You can figure out a way to eliminate everyone, and there’s a fair number of people on singles Internet sites doing just that—being so picky that they wind up rejecting everyone.
Secondly, this kid-in-a-candy-store mentality makes it easy to go from one superficial relationship to another, never allowing yourself to get terribly close to anyone. Many people keep their interactions with others surface and superficial. They’re so armored, guarded, standoffish and independent that they don’t allow heart-to-heart connections from ever developing.
Third, there’s a number of jaded, cynical, wounded, hopeless, mistrusting singles—especially over forty—who bring a defeated, why-bother—I’m only going-to-be-disappointed-attitude to their encounters with perspective partners. These people come across negative and damaged to others, and they typically go after the mate selection process passively with very little enthusiasm and gusto.
Fourth, some people have quit believing in themselves: in their desirability, their relationship skills, in their ability to trust and to judge other people competently.
Lastly, poor intimacy skills—such as good give and take communication, effective listening skills, and spontaneous use of affection and endearments, to name a few—make it easy to give up a relationship rather than hanging in there and working things out when the going gets rough—which it inevitably will.
All this being said, indeed people do meet, bond, mate and marry using online dating services. I’d advise you to take all prudent safety precautions, but don’t e-mail and phone back and forth a lot before you actually meet. You’re not going to know if someone is a good match for you until you meet face to face and determine if the connection and chemistry works for both of you.
Be sure to describe yourself honestly and accurately, and reveal a bit of yourself personally. Know what it is you’re looking for in a mate. Otherwise you’ll spend untold hours spinning your wheels with the wrong people. Don’t choose to meet and spend time with people you know you’re going to eventually reject anyway. Finally, don’t allow Internet dating to become an obsession. If you’re not careful, it can take up all your free time.