3 ways to make online dating work for you

Can a grown woman really find love online? Yes. Here’s how

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online dating

Does online dating really work?

Marriages that began with a click on an Internet profile are increasingly common. Why? Because adults today tend to have a limited social world, at least in terms of old-fashioned face-to-face con­tact. We work, we parent, we sometimes see our girlfriends, and we don’t get out for much else. We bank and order groceries online; we send texts rather than talk. We may seem more connected-but we’re actually more isolated than ever. So how’s a girl ever going to meet a guy? Forget going to the bar, honey; get thee to thy laptop.

Internet dating works. I know, because I’ve done it. Yes indeed, the relationships and sexuality expert found herself single after a long-term relationship ended (go figure). How the heck was I going to meet men? I live in a small community where it seems like all of the eligible bachelors are my patients! I can’t date them. So with a great deal of skepticism, I tried the online dating thing. I had some fun, met some good men, had a few lousy dates-and, most importantly, I survived. So here is my Internet dating advice from the front lines.

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healthy couple eating

Cultivate the right attitude

Dating should be fun. You have nothing to lose by meeting a guy for an hour in a public place and having a conversation. Don’t listen to the freaked-out voice in your head that is predicting doom. The biggest mental block between you and finding a great relationship is dating anxiety: “Will he like me? Will I like him?” And the one I hear the most in my office: “I don’t want to go on a date in case he likes me more than I like him and I lead him on/hurt him/can’t say no.” Nonsense. That is just a noble cover story for the truth: “I’m scared of getting hurt.” So feel the fear and do it anyway.

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couple arguing

Know that a bad date will not kill you

After all, what’s the worst-case scenario? Maybe he’ll take one look at you and flee. Well, then you get to practise being rejected by a reject. It happens to everyone. In my case, after a flurry of fun emails, I met a wine importer for dinner. We were excited enough even before we had our first meeting that he bought Pearl Jam tickets for the antici­pated second date. But on that first date, clearly I did not match the mental image he had formed during our emails (ouch). When he dropped me off, I said I would see him for the concert and joked, “unless I get a cowardly email” (women’s intuition!). His email arrived at midnight and began with “Well, here’s the cowardly email….” Sure, I felt stung, but I took him up on his offer to use the tickets; I took my sister with me to Pearl Jam and we rocked a girls’ night out.

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couple drinking wine

Realize that a good date is not a relationship

Really. Going out a couple of times does not mean you are “going steady”! That is the joy of being a grown-up, not a teenager. We can choose to get to know more than one man at a time. So do. And he will, too. Decide that you will go on one date each with 10 different men. If you find you like one person enough (and he you), then decide to pause after the 10 dates while you see if he’s a keeper. If you separate the concept of dating from the concept of finding true love, you will relax, have more fun, and be more open to being surprised.

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fitness couple biking

Have fun!

As for me, after a number of dates from popular Internet dating sites, I tried a Buddhist dating site. (There are specialized services for all sorts these days, and Buddhism is an integral part of who I am. You may want to try a site for single parents, organic farmers, or whatever your fancy). Through it, I met a man I ended up dating for two years, a travel writer who invited me to Tahiti, Venice and Hawaii. We’re no longer in a romantic relationship, but he remains one of my best friends.

The moral of the story is that, whether the date was good, bad or ugly, I still had fun. Each date, I got to practise meeting a stranger and getting over the initial inevitable awkward moments, then settle into the fascinating process of learning about someone new.

I got good at dating. And you will, too.

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