En español | In the old days, you most likely would meet Mr. or Ms. Right in college, on the job, maybe in a bar or though family and friends. Today, people are increasingly getting together through online dating — especially if they're over 50. Various studies have found that older adults are the fastest growing segment of online-dating services.
See also: Expert advice on dating after 50.
So if you're looking for love, this can be an ideal option. (I say this, not only as a resident relationships expert at perfectmatch.com, but also someone who met my boyfriend of five years online.) Here are my tips for efficient, effective and safe online dating:
Photo by: Sharon Wharton/Getty Images
- Be sure you're ready. If you're not ready to date, you simply aren't in a position to find a healthy relationship. To do so, you need to feel reasonably happy and confident of your worth. If you're still angry or hurt from a past relationship, wait a bit. You need to feel positive, open and up for an adventure. If you're having trouble getting to the right mental space, you might consider seeing a therapist.
- Do your homework. There are all kinds of online dating sites, so spend some time on the computer researching what looks best for you. Decide if you're interested in a "pay to play" or one that's free. (Personally I think you are safer if everyone has to use their credit card and is therefore not fully anonymous.) Of the pay sites, match.com is the biggest, but there are all kinds of boutique services if you'd prefer to better target your dream date. For example, there is equestriansingles.com for horse lovers, fitsingles.com for fitness types, and all sorts of specialty sites such as asianfriendfinders.com, christiansingles, gaydate, jdate (for Jewish singles) and therightstuff.com (for ivy leaguers). If you're looking for a free site, plentyoffish.com and nerve.com are two of the larger ones.
- Enlist your friends. Ask for help when you're choosing a picture and filling out a profile form that tells potential dates who you are. You need an objective eye on this. You might think it's a great picture, but maybe your friend doesn't. Trust your friend. You may think your short rendition about yourself is enticing — but maybe it comes off as arrogant or too timid, or has too much about your kids and not enough about you. Give it to a few friends to review.
- Avoid clichés in your profile. You will discover why when you read what others write about themselves. There are just too many people out there who "like long walks on the beach" or "enjoy theater, fine restaurants and exotic travel." Whatever you write, make sure it expresses the goals, values and lifestyle choices that make you distinct.
- Don't limit your options. Be judicious about how you answer questions about what you're looking for in a partner. Some sites ask about your "deal breakers," that is things you absolutely don't want. If you make your list of do's and don'ts too long, it will limit the possibilities. So only put seriously disqualifying or absolutely necessary things in that list. (For example, ditch the requirement that he has at least a master's degree but keep the one that says he can't be a smoker).
- Stay safe. When you find someone you are interested in — or someone finds you — exercise caution. At least initially, talk on your mobile phone instead of your home phone, which can be linked to your address. For a first date, meet in a safe public place — a coffee shop is ideal. Until you know the person better and are confident he is who he claims to be, don't let a date drive you anywhere or even walk you to your car if it's a secluded place. Though most people are honest and well-meaning, you shouldn't take any risks at all.
- Take your time. One of the advantages to online dating — meeting people you never would have met otherwise — is also a disadvantage. Since the people you meet are coming from outside your network, you don't know people who can vouch for them. So you need to be super cautious. Don’t automatically trust everything your date tells you, no matter how sincere he or she may seem. It takes time to be really sure that this person is who he says he is — and that he’s being honest about his intentions. On that topic, you should be honest about what you’re looking for in terms of a relationship, too. Some online daters are only out for a good time, while others (the majority, I believe) are looking for a serious relationship.
- Be resilient. It may take a while to meet Mr. or Ms. Right. Some people are lucky right off the bat: They meet that perfect someone quickly, the feelings are mutual, and the relationship gets serious. Many more people, though, don't have that kind of luck: They meet many people who don't interest them or who don't show any interest. It can take many, many coffee shop dates before you find someone who is right for you. Still, it's worth it. If you think of these dates as an opportunity to expand your social life, you will find that you can enjoy the coffee — even if the person has no long-term prospects. But if you stick it out and keep trying, you eventually find that very special someone.