Here are a few important concepts everyone should bear in mind before getting into the actual guide (or online dating for that matter). These “rules” establish how I believe online dating should be approached. Awareness of these concepts can make the whole process a little less painful.
Rule One: Grain of Salt
First, nothing I have to say is “right”. As a matter of fact, I believe this applies to any dating material you might read. Everything I am presenting is what I found to work best in online dating. Every person and situation is different so if you feel something is not applicable, stick with your instincts. In the year I dated online, I went on approximately thirty-five first dates, had an equal number of online conversations that never made it to the first date, and sent countless emails that I never received a reply for. Of the first dates I went on, well under half resulted in a second date or more. This might make me sound like the last guy on Earth who should be giving advice on dating but it does show what I’m basing my opinions on. Since my track records makes me sound like something of a failure let me add this: almost all of my first and second dates came within the last three months of my year of dating. It took me nine months to finally understand what I was doing wrong!
Rule Two: Everyone’s Favorite
Just be yourself. I think this is the one phrase I hated most while dating but the one I heard (and read) more often than any other. One reason I despised this phrase, particularly in dating books, is because this would be the first concept presented and then the remainder of the content is devoted to teaching a person how to act like someone else. For example, in one book I read it started off with the ever-present “Just be yourself” chapter immediately followed by a chapter explaining how to develop a more outgoing nature (they recommended talking to strangers in public that you were not attracted to and working your way toward more attractive people). As a shy guy, I can either follow the rules of the first chapter or the rules of the second. Quiet reservation is who I am and no amount of practice ever made “being outgoing” less of a farce for me. I really think this is unfortunate because right now, there is a guy out there somewhere on a first date acting assertive because, according to several dating books, it improves his chances of getting a second date. Which leads me to question: what if his “acting” actually leads to the relationship being successful? If so, the poor girl thinks she’s dating someone with certain qualities when she’s actually dating someone who can simply act. To make matters worse, the guy has bought into the idea that he is either going to have to act like someone else for the rest of his life or be alone.
The truth of the matter is being assertive is going to help a guy seem more attractive to many girls – I’ll give the books that much – but this does not make it the only solution. The books do mean well: they are offering advice that will improve a guy’s odds when trying to get dates. Something should be done to improve the odds, but I do not believe the answer is to do so by pretending to be something you are not. Instead, improve your odds by dating more and accepting the fact that in many cases “being yourself” is going to make finding who you want more difficult. There’s a guy out there for the aggressive girl as much as there is a girl out there for the shy guy. This is the big reason I was drawn to online dating: I didn’t have to stop being a little shy to meet people. Just send an email and if there was no response I would just convince myself she moved out of the country to help feed the needy in a third-world country. Eventually, I did gain some assertiveness but it was because I was becoming more comfortable after a few dozen dates, not because I was working on my assertiveness. At any rate, it is unfair to tell someone to “be yourself” and then to tell them exactly what that person should look like. You may have personality traits that make you less attractive but is that really so bad? Even if you fail as much as I did just remember: you only have to be successful once. When you do find success, it will have much greater value if you do so while being honest with yourself and the person you are dating.
One warning on being yourself: don’t feel like you need to get everything out there on the first date to successfully “be yourself”. As a personal example, I didn’t express my interest in Massive Multi-Player Online Games when I first started dating my wife. I didn’t make attempts to hide this information…I just didn’t bring it up. This turned out to be a good decision because she had a very bad impression of these games (I seem to remember her believing there was a close tie to devil worship or something else equally laughable). Fortunately, when I did finally bring it up she knew me well enough to question her beliefs, watched me play a few games, met a few of my online friends, and got over her fears. I’m afraid to think what would have happened had I felt compelled to share every detail on our first date. Now, everyone isn’t a geek like me but we all have something we just know might damage our second-date-chances so treat dating like a marathon, not a sprint. Being honest about who you are is one thing…revealing every detail is quite another.
Rule Three: It’s Hard Work
I know of two types of people who have had success with online dating: those who worked at it and those who were very lucky. So, if you’re not lucky, don’t think just because you read some advice and apply it that your dating life is going improve dramatically. You will need to accept that many of the people you try to contact will not write you back and that, on a rare occasion, someone will be rude when you try to correspond with them. You will have bad first dates and you will have bad second dates after thinking the first was great. You will realize within the first few seconds of some dates that the picture on the profile was over a decade old or even an entirely different person. This is all part of the process. Getting frustrated with the people you are meeting or being hard on yourself is the worst thing you can do. If you accept that it will not be easy and that the process will not necessarily be quick, you will be doing yourself a great service.