The first stage of the online dating process is about getting ready for the journey. This section helps you create those preparations…
When you’re starting out in online dating it’s very tempting to rush in. You find a shiny new website, you log on and you start searching. But if you’re not ready to date, you can very easily find yourself sabotaging your efforts.
If you’re not ready practically, you may find yourself with not enough stamina for the search, which can take up significant amounts of time and emotional energy. Think of it as a compelling new interest that you’ll want to find time for on a daily basis.
If you’re not ready emotionally, you may make bad choices, choosing partners – or allowing yourself to be chosen by partners – who aren’t suitable. Even if you do find someone compatible, starting a relationship before you’re ready can mean heartbreak down the line.
Here are our guidelines for laying the foundations.
Be emotionally ready
Here is a hard fact, and one you may find difficult to hear. You’re not ready to date again if you’re still emotional over the loss of a previous relationship (be that a breakup or a bereavement).
If you still feel strongly emotional about a previous partner, whether this is love or hate, then you are not ready. Feeling desperate for a new love is also a signal to wait a while; desperation can lead you to make bad partner choices.
When are you emotionally ready to date? You need to have done the grieving you need to do, to the point where you feel fairly neutral (or even positive) about past relationships. You need to have largely learned the lessons of these partnerships and be fairly sure you wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. You need to be able to function well on your own.
How long will it take to feel like this? Possibly longer than you think – and it’s dependent not only on how long your previous relationship lasted, but on how committed it was. For example, it may take years to get over a three-decade marriage-with-children, while you may get over a brief fling in weeks. (And though it may seem counterintuitive, we often find that clients who have had unhappy relationships take longer to recover than those who have lost a partnership that was largely good.)
What to do if you realise you’re not yet over a relationship loss? Because trying to start a new love in order to get over an old one can lead you to make wrong choices and repeat older mistakes, we would advise backing off from online dating for a while and concentrating on recovery.
How do you recover? The passage of time is the normal method. However if you remain stuck and the negative feelings won’t go away, as coaches we are happy to help you through. We are also happy to recommend you to a counsellor if you feel that more in-depth support is what you need.
Feel positive about online dating and those who do it
It’s only fairly recently that dating online has been seen as anything other than slightly dodgy. Now, huge numbers of all age groups, both genders, most cultures and all sexual preferences date online, and it’s seen as not just acceptable but a great way to find love. Online dating is now the second most common way for couples to meet (after ‘through friends’) and one in five relationships start in this way.
But you may still feel embarrassed. You may think that the fact you’re logging on is a sign of failure, you may expect that you will only find ‘losers’ online, or you may be actively nervous that everyone out there is a cheat, a gold-digger or a mass murderer. If you do feel like that, you need to think again. Being negative about the process will sabotage your success; you’ll be defensive when writing your profile, and wary when approaching potential partners.
If you don’t feel totally positive about dating online, let us reassure you. We have taught, coached, and ourselves been online daters, and we have yet to meet more than a few people – certainly no more than the statistical average – who are sad, bad or dangerous to know. Largely, everyone you meet online
will be a worthwhile, genuine, warm human being – even if they’re not the right partner for you. So as long as you take sensible safety precautions – there’s no need to be wary, and absolutely no need to be defensive, when going online.
Believe in yourself and your ability to find love
Most people who come to online dating aren’t relationship virgins – in other words they’ve been in love, have had their hearts broken, and so have had their self-esteem knocked. But if you go online feeling bad about yourself, it will show and it will work against you.
You’ll either undersell yourself (because you feel you’re not worthy of being loved) or you’ll oversell yourself (because you feel you’re not worthy of being loved and therefore you need to compensate). And if you’re also cynical about the possibility of finding love, that’ll be very off-putting for potential partners – and likely to make you quit well before you’ve had a chance to find success.
So let your preparations for online dating include a deliberate campaign of getting to feel good about yourself. That may mean a physical makeover, though we think that’s the tip of the iceberg. The real makeover needs to be inside; you need to be aware of your strengths, your assets, your talents, and feel reasonably self-confident. Above all, you MUST continue to believe that the right person for you is out there, and that the right person wants to find you as much as you want to find them. Believing these things will feel harder when you hit adversity, but it is essential to keep trusting; your buddy can help with this.
Remember too that nowadays more and more people are finding love online 20% and rising fast, according to the research. There are no easy answers, and no promises – but you do have a very good chance of success, so long as you persist.
Put in the time, the effort and the emotional commitment
Many dating websites claim that all you have to do to is to sign up and love will be yours. This is a great marketing ploy, but it’s simply not true. Just as offline dating is rarely a question of walking into a room and finding instant romance, online dating is rarely a question of logging on and finding true love.
So think of this as your new and exciting hobby, and expect to spend about an hour a night online for several months! This figure is only an average; finding love will take less time if you’re in a minority in your age group and sexual preference group and so are in demand – if you’re in a majority and are in competition with others, it will take more time. (However, we do not yet know of anyone who has used this approach for more than a year without succeeding in finding a new relationship.)
Further, be creative in finding your own ways of enjoying each stage of the process. Expect to put energy in; the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. It takes energy to search and keep on searching, to make and develop contacts to the point where they turn into a relationship. You may need to be flexible, altering your profile, your photo, your search criteria, or your approaches, as you learn what about other people attracts you, and what about you attracts other people.
Also expect an emotional roller coaster and a self-development journey. You will start with very clear expectations and preconceptions – often from when you were last dating, years ago – and these expectations and preconceptions will change. Just by doing online dating you will learn a lot about yourself and about others who are also looking for love. The process can be hurtful at times – but it will increase your self-awareness, your emotional development as a person; it can also be incredibly rewarding.
The most important piece of advice we can give you is to find emotional support for what you do. This may be a close friend of yours, someone else you know who is doing online dating, or a dating buddy you find online. Wherever they come from, your support person needs to be someone who can talk you up when you’re feeling low, bring you back down to earth when you’re being unrealistic, help you make key decisions and generally hold your hand. If they are online dating, you can do the same for them. (You might also want to consider personal coaching with us to start you off, to get you moving again if you get stuck, or to take you through the journey.)
PS: What you may have to cope with in potential partners
Even if you yourself are ready to date, others you meet may not be ready – and as online is an easy-entry method for getting back into love search, you may meet a lot of such people – we would estimate around half. Potential partners may be ambivalent because they are conflicted; a part of them wants to date, another part is not ready yet. So you may be given conflicting messages – “come hither” but also “keep your distance” – and these messages may be given at the same time, or may alternate over time.
If you do connect with someone who is only a few months out of their past commitment – or who, however long ago their breakup seems still to be stuck in an earlier relationship – we would advise you to think carefully before getting involved. Through no fault of their own, they won’t be emotionally available, and the broken heart may well be yours.
We would equally advise against involvement with anyone who seems clearly cynical or pessimistic about online dating. We’re not talking about slight natural embarrassment here, but if a potential partner keeps giving out constant put-downs and negativity, this may well mean that they don’t value themselves highly for seeking love online and that they think the worse of you for doing it. Not a good start to a relationship!