101 Tips To Succeed At Online Dating
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., LMFT
Millions of people around the world search for love through on line dating. What does take to be successful? Why do some people fail at internet dating? This article contains dozens of psychological strategies to help you succeed.
My Experience With Online Dating
My lovely wife of thirty-two years died approximately two years ago.
We were very happily married. We were a terrific team. We had a lot of fun. We knew how to listen, how to be kind, how be flexible, how to patient, how to be open-minded and how to treat each other with kindness, dignity, and respect.
My years with Robin also provided me with a framework for understanding what it takes to have a healthy relationship and a thriving marriage.
Unfortunately, my wife developed a malignant brain tumor which ultimately took her life. She was a heroic warrior who rarely complained and she played a key role in helping to improve the right to die laws in New Jersey.
During the course of Robin’s illness, we discussed openly and candidly what I would do with regard to finding a new companion. Robin said I was a terrific man and she did not want me to be alone. She encouraged me to find someone very special.
So, two months after Robin passed, I decided to start dating.
Robin and I met the old-fashioned way - at a party. I did know a fair amount about online dating because I had counseled many patients who were using these sites and various apps to find a new companion. Some of these people were young adults who had never been married. Others were divorced, separated or widowed.
I helped many of them to remain calm, confident and focused as they embarked upon what can be a very challenging journey. I assisted them with their profiles and helped them to identify the kind of person they did not need and know the kind of person who would make their life richer.
I have dated approximately fifty women in twenty months.
This article will include advice, tips, guidance and suggestions based on my personal experience with online dating and my clinical experience counseling, guiding and providing psychotherapy to clients in my practice.
A Little More About Me
I have been a psychotherapist and a licensed marriage and family therapist for about thirty-six years.
During the course of my career, I have counseled thousands of people. Approximately half of my practice was devoted to relationship counseling.
The other half of my practice involved my sport psychology work with elite athletes, young athletes and weekend warriors. Interestingly, some of the mental toughness training that I did with athletes proved to be useful for the single people who were searching for companions.
With regard to my relationship counseling, I helped people to solve marital problems, relationship problems, separations, parenting issues and divorces.
In brief, because of demand, I became a therapist/coach who guided people through the healing process and then through the dating, meeting and mating process.
Given my clinical experience and my personal experience with online dating, I think I have a good understanding of what people need to do to avoid failure and be successful as they utilize digital technology to find Mr. Right or Ms. Right.
I will tell you more about my personal dating record later…
Let’s begin with two important questions:
Are You Really Ready To Start Dating?
When Is The Right Time To Start Dating?
Having counseled and coached hundreds of patients about dating and relationships, it is apparent that people recover from the loss or from the end of a relationship at different paces. Some people need time to heal and do not want to date until they feel ready. For example, I have had patients who waited two years. Others want to “get back in the game” more quickly to find another lover/companion.
Online dating can be an exciting adventure for some individuals. Others find it quite uncomfortable and feel embarrassed searching for a lover in this manner.
For me, my wife was ill for almost two years and I felt I was ready to socialize with women and curious about who I might meet a few months after she passed.
As I said earlier, I had a terrific partner and a marvelous marriage. I like being connected to someone and I feel like I have a very good understanding of what it takes to build a solid relationship.
Also, I think of myself as a resilient warrior who refuses to give up when life throws me a curve or knocks me down.
In addition, no one I know is getting any younger. So, to me, it makes sense to “get back in the game.”
Let’s Discuss A Few Do’s And A Few Don’ts
- Don’t lie about your age.
- Don’t lie about your height.
- Don’t lie about your weight.
- Don’t lie about your interests.
- Don’t lie about your marital status.
- Don’t post pictures that are from a previous decade.
- Have professional photos taken.
- Include full body shots.
- Include several head shots.
- Consider a few photos of you engaged in some of your hobbies. This will help potential respondents to get a sense of what you are passionate about.
- Appearance is important in this search. Everyone wants to be with someone they find attractive.
So, get on a healthy eating regime and an effective exercise regime.
- There are some troubled and dangerous people out there. So, meet in a public place.
- It is easy to do a background check by using the web. I suggest you take advantage of this resource.
- Be protective of your address, phone number, financial information and email.
- Don’t invite a new date into your home until you know them.
- If you become aware of the fact that a person is lying to you, run the other way.
- Linda Jenkins in identified the ten things people lie about online: Age, Height, Single Status, Addictions, Cars/Transportation, Job-Employment, Relationships-Marriages, Family, Money and STD's
- Be on the lookout for people who drink too much, use illegal drugs, smoke pot daily and self-medicate.
- There are a lot of con games online. So stay away from a person with a criminal record.
- If you date or meet someone who shows signs of being violent-remove yourself from this relationship.
- If you encounter someone who stalks, you consider getting a restraining order.
Your Bio /Profile
- Your bio or profile is very important. Like it or not, you are competing with other people who are looking for Mr. or Ms. Right.
- You profile is like an advertisement for yourself.
- If you are looking for a hook up you need a different kind of profile than you need a different kind of profile than you need if you are searching for a long term relationship. The "hook up" profile should be brief, fun, inviting and flirtatious.
- I have written many of these for my clients and I believe that there is a lot of psychology involved in generating an effective profile.
- Years ago, I taught college courses and graduate school courses on the psychology of advertising. I also wrote a book on advertising psychology and I was hired as a copywriter for businesses who wanted copy that was based in psychology.
So, I think I know what I am talking about where your profile development is concerned. Your bio needs to follow the old advertising formula known as AIDA. Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
6 . You need to tell a lot about yourself and about the kind of person you are seeking. But, you need to do this in an appealing manner. I think a bio can be between two hundred and fifty words and five hundred words. If you hate writing, hiring someone to help you with your bio.
Feel free to reach out to me, if you would like me to assist you in this process. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at
How To Choose The Right Dating Site
- There are a multitude of different sites from which to choose.
Some are long-term relationship oriented. Others are
focused on casual sex and hook ups. Know what you are
looking for and choose a site or sites that align with your
goal. This article focuses primarily on people using online dating to
find a LTR (Long Term Relationship)
- Don’t limit yourself to just one site.
- Don’t give up on the old-fashioned ways of meeting.
- Networking and introductions can still be useful.
- Consider using a matchmaker or a reliable dating service. However, be a little careful when using a dating service as I have had a number of patients who spent large sums of money and felt that they were "ripped off" by some of these organizations. So, do your research carefully before you turn your love life over to a dating service or a matchmaker.
How To Identify A Good Match
- If you are a white collar professional, you probably need a white collar mate.
- If you are well educated, you need someone who is a peer.
- If you have kids at home, you need someone who is okay with your children.
- Do you need someone who is the same religion as you?
- What is the best age range for you?
- You probably need someone who shares some of the same interests that you have.
- Dating a widower or a widow is different than dating someone who has been divorced.
- Avoid dating someone who is separated or still living with their spouse.
- Find someone with whom you can be a CO-CEO.
- Since a lot of couples break up over money issues, look for someone who is a financial peer.
- Look for someone who has complimentary skills and talents.
- Find a partner who you share some common interests.
- Find someone who you like to do nothing with. That is, just being together is fun.
- Learn from previous mistakes you have made in relationships. Do not make the same mistake or wrong choice over and over again.
- Spend some time visualizing who is a good match for you.
Be sure you are being reasonable in what you are looking for and in your list of requirements for this person. Remember, no one, including you is perfect.
16. Look for someone who is a good teammate.
17 . Find someone who you enjoying doing things with but who also give you space and autonomy.
18. Find someone who makes you feel very special.
19. Find someone who treats you with kindness, dignity and respect.
20. Do not waste time and/or energy if you encounter someone who says they will get back to you and they do not follow through.
21. Be ready to spend an hour a day on this search.
22. Prepare yourself for some complications and disappointments. People are complicated and relationships can be even more complicated.
23. If each date with a particular person gets better and better, you may be with someone who is very special.
24. If you feel really lucky to have your mate in your life, you are probably on the right track.
Healthy Relationships vs. Unhealthy Relationships
Because I have done a ton of marriage counseling and relationship counseling, I have seen people who, unfortunately, spend too much time suffering in a toxic, dysfunctional marriage or relationship.
Remember this simple concept:
“A healthy relationship is easy most of the time
and occasionally challenging. A sick relationship is challenging most of the time and occasionally peaceful.”
Avoid Narcissists And Borderlines
- Having a healthy, loving, and supportive relationship is virtually impossible if you are involved with someone who has one of these two diagnoses. These personality types tend to be very difficult to treat.
- There is a treasure trove of information online about these disorders. Educate yourself a bit so you can avoid the stress of being romantically involved with a narcissist or someone with a borderline personality disorder.
Drug Addicts, Sex Addicts and Alcoholics
Similarly, a drug addict, sex addict or alcoholic is a very bad choice if you are searching for a lifelong companion. Workaholics can also be very challenging. And some workaholics are narcissists.
People Without Friends
People with few or no friends can be a sign of some trouble or difficulty where relationships are concerned. You don't need to have a lot of friends, but people without a support network probably do not offer very much to other human beings.
Conversely, someone with a group of good friends probably knows how to be a friend to someone.
How To Date in a Rationale and Effective Way
- Consider some phone calls, some texts, Facetime or Zoom meetings before you meet in person. I think three contacts before you meet is a good idea.
- Accept the likelihood that you will have more bad first dates than good first dates.
- Remember, just one outstanding person can change your life for a lifetime. So, hang in there.
- Gear up for an emotional marathon and expect to stumble, fall and be injured during this journey/adventure.
- Consider location and don’t date someone who lives a distance that is too far to visit three times a week, just in case a relationship develops.
- Be an astute listener on your first date. Read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
- Avoid lengthly conversations about your ex.
- Ask open ended questions to keep the conversation going.
- If you are a recently divorced person, avoid conversations about your attorney or your spouse’s attorney.
- You don’t have to reveal your entire life history on date number one to date number two.
- Avoid conversation about painful and negative subject matter until you have formed a relationship. Keep date one light, friendly and easy.
- Avoid taking advice from people who are not involved in and experienced in the online dating universe.
- If you have friends who are using internet dating, share your war stories, your funny stories, your advice, your experiences and your love and support. I have two friends who are actively using on line dating. One is an intensive care doctor and the other is a Ph.D. It is really helpful to touch base with them from time to time. I am an independent thinker, but they understand this world and can offer some useful advice and helpful insight into this process.
- Accept the idea that you may have to go on ten dates before finding someone who want to see a second time.
- Develop your communication skills. Become a good listener. No one likes an incessant talker. Focus on being interested not interesting.
- While many first dates involve meeting for drinks, lunch or dinner. An "activity date" like bowling, hiking, tennis, golf, a walk in the park, or a picnic in a nice spot can be a good way of getting to know each other.
- If someone is bad about returning your message or messages. Do not waste time and energy on them. My experience is that a person who is selfish and unreliable at the start will be unreliable as the relationship moves forward.
- Some people are on their best behavior when they initially meet you. I suggest that you realize that you may not really know a person until you are in a relationship with them for six or seven months.
- Many people who are on line are "shopping around." If a relationship develops, the two of you will have to talk about getting off line and focusing on each other exclusively-if your end goal is a long term relationship. This can be a slippery slope and you may even consider utilizing a therapist to get help with this transition.
- Realize that many people who are online are dating several people simultaneously while they try to identify who is the best match for them. It is likely that you will meet someone who you get on with quite well, but he or she may have some other "irons in the fire." In some instances, you will be rejected because they may feel that someone else is a better fit. You should not take this personally. You simply can't be right for everyone. If someone has very limited availability, it may mean that the are actively dating one person besides you. Or they might be dating several people.
- Another issue that you might encounter is that the person you are dating is wounded due to a recent breakup. They may appear to be blue, depressed and quite needy. Some people will date many people simultaneously because they are sad and empty and they are seeking attention to avoid their loneliness.
- As I have noted and as you will discover, dating can be emotionally challenging. You may benefit from approaching it as an interpersonal adventure in which you can learn about others and discover a lot about yourself.
- You will encounter some people who are unreliable or inconsistent in communicating with you. Do not waste time and energy on people who are not being responsive and prompt about returning your messages. I suggest you delete them from your prospect list as soon as possible.
- Remember, connecting with one very special person can make all your efforts worthwhile.
- Connect with a therapist or dating coach if you think you need some guidance, support and encouragement through this process.
The Goal for Date Number One
It is quite common for people to get ahead of themselves when they start dating someone they like. Hormones, hopes and fantasies get activated and people start to get way ahead of themselves.
All you need to sort out on date number one is whether you want to see the person on date number two.
You also want to determine if there is "good chemistry between the two of you.
Who Should Pay For The First Date?
You have some options as to how you want to handle the finances on the first date.
I almost always pay because I can afford it.
However, whether you are male or female, either one of you can suggest splitting the bill.
You can also offer to pay for the tip.
If the date goes well, you can offer to pay for the next dinner, lunch or round of drinks.
More On Chemistry and Online Dating
- If you read the bios and profiles on the dating sites, you will
see that most people are very interested in “chemistry.”
For me and I think for most people, I know I need to have that magical kind of attraction to move forward in a romantic relationship.
This magical attraction and the energy that goes with it encourages playfulness, hand holding, hugging, walking arm and arm, flirting, sex and make up sex. All good and important behaviors.
I think it is a good idea to speak openly as to whether you both feel that there is "chemistry" and a mutual attraction to one another. If the mutual attraction is there, you can spend time getting to know each other better on the first date. If it is not there, I suggest that you both cut your losses and part as friend and move on to the next prospect. This direct conversation will save you time, money and energy.
- Not every male or female is wired in this manner. However, as I said above, I believe this kind of chemistry can add a lot of joy, romance, and fun to a love relationship.
- Recently, I dated a new woman who was very successful and very bright. However, she was simply not someone with whom I could imagine being intimate. She wanted to see me again but a half hour after her first date, I texted her and I said that the chemistry was just not there for me.
Like most people, I don’t like to hurt anybody, but I thought this was the honest and kind thing to do, given the circumstances.
How To Date Wisely and Efficiently
What is Perhaps the Most Important Thing to Figure Out
on Date One or During Your Initial Contact?
On another date, a woman and I spoke about how important chemistry was to us when we sat down for dinner.
We determined and shared that “the chemistry” was there for for both of us. The evening was super and we are now dating.
I strongly suggest that daters begin the date with a discussion about the presence or absence of this essential chemistry.
If it is not there for both of you, shake hands, wish each other luck and walk away to date another day.
I know that some people, including my colleagues who are therapists, will find this to be crass, shallow and perhaps even unfair. I just don’t agree.
Again, if so many internet daters mention chemistry as being important, why not determine whether it is there or not there.
By the way, you can probably determine whether or not there is chemistry by a Zoom conference, Facetime or another audio visual app. These approaches can save you a lot of time, money, and energy.
In my view, I think this realistic acknowledgement about chemistry may be the single most important tip in this article.
Stress Management for Online Daters
Online dating can be very stressful. Here are a few more tips for
maintaining your wellness.
- Expect to meet some liars.
- Expect to meet some creeps.
- You will experience some rejection. So, develop a thick skin.
- Remain curious about this adventure.
- Limit yourself to no more than two to three dates per week.
- Spend time with your passions and hobbies.
- Spend time with supportive friends and family members.
- If you have a friend who is dating online, share
your experiences, your war stories, your funny dates, your
cool dates, your sexual encounters, and your love and support for one another.
- Spend time with nature: gardening, fishing, hiking, swimming in a lake, or in the ocean.
- Develop a sense of humor if you don’t have one. You will
- Learn meditation.
- Learn mindful meditation.
- Get some training in self-hypnosis
- Visualize successful dates.
- Imagine successful relationships.
- You may be able to make friends with people you meet.
- Engage in exercise three to five times a week.
- Learn a new hobby, sport, skill or activity.
- Try to get the same amount of sleep every night.
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- Start every day with a recognition of what you are grateful for and thankful for.
- If you are spiritual or religious, utilize prayer and your faith to keep your spirits up.
- Listen to your favorite music and dance if you feel like it.
- Sing in the shower even if you have a terrible voice.
- Learn the serenity prayer and practice it often.
- Spend some of your time helping others. Consider volunteering, or raising money for a good cause.
Should You Date More Than One Person at a Time?
The answer is yes. The idea of having “a few lines in the water” or “a few irons in the fire” seems to make sense to me.
When you meet someone who is really special, you can let go of the other people to focus on this “special” pal.
Having said the above, some people like to date one person at a time and that is certainly their prerogative.
When Should You Get Off The Dating Site(s)?
Online dating can be exhausting and a person can get burnt out after partaking in this process for an extended period of time. So, taking a break is often a wise idea.
Also, trying a different site can expose you to a new critical mass of potential mates.
Getting off the sites can sometimes become a sticky and complicated issue for a couple. This can be a significant source of friction if one member of the relationship wants to get off the site(s) and the other member wants to remain on the site.
I would suggest that you and your partner discuss this issue openly and honestly and try to discover a time frame and a plan that works for both of you.
Obviously, if you fall in love and develop a relationship that is healthy, loving, growing and thriving, it is probably time to concentrate your energy and attention on this one special person.
A Journey of 50 Dates
My Track Record
A Personal Tale
Since my wife’s passing, I have dated approximately forty five women. The majority of people who I dated came through online dating services. A few came from introductions and two or three came from a dating service.
Most of these dates were one and done. Usually, because the vital chemistry was simply not there or I detected that people were troubled, dishonest, too dumb, too angry, too sad, too desperate, incessant talkers, liars, self-centered, or had no sense of humor. Or, we simply did not have very much in common.
Based on conversations with many of my patients and with people I have personally met on line, approximately one in every ten people you meet you will see a second time.
In my case, I was intimate with one out of every ten people who I met face to face.
Here is a brief summary of some of my experiences.
I dated one woman for three months. She was a widow and seemed to want to get married immediately. She would also yell at me about nothing.
I hate loud voices and she could not moderate her tone, so it was time to protect my eardrums and my hearing and depart.
There was another woman who I dated for about three months. She was attractive, but distrustful and suspicious to the point that I thought she was paranoid. I occasionally have paranoid people as patients and I did not want to deal with one in my romantic life.
There was another lady who was not “the sharpest tool in the drawer.” She could not find a restaurant that was around the corner from her house. It was a little scary to me since she was a nurse. I hope she did not kill anyone because of her limited IQ.
And there was another lady who sent me pictures of herself from a decade ago. She did not like the table we got in the restaurant and she
started to yell at me. Within seven seconds, I said good-night, picked up some Chinese food and dined by myself at home. This may be the shortest date on record.
I dated one other lady for about six weeks. She was geographically undesirable, however, as it would take about ninety minutes to get to her house. I did not think I would want to do such a long commute if the relationship moved forward. Also, it is hard to be spontaneous when there are long distances and substantial amount of traffic on the route you will travel to see one another.
There was another lady, a female detective who at the end of the date, told me that she was gay.
Only two people who I met face to face were quite unpleasant. One person never said thank you for the two rather expensive dinners I paid for. Interestingly, she was a very successful attorney who earned close to a million dollars a year.
Sometimes, It Takes A While To Really Get To Know Someone
I dated yet another woman for seven months. We met through a dating service. Things were really super. We traveled together.
My friends and she seemed to get along quite well.
Our chemistry was outstanding.
We never had an argument. Then, out of the blue, she completely flipped out when I forgot to give her a birthday card after taking her to dinner at the restaurant of her choice to celebrate this occasion. Talk about an extreme reaction!
I apologized profusely. I did not know that birthday cards were so important. I don't think she gave me one for my birthday. I think she gave me a chocolate bar and she paid for dinner at a French place I had wanted to go to.
I offered and delivered a second birthday party. But that was not enough to calm her down. I realized that she was filled with anger and resentment over my unintentional oversight.
To make matters worse, she refused to talk about it. I felt this was a bad sign and her severe reaction was tied in with her history of remaining in abusive relationships, having an unavailable mother and feeling unloved for most of her life.
In short, this lady spent more than thirty five years or her life in terrible relationships. This kind of poor treatment can take a psychological toll on any human being
The lack of a birthday card seemed to open an old emotional wound for her and she became cold, distant and began to lie about large issues and small issues.
When I pointed out these lies, she became very defensive and said, I don't view these statements as lies."
I was so shocked by her behavior that I consulted with a few of my colleagues. I spoke to a psychiatrist who is a long time friend, a psychologist who I know for many years and another psychotherapist. They all felt her reaction was extreme and that a mature and reasonable way to solve the problem would be to have a discussion as how to get past this "bump in the road." Two of my colleagues felt that she might be unstable.
Upon reflection, it also appeared that she may have had a problem with alcohol and marihuana as she would frequently self-medicate so she could alleviate anxiety and get a good night's sleep. She would often have three drinks with dinner and then a cocktail before going to sleep. She used marihuana several times a week.
Substance abuse is a serious problem. And substance combined with lying become deal breakers for a healthy relationship.
Early on in our relationship, given her history of damaging relationships and problems with her grown daughter, I suggested that stopping or reducing
her drinking and drug use might be a good idea. I offered to stop drinking with her.
And I pointed out that she was forgetting names, places and things. She forgot what she said and she could not recall being in restaurants for a second time.
Not surprisingly, my girlfriend denied the problem(s) and rejected these ideas. We call this denial.
As I stated earlier, I have treated thousands of addicts and people with personality disorders and I don’t need or want that kind of individual in my personal life or my family life. I wanted to be helpful, but I did not want to be my lover's therapist. I wanted to be her companion.
I was sad and disappointed, but if we could not communicate and fix this small issue noted above, I thought that we would have little chance of problem solving bigger issues in the future.
Now hindsight is twenty-twenty.
However, in reflecting on this relationship, another warning sign or red flag was that my girlfriend had very few friends. I did not meet any of them while we dated. She was in her sixties and I heard very little about contact with people. When I asked her if she discussed any of her issues with any friends, she said that "she never shares these personal matters with others." My thought was what are friends for anyway?
On the other hand, I have a large cadre of friends from various chapters of my life. She met perhaps twenty of my pals.
I am not sharing the above anecdote to bad mouth this person. Rather, I am trying to educate other single people about the complex psychological and emotional behaviors and emotions which can impact a relationship. Therapists, like other humans, can get confused as to how to navigate interpersonal connections and love relationships.
If you are middle aged or older, it is likely that you and the people you will meet will "bring some baggage" to relationships. We can get set in our ways and act out because of old tapes, old traumas or bad experiences.
Therapy can be helpful if making us aware of these disruptive patterns and help us to change them.
Remember, as I noted at the start of this article, my wife and I were terrific teammates and outstanding problem solvers.
As I stated, I do not compare new women in my life to my deceased spouse. But, I know very well what it takes to build a relationship with a solid foundation, teamwork, honesty, compromise and a great deal of kindness, dignity and respect.
So, I am back dating. I'm back in the game.
Fortunately, I am resilient and I can be quite determined and unflappable when I want to go after something. Perhaps my experiences in sport and in entrepreneurship help me to persevere.
In addition, I have a mantra that describes me quite well. "Knock me down ten times and I'll get up the eleventh."
Fortunately, I have recently met two nice people. It is too early to determine if these connections have potential.
However, time will tell as I have learned to not get too ahead of myself when dating someone and when trying to see where a relationship is going.
I take things one step at a time. Or, one breath at a time.
I would encourage all daters to pace themselves in a similar manner. It is easy and normal to get excited about a budding romance. However, it is wise to drive at sixty miles an hour instead of ninety miles an hour.
Sport Psychology and Mental Toughness Training
for Online Daters
As I noted at the start of this article, many of the sport psychology techniques I have taught to elite athletes, weekend warriors, young athlete, executives, stock traders and CEO’s can be quite useful for online daters.
Being relaxed, confident, focused, optimistic, curious, adventurous,
playful, open and resourceful are qualities we all need to know how to access and utilize to succeed at any challenge.
In short, as the site’s name implies, I teach people how to get into the zone and stay there.
Because the hypnotic state of mind parallels the zone, hypnosis and self- hypnosis often play a powerful role in activating the aforementioned qualities.
I have developed a number of books, videos and audio programs about getting into the zone. https://stayinthezone.com/shop/
You can learn more about these techniques by visiting www.StayInTheZone.com.
And if you need a therapist, coach, and experienced writer to help you manage and improve your search for that very special, wonderful, life changing person, you can email me at email@example.com or you can call me at 888 580-ZONE.