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Getting Started Again with Online Dating: So, You’ve Broken Up…

If you are reading this, I’m guessing you’re a woman between the ages of 35 and 55. You probably have one or two children and are divorced (amicably I hope) from your co-parent. My demographics suggested this persona as about 80% of my readers each month. So, here we are. I’ve got some insights to share with you, and I hope you’ll find ideas, inspirations, and even hope from this post. Online dating is what everyone is talking about. It’s a billion-dollar industry. And it’s not as successful as you might think, for finding a lasting loving relationship.

What Are You Looking For?

If you are looking to date, rather than find a relationship, this post is not for you. If, however, you are looking for your next partner, life-partner, soulmate, husband, whatever, you’re in the right place. Let’s assume you are looking for more than dinner and drinks with random men you meet on Bumble. Let’s assume dating, both online and offline, is a means to an end: a Relationship. Capital ‘r.’

Getting clear on your wants and desires is a great part of the process that online dating is actually pretty good at. As you write your dating profile on any of the multiple apps and websites, you begin to form an identity around two parts of your future relationship.

  1. What you are like. What things you enjoy doing. And what things you would like a partner to enjoy with you.
  2. What your partner is like. Looks. Physical or fiscal fitness. Dark, tall, and smoky-eyed.

Those are the building blocks we can use to build an image of your perfect relationship partner. It is important to have your ideal partner in mind when you begin dating. It helps you eliminate the people who are NOT meeting your standards. It helps you stay focused on what you want in a relationship. And, if you review and revise your dating profile as you go through the process, you will learn what types of things attract near-misses and which aspects seem to wind up with zero chemistry, or zero potential for a future relationship.

Looking Online for Love

When I started using the online dating apps I was a bit overwhelmed and overheated at the same time. I was so excited by the idea of being with a new woman, any woman, that I approached the process like a kid in a candy store. I joined OK Cupid and and began setting up my profile. What I really wanted to do was browse the available women. And here’s a stat that’s going to blow your mind: around 30% of online dating profiles are fake. These fakes look great, may even interact with you, but they will never schedule a date with you. They are employees of the dating app, probably offshored in Bangalore, India. And they are simply trying to make you feel inspired so you will BUY their boosts and additional features.

Online dating is big business. Bumble and Tender didn’t become huge by giving away their dating connections. If you really want to use the online dating apps and sites, you’re going to have to pay. Again, if you’re as “enthusiastic” as I was, you’re going to pay. I jumped into the game with my gun cocked and ready, safety off.

After a while, you swipe and scroll and hide and you get tired and discouraged. Your mind is saying, “There sure are a lot of hot women who are looking for a relationship,” but you’re being fooled by the gamification of online dating. All of the dating apps have figured out if they can make it more like a game they can keep you coming back, and get you to buy more boosts.

For example, most apps will not show you all your potential matches at first. They trickle out the cute profiles along with the unpopular profiles. You have to return over multiple days to keep seeing new people. But they are not “new” they are just new to you. Some sites have been known to keep profiles live even after their humans have closed their accounts. These Zombie accounts are covered in their terms and conditions. Essentially, they claim to be entertainment sites, and your profile is really a bit of data that they own once you upload it to your profile. (Don’t freak out, Facebook has the same terms and conditions. But don’t put any photos up there that you don’t want to get out on the internet.)

Reaching Out Online

As I was blazing hot with lust and time off, I spent a lot of time swiping left. I figure my ratio of NO to YES on Bumble and Tinder was about 25-to-1. Not all that good. Regardless of these odds, I swiped on. I also got good at crafting a witty and cute “hello sunshine” message that I could direct message to the ones that caught my fancy. At first, I was a bit conservative, meaning I would only text the perfect women. (My size preference, my hair color preference, my lifestyle fantasy.) Within a week I learned the first rule of online dating:

If They Are That Hot Why Do They Need Online Dating?

The hottest profiles are either fake or completely overwhelmed with offers, probably from guys (in my case) who are a lot hotter than me. Only 0.2% of these amazingly attractive and athletic women ever opened my messages. (Not read.) So, I had to reset my mental filters and look beyond the initial “wow” moments, for women who appeared a bit more realistic.

As I opened my narrow criteria a bit, my response percentage rose to about 5%. Out of the initial 2,000+ profiles that I swiped by, only 5 women responded to the 100 messages I sent out. Again, I’m not imagining that I’m a hot property, but I’m active, creative, and a writer, so I did some wooing online. And eventually, my efforts paid off. I was able to set a date with several women.

And So, the Offline Dating Journey Begins

Keep the first date simple. Meet for coffee or wine. Ask them to choose a place of time of day. And listen to their responses. A woman who says, “Coffee date? You must not find me very attractive,” might have alcohol or other things on her mind. These can be subtle signals. Listen to every interaction with an eye towards red flags or easy connections.

One woman in an initial round of messages said, “I’m guessing from your profile that you could find us the perfect place to sip whiskey together.” While I’m sure she was being flirty, there was nothing in my profile about drinking. Nothing. So this was 100% her idea. And whiskey is certainly not my drink. Of course, early on you need to try a few dates before you get so elusive. Don’t shut down the possibilities just because they don’t appear to be a perfect match.

And one other tip, for finding a successful first date online: initiate a phone call before meeting in person. Texts are fine, but hearing the tone of someone’s voice, and listening to their language and cadence of the conversation can give you an immediate gut feel. Someone who is good in profile (pictures and words can mask a lot of bullshit) and someone who is an interesting conversationalist on the phone, well those are your GREEN LIGHTS.

Meet where ever you both feel comfortable. After a while, I learned that I didn’t like meeting at a bar or fancy wine bar. I even tried meeting for first dates at the walking trail that goes around our central-city lake. Or tennis. Something besides sitting at a table trying to think up something to say with a loud or distracting environment around you. Be different.

Going for 100% YES or No Deal

Here’s the last part of my dating strategy: if the potential date became a maybe, or a “meh” I would end the encounter as gracefully as possible. I remember sitting in a wine bar asking myself, “Why and I here? Was I that lonely tonight that I didn’t see the red flags? And I’m going to pay for this less-than-intoxicating encounter?” I quickly realized that getting a “hello date” on the books was only a minor victory. And going on a “hello date” with a “goodbye girl” was a failure in my process.

What I wanted was a long-term relationship. I started being more clear about this in my profile. I think women enjoy the idea that a man would be looking to settle down, but I wasn’t saying it as a game. I want ONE relationship. I want the NEXT relationship. And if I work it right the LAST relationship.

Cutting off the relationships that are not 100% yeses. Sex is fine, but sex with someone you don’t really care about, not so much. Early on, my hunger for sex was clouding my judgment online and leading me down some stupid “hello date” encounters. Does the woman with sexual innuendo all over her profile really want a long-term relationship? Does the woman with a wine glass in her hand in every picture really have weekend hobbies and pleasures that don’t involve drinking?

Having the “long-term” discussion before you have the first date is a good idea. I don’t want to go out with someone who is not interested in me as an LTR. (online dating speak: long-term relationship) As it happened, when I did begin seeing someone, say for more than 2 or 3 dates, I was constantly asking myself, “Is this a woman with potential for going the distance with me?”  And if the answer was no, I gracefully bowed out of continuing the relationship.

Getting Clear About What You Want

I knew what I wanted.

  • A long-term relationship
  • With someone who expressed joy and affection easily and frequently
  • Who is fit and committed to exercise and healthy living
  • Who has passions and goals beyond work, fitness, and travel
  • Who can connect with me on an emotional and intellectual level
  • When things come up, has the emotional maturity to deal with their own issues
  • When things get good, can this person lean into the ecstasy and heat

Once I had this roadmap in place, I was better able to separate women who were potentials from women who were not.

Keep Sex Sacred

The last hard lesson I learned while searching for my next long-term relationship was: keep sex out of the game until you are sure you want to give this relationship a long-term shot. Sex clouds everything. Sex blinds us to the red flags that could be burning right before our eyes. When the sex hormones kick in we are no longer capable of making rational decisions.

Sex is great. But sex with someone you only care about marginally, or not is all, is not much different than masturbation. It’s fine. It relieves some tension and brings some joy, but its powerful intoxicants can wrap you up in a relationship that is not good for you, and more importantly, not part of establishing an authentic and lasting relationship. Beware the sex.

And finally, when the person does meet your criteria. When the match is on, the chemistry is on, and the emotional, financial, and physical chemistry is on, well, then sex becomes a welcome journey for two people looking to discover a deeper connection with each other. Sex is sacred. Keep your sex to yourself until you’re ready to bring someone into your long-term plans.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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