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Online dating is hard. We’re here to help.

Visit this spot for tips, tricks, news, and other tidbits useful to those trying to navigate the murky waters of online dating. More people than ever are meeting their mates online, using everything from online personals and forums to giant dating sites to small, niche online communities. Whatever your interests, whatever you like in a partner, whatever floats your boat, it’s out there.

Five Signs You May Need a Break from Online Dating

Online dating is a great way to meet new people and potentially find love, but it can be exhausting. Some former online daters even told us it feels like a part-time job: you sift through the various profiles out there, look for things that appeal to you, try to contact the possible dates, physically GO on dates, and then hope that things progress from there. It takes time, effort and energy. And over time, it can wear you out.

While you might not want to lose precious time in your search for a mate, there might come a time when you should take a break from the exertions of online dating. You don’t want to get completely burned out; that will skew your judgment and make finding a truly good match even harder for you. So how can you tell when you’ve reached your threshold and need to step back? Dr Greg Kushnick wrote an article for Huffington Post that outlined some of the key signs to watch for. They include:

  1. You check your dating apps almost constantly. This is an obsession that shows you’ve gotten far too attached to the process. If you can’t go an hour between glances at the screen, it’s break time.
  2. Little letdowns cause major upset for you. A small dealbreaker, rejection or other hiccup in your dating process shouldn’t feel like the world is ending. If you’re tempted to cry into a pillow because the person you messaged turned out to be a smoker, you need to step back.
  3. You only go on first dates, never second ones. Something is clearly not quite right if none of your meetups continue for more than one evening. Maybe your perspective is off; maybe a temporary break in dating will help you clean your slate a bit and start fresh.
  4. You complain about online dating like you’re a victim of something horrible, but you keep on doing it. If you bitch about the process, whine about how no one is suitable, or badmouth the experiences you’ve had, you come across as bitter, and that vitriol festers in you. If you complain, take some time away from what you’re complaining about.
  5. You’re depressed or anxious, and getting more so. If you are already prone to depression or struggle with issues like depression and anxiety, online dating won’t fix anything. In fact, it could be making you worse. If you have depression, you should be spending your main efforts on helping yourself get better. That way, you’re more likely to be in the right mindset to find a healthy match, and you won’t be expecting anyone to come along and make everything magically better (because that simply doesn’t happen).

Smile, Frown or Flirt: The Three Profile Pic Expressions Examined

Most people will say it’s always better to smile in a photo. You look friendly, happy, welcoming, etc. when you smile. But is that truly the case for an online dating profile photo? What sort of facial expression works in dating profiles to catch the eye of potential matches?

An OKCupid blog post set out to examine dating profile facial expressions in detail. The author found some interesting results just by poring over the vast collection of photos on the site. Women smile in 56% of their photos, while men smile in just 37% of theirs. Meanwhile, men make a “flirty face” just 2% of the time, while women make it about 9% of the time. So that’s how the actual pics shake out; now what actually WORKS?

Flirting with the camera gets girls the most messages.

Flirting with the camera gets girls the most messages.

By and large, the flirty face gets a woman the most messages from prospective dates, but there’s a caveat: She must be flirting AT the camera, not away from it. Women who make the flirty face but don’t make eye contact with the camera get much worse results. It makes sense when you think about it. Men like to be flirted with, but they don’t like to think you’re flirting at someone off to their side. So ladies, send the bedroom eyes at the camera lens, and you’re most likely to get a response.

For the men, the pics that got them the most messages were non-smiling, and also, strangely, non-eye-contact. A man staring off to the side, stone-faced, is more successful than it seems like he should be. The author theorizes that it makes the man look more mysterious, and therefore, more interesting. And once again, if a man makes a flirty face, he needs to do it AT the camera, not off to the side of it.

But most men don’t do the flirty face at all.

 

Dealbreakers: How To Choose Some (And Stick to Them)

If sharing a laptop in the park is incredibly important to you, be sure to stick to your guns.

If sharing a laptop in the park is incredibly important to you, be sure to stick to your guns.

When you’re navigating the waters of online dating, you encounter a wide variety of people. Some, of course, are fake people (bots), but you can probably spot those. They’re the ones that keep flirting with you in chat even when you reply with things like, “Seriously, if you’re not a bot, say ‘no bot’ right now, dammit.” But many of the people you meet online are real, genuinely interested, and full of their own quirks, personality traits and habits.

Not all of these quirks and habits will suit you, of course. Some things will just not be compatible with your own life or personality, no matter how cute the other person is or how well they spell. For many people, smoking is a major dealbreaker; for others, things like religion, children or political opinions can ice the interest. So how can you figure out what YOUR dealbreakers are?

Start by looking at your own interests. Are you heavily religious? Do you really, really care about politics? Do you want kids someday? Are you a drinker, a smoker, a recreational drug user, etc, and either way, do you have strong feelings about these things? Think about the many beliefs and interests that are truly important to you, and then think about how you’d feel if you spent time with someone who was diametrically opposite to those things. Does it feel like it would be a punch in the gut to spend time with someone who says they’ll vote for Trump? Does the thought of kissing a smoker turn your stomach? These are visceral reactions that you can’t ignore. Trust your instincts on things like this, BEFORE you have someone standing in front of you to test your resolve. And figure out which are more important than others.

Second, don’t apologize for your dealbreakers. You are entitled to your own desires in a relationship, and that’s nothing to be sorry about. Some people might get annoyed with you, even hostile, if they find out that something about them just doesn’t jive with you. But that’s nobody’s fault. Different people don’t always mesh, and there is no reason you should have to feel obligated to change yourself, alter your beliefs or suck up an uncomfortable situation just so the other person can feel better. Be true to yourself and honest with others. That doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible on a myriad of other things — after all, compromise is vital in a good relationship — but when it comes to true dealbreakers, compromise is usually not a good idea.

Last, be patient. In the hunt for a perfect mate, it’s easy to make excuses, rush through the process and overlook red flags in order to be in a relationship. But dealbreakers almost always come back on you. For example, if you’re a guy who doesn’t want kids, and you start seeing a woman who does, don’t think that you’ll be able to “bring her around.” She probably thinks the same about you, and in the end, if you’re both solid in your desires for/against children, you’ll both be in for a world of heartache. No matter how pretty she is, how much you fit together in other ways, how great her laugh is…. in the end, a dealbreaker is just too big to skip over. There are many, many other potential dates out there, some of whom WILL fit the bill for you, so take your time and don’t rush it.

Going from the Web to the Real World: Three Tips for Meeting In Person

So you’ve found someone on a dating site that you actually click with. You exchange some winks, some flirts, some chats… Yep, definitely a match. So now it’s time to plan the first in-person meetup! After all, that was the point of making an online dating profile in the first place, right?

Is your date already planning this outcome? If so, trust your gut and run.

Is your date already planning this outcome? If so, trust your gut and run.

Getting ready for the first in-real-life meeting can be stressful. Where do you go? What do you do? Most people know that they should plan the first date for a public place (it’s safer on both sides that way), but beyond that, what’s the best option? Judy Cole of Men’s Fitness had some tips for guys looking to plan the first face-to-face experience with a new flame, and really, these tips can apply to guys OR gals.

  1. Go on a real date. This seems obvious, but many people who meet for the first time after an online connection do it in super-casual places, like Starbucks. Treat this like a date with someone you already know in real life. You don’t necessarily have to pay for a whole meal, but choose a decent restaurant, a classy bar for drinks, or a pleasant al fresco lunch spot. Make it feel like you care about the effort your date put into getting ready and meeting you, because they probably DID make an effort.
  2. Watch for telltale signs of trouble. On a first date, it’s easy to ignore or completely overlook red flags in the other person. Watch for things like a date who asks too much about how much money you make, doesn’t look or seem very much like her online profile, or is already planning several dates down the line. My brother recently started dating a new girl, and in under two months, she was talking about what their wedding would be like. That’s a huge no-no, and when it happens, you have to be ready to split. Don’t lie to yourself about what your dealbreakers are or what you’re willing to put up with: a red flag is a red flag. Even if it’s nothing in particular that bugs you about the other person! Our gut feelings are often a great indicator of something being just not quite right. Follow your instincts.
  3. Know how to get out safely, if you need to. Women are told this a lot, but it applies to men, as well: Aside from meeting in a public place, you should know where the exits are, tell people where you’re going, and have a plan to get out if things get hairy. Sometimes, that means having a friend call you partway through the date in case you need an excuse to bail. Again, this isn’t a negative thing for either side of the meetup. This is a safety thing. Meeting someone in person when you’ve only known them online is a risk, and even though the vast majority of first dates from dating websites go fine, it never hurts to be prepared.

Get Ghosted? Three Things You Should NOT Do

"Let's see.... who else should I just not respond to..."

“Let’s see…. who else should I just not respond to…”

So you’ve had a few good dates with someone you think you really click with. Maybe you’ve spent the night at each other’s places… Maybe you’ve stayed up to all hours talking about your interests… Maybe you’ve laughed so hard together that your sides hurt. In short, all seems to be going well.

And then, one day… Nothing.

Radio silence. You text them, no response. You call them, it goes to voicemail. You thought you guys had plans for the weekend, but they don’t confirm or show up. What just happened?

You’ve been ghosted.

Ghosting is when one of the people in a relationship (usually a pretty new relationship, but probably one that’s several dates in and likely intimate) suddenly drops off the face of the earth. Rather than tell the other person that they’re not interested anymore or provide a clean, closure-filled breakup, they just vanish. Sometimes, this is unintentional; people do occasionally get insanely busy with work, family, or other distractions. But often, it’s a purposeful cutting of contact with the hope that the other person will simply get the idea that the relationship is over.

On the one hand, if it’s only been one date or just a few hangouts, there’s really nothing wrong with going no-contact if you’ve lost interest. It’s somewhat rude, but not against the social norm. And of course, if you are dating someone and they say they want to break up, they don’t have to provide a list of reasons why or justify their decision; no one has to date anyone they don’t want to, even if it hurts to be rejected. With ghosting, though, there’s usually a bit of history already in place for the relationship, several dates or several weeks/months of togetherness, and then there’s a complete lack of a real breakup, even in the form of a “let’s see other people” text message. The other person is simply there one day, gone the next. Ghosting is a pretty horrible thing to do to someone. It’s lazy and completely uncaring of the other’s feelings. But unfortunately, it does happen. So what do you do if it happens to you?

The better question should be, what NOT to do.

  1. Do NOT blow up the ghost’s phone with calls and texts. You might be tempted to do this at first; after all, what if the ghost is actually hurt, in a hospital somewhere, or dead?? They might be going no-contact through no fault of their own! Yes, theoretically that’s possible, but it’s not terribly likely. Sending message after message and leaving voicemail after voicemail is not helpful behavior. If they ARE hurt or dead, it won’t help you reach them. And if they are just blowing you off, you come across as desperate, needy and maybe a little stalker-y. Instead, send no more than three messages and no more than two voicemails. The final of each of those should be something like, “Well, I guess you’re too busy to get back to me right now, so if you want to hang out again, call/text me back when you’ve got time and I’ll see if I’m free.” And then leave it at that. That way, you’ve made it clear that you recognize what’s going on and that you are probably still interested, but you’re also not waiting by the phone (no matter how much you may want to). Play it cool, even if you’re pissed. And yes, you have a right to be pissed if you’re getting ghosted. You’re under no obligation to ever speak to or see this person again after they’ve been so rude.
  2. Do NOT stalk them on social media, contact their friends or otherwise use outside channels to hunt them down. Again, this is pretty pointless behavior. If the ghost was truly sick or hurt and in a hospital somewhere, they’d find a way to get word to you. If you approach their friends and say, “Hey, why hasn’t [ghost] called me? Are they ok?” you’re putting the friends in the awkward position of responding that the ghost is fine, just not replying to your texts. Don’t make other people be the bearers of bad news that you probably already know. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. In this day and age, the availability of so much social media and means of communication leads to the reality that there are just that many more ways someone can reject us or just not contact us at all, and that can feel especially isolating or hurtful. Still, though, using those same means to track down your ghost and see if they’re alive, uninjured, or seeing someone else is just wrong.
  3. Do NOT think any less of yourself or think it’s anything you did. Being ghosted is not an indictment on you. You did not deserve it; no one does, unless they’re abusive or harmful. It doesn’t mean you are undateable, unlovable or somehow not worthy. Ghosting reflects poorly on the one doing it, not on the victim. Those who choose to ghost someone with whom they’ve had a relationship are, by and large, being selfish. They don’t want to deal with the conflict of a breakup, so they just disappear. Or they have “chased” you until they “caught” you, and now they’ve lost interest. Or they’re juggling so many potential mates that they just can’t be bothered making their intentions clear to the ones they’ve decided to cut loose. Whatever their excuse might be, it’s just an excuse. Mature grown-ups handle a parting of the ways with communication. “Sorry, I don’t think this is working out, but thank you!” or “I’ve enjoyed hanging out with you but I don’t think we’re a good fit. Best of luck!” Yes, rejection hurts, but ghosting — the not knowing what exactly is going on or where the other person went — hurts more. Don’t do it to others, and don’t blame yourself if it happens to you.

Five Tips for Approaching (and Conquering) Online Dating

Know what you're looking for even before you start.

Know what you’re looking for even before you start.

We’ve given tons of tips in our blog about how to be a successful online dater. We help you take a good profile pic; we point out what NOT to do on a first date. We even suggested some niche dating sites for people with specific interests. But in a general sense, just how can you turn online dating into a successful endeavor? Amy Webb did a month-long experiment to analyze successful dating profiles, and she shared her results with the world (and now, we’ll share a few of those with you).

  1. Know what you want before you start (make a list and everything). It’s hard to find the perfect mate if you don’t even know what you’re looking for in the first place. If you want someone who has kids, have some idea how many kids and how old/far apart they are. After all, there’s a big difference between someone who has one ten-year-old kid and someone else who has five kids ranging from 6 to 16! Write down what really matters to you, what you seek in a partner, and what your dealbreakers are. Be honest with yourself; there’s no reason to settle here.
  2. Figure out the sites you like best, and join more than one. For the most success, belong to at least a few sites. Keep in mind that paid sites like Match.com tend to be successful for long-term relationships (they tout their high marriage rate in their commercials), while free sites like Tinder are more hookup-friendly. Watch your budget, though; paid sites can nickel and dime you for all the features they offer, so do your homework and figure out what you really need each site to provide for you.
  3. Keep it short, and don’t be funny. Don’t use your profile as a place to ramble on about yourself. Stay short and to the point, and don’t try to be funny. Webb suggests that humor doesn’t translate well to text, especially dating profile text, and sarcasm often falls flat. Instead, be earnest about who you are.
  4. Don’t fixate too narrowly on your own interests. Say there’s a TV show you love. I mean, you LOVE it. If you spend too much space in your profile talking about that show, you could turn off potential matches who might not appreciate your show the way you do. Instead, mention a few of your interests, maybe keep it more general (“I really enjoy sci fi TV” instead of “I’m completely in love with Star Trek, especially Commander Data”) so you can create a potential “in” for those who might be attracted.
  5. Keep your language positive and upbeat. Webb found that profiles that use words like “fun” and “happy” got more love, so don’t use your profile as a place to dump all your issues, your pet peeves or your hangups. Stay as positive as possible, smile in your profile pics, and try to describe things that genuinely excite you. What would your ideal day look like? Let some of that joy show!

The Long-Distance Relationship: Can You Do It? Four Things to Consider

With most online dating sites, you can choose how far from your current location you want to look. That way, the results you find are usually near you, and a long-distance relationship (LDR) is not an issue. But sometimes, things can change. You might:

  • Start looking further and further from home just to see who’s out there;
  • Meet someone while you’re on a trip, which means that, when you go home, you’re not geographically close anymore;
  • Meet someone close to home, but then something happens that moves one of you away (job offer, sick relative, etc).
"What do you mean, you're seeing Beth from Accounting??"

“What do you mean, you’re seeing Beth from Accounting??”

In short, no matter what you do, you might find yourself staring down the barrel of an LDR, either right away or sometime down the road in a relationship. When that happens, it’s not necessarily the end of the world; many people have successful LDRs. I myself have had two, one of 9 months and one of 1.5 years, and they both worked out very well (still married to that last one). But in order to make an LDR work, there are some things you really have to consider beforehand.

 

  1. Is this an exclusive, monogamous relationship? The very first thing to figure out when you are distant from your partner is, are we going to see other people? Make sure that the answer to this isn’t taken for granted; talk about it, figure out what each of you wants, and go from there. Don’t just assume that, if you’re faithful, they will be, too, or if you plan to date around, they’ll understand. Hash it out, and if you can’t agree on an answer, it might be best to part ways.
  2. Stay in touch, in multiple ways. You’ve decided to make a go of it, and that’s great. Fortunately, there are so many communication tools to help you! Your phone can call, text, Skype and email, and we recommend doing all of these. Video chats (like Skype and others) are particularly great because seeing each other helps keep the connection fresh. And every once in a while, send a real, snail-mail card or letter. Everyone likes getting happy mail, and it’s a fun surprise.
  3. Keep your friendships and family relationships strong. When you’re in a twosome, it’s easy to get all caught up in the coupleness and let other relationships fall by the wayside, at least for a while. But in an LDR, it can feel downright lonely to watch TV alone, go to bed alone, eat dinner alone. It’s very important (and good for the health of your partnership) to keep your friendships and family connections going. Hang out with your pals… Have dinner with the folks… Go shopping with your sis. A solid foundation of friends and family is vital for ANY relationship (it can’t all just be about the love), and in an LDR, that’s especially important.
  4. Talk about everything, even the little things. You might feel like the everyday minutiae don’t merit discussing because, come on, you don’t get to talk to this person as often as you’d like. But seriously, talk like you see each other every day. Chat about the little wins, the tiny annoyances, the irrational fears. Opening up in a personal, everyday sort of way has a lot of advantages. One, it makes the relationship feel more real (talking like “normal” couples talk); two, it can prevent issues like jealousy, because you can talk out the things that are bugging you; and three, it gives you a chance to REALLY get to know each other, from the big things to the small. Distance can be an issue in a few ways: you might have trouble trusting the other person, and the spans of time between visits can prolong the “getting to know you” stuff and make an otherwise-mediocre relationship seem way better than it actually is. Communicate daily, about any little thing, and it’ll get “real” much faster.

Online Dating Profile Photos – Three Easy Ways to Get Noticed

We’ve talked before about things you should NOT do in/with your dating profile photo, but there are positive things you can do with your photo that will help you get the right kind of notice. Dating profile photos are basically the first impression you give to someone, after all, so how you come across matters a great deal. The folks at eHarmony crunched some numbers and came up with some patterns for what profile photos work and why, so here are a few tips based on their findings that just might give you a hand in catching someone’s eye.

  1. Post several photos to your dating profile. The first and best piece of advice is generally to have more than one photo on your profile. The eHarmony numbers say go even higher: those with 4 or more pics on their profile got the most communication. When you think about it, it makes sense: you can showcase yourself in a variety of ways, from a variety of angles and in various lights, and paint a complete picture of who you are.
  2. Putyour best (left) face forward. Studies have shown that, when people are presented two photos that are similar but show different sides of a person’s face, the photos that show the left side of the face are called more pleasing to look at. As it turns out, the left side of our face shows more emotion. You don’t have to go completely in profile, though; find a photo that shows your face turned just slightly, with the left side showing more than the right. Don’t have a good pic of yourself showing your left side? Take a good right-sided pic and flip it in a photo editing program.
  3. Go for 3×4 landscape pics or portrait-style pics, all at a medium distance.
    Medium distance shows more of who you are.

    Medium distance shows more of who you are.

    Again, this makes sense when you think about it. A medium distance (say, showing you from the waist up) displays your face well but also shows more of you than just your face, giving the potential date a chance to see more of your body type (because like it or not, that matters, and too many people have horror stories about meeting up with someone who didn’t match their self-reported body type). Make sure you shot is focused and well-lit, and don’t crop other people out of pics that you’re in. It just looks bad to do that.

First Date Foods: Six Things You Should NEVER Eat

A first date in person is a great way to get to know someone better. But if dining out is part of your first date plan, be careful which restaurant, and even which meal, you choose. Some foods lend themselves quite well to first dates (or any dates, for that matter), while others set you up for a less-than-pleasant experience.

First, a few GOOD choices for first date food. You might try:

Swiss or not, fondue is a sexy choice.

Swiss or not, fondue is a sexy choice.

Fondue – yes, it has the potential to be messy, but in a fun way. There’s something intimate about a shared pot of hot cheese. And feeding each other is a flirty way to get closer.

Picnic – Sandwiches and fruit under a tree in the park are no muss, no fuss. They travel well, don’t make much mess and give you the portability to enjoy the great outdoors. Cap it off with some cookies!

Appetizers + Dessert – Light fare, finger foods and other small plates provide a lot of variety without the heaviness or mess of larger meals. Then split a slice of cheesecake or chocolate temptation.

Now on to the things you should definitely NOT eat on a first date:

  1. Large amounts of onion or garlic. These two pungent flavors are delicious, but they stay with you for a loooong time after, no matter how many breath mints you eat. Garlic is so strong that, if you put cloves of it between your toes, you can actually TASTE it after a while. Skip the garlic sauces, onion rings and other potentially-powerful flavors.
  2. Ribs and other BBQ with sauce. This is a mess waiting to happen, both for your face and your clothes. And no one finds another person attractive when they’re wearing a protective bib. Try to avoid food that makes you look like a caveman to eat.
  3. Corn on the cob. Tasty as it is, it’s a mess to eat, and you’ll probably still be finding corn hairs and kernels in your teeth hours later. Unless you carry floss with you at all times (and don’t mind using it all night), avoid this side dish.
  4. Super-spicy or fermented foods. Not only are these flavors so strong as to overpower everyday mints (see garlic, above), but they aren’t for everyone. If your date has a more bland palate or simply doesn’t like excessive spice or flavors like kimchi, you’ll be an instant turn-off if you eat those things. Save the exotic options for a later date.
  5. Whole crab, lobster, peel-and-eat shrimp or other crustaceans/shellfish. Most of these have to be eaten, at least in part, with the fingers, and that’s not fun to watch. It’s messy, usually involves bib-wearing (see BBQ, above), and in the end, you’re ripping up a dead carcass for your meal. Sure, it tastes awesome, but the visual is hard to get past. Perhaps on a later date, when you’re more comfortable with each other, you can split a bucket of shrimp and a few beers and laugh about the mess you’re making. But not on the first date!
  6. The most expensive thing on the menu. On the first date, you may be looking to seem like you’ve got it going on. Ordering the top entrée can give the appearance of wealth and/or taste. But seriously, don’t do it unless you REALLY love whatever it is. Your date will be less impressed by the gesture than you think. Instead, give the meal options some thought, perhaps talk about how you’re torn between two (reasonable) choices, and select something that you genuinely like. You won’t have fun on this date if you’re choking down something you don’t enjoy eating!

20 Things You Should Never, Ever Say on a First Date

And now for some slightly lighter fare.

For most people, the do’s and don’ts of first date conversation can vary quite a bit. Some people say never to talk about politics or religion, while others insist that those topics are vital in getting to know if someone is a good match. Talking about exes is generally a no-no, while discussing music is usually safe. Some things, however, fall firmly in the do-not-say category. In the spirit of humor (and just a touch of uncomfortable realism), here’s a list of twenty of those particular no-go comments that should get you kicked to the curb in no time flat:

  • Do you have a photo of your mom? I want to see whether you’re going to age well.
  • What are your feelings on roleplaying as badgers?
  • Mind if I take a quick blood sample?
  • I think Hitler was somewhat misunderstood.
  • You can’t be a REAL gamer unless you play [insert obscure game here].
  • I’m a better driver when I’m drinking.
  • What does your hair smell like?
  • This tie is made of real baby seal pelt!
  • I’m not a crazy cat person. It takes at least 10 cats for that, and I only have 8.
  • I’m pretty sure the moon landing was a hoax.
  • Come on, don’t you read the science? Vaccines cause autism!
  • Want to hear about my kidney stone experience?
  • If climate change were real, it would never be snowing out.
  • You should meet my parents! And look, they’re right over at that table!
  • Well, I’m currently married, but it’s just a green card marriage so it doesn’t count.
  • Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?
  • You sure you want to order that? It has a lot of calories, and you probably don’t need them…
  • I like that shirt on you! It’s a lot better than the one you wore last night when you were sleeping.
  • Sorry to rush you, but I have another date after this one.
  • I’m gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free, egg-free and sugar-free. Also I’m allergic to water, but I take a pill for that.