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5 Things You Need to Know About Online Dating

How To Temper Your Expectations, Expand Your Options & Have More Fun Online

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A woman on a laptop computer.

Learn the truth about online dating before you get completely sucked in.

Photo © Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Everyone tells you what a great option online dating sites are, but is this form of dating right for you, personally? Get to know the truth about online dating –– from the use of decoys, to how to maintain realistic expectations of yourself and others. Arming yourself with this knowledge ahead of time will make the experience more meaningful, and could even help you find a match more quickly.

  1. Companies use decoys to keep you online. I was actually pretty shocked the first time an industry insider tipped me off to the fact that, yes, some of those too-good-to-be-true profiles are fake. But once you know the real deal, it helps you engage with others in a different way. If someone you're interested in writes back, but doesn't maintain regular communication, remember that they could be a decoy paid to keep you coming back to the site again and again.

    Lesson: Don't take it personally if someone wants to email or chat but doesn't pursue a relationship.

  2. There are lots of variables outside your control. On one hand, it's a numbers game. The more people you reach out to, the better the odds that you'll hear back from someone. And the more you interact online, the more likely you'll be to meet one or two interesting –– and interested –– people in person. But at the same time, whether someone responds or not has a lot to do with what's going on in their lives at the moment they receive your correspondence. Maybe they had a busy week and didn't even see it, or maybe they're waiting to see if they hear back from someone they've had an eye on.

    Lesson: Don't gauge your self-worth on your online dating success.

  3. Some people never intend to meet others in person. The convenience of online dating lends itself to people who don't have the time or inclination to date in real life. And if that's the case, you're probably not going to change their minds. (Because, let's face it, there may be very good reasons why they don't want to meet in person –– like not wanting to be outed for using fake pictures, etc.).

    Lesson: Online dating doesn't change who people are on the inside, so don't be offended when your online contact doesn't influence a person change their behavior.

  4. Not everyone who dates online is as genuine as you are. You may be approaching online dating with complete sincerity. Your dating profile may spell out exactly who you are and what you're looking for, but that doesn't mean that the men and women you interact with online are equally transparent. So it's important to approach online dating with a bit of skepticism –– and put your own personal safety above your desire to meet someone new.

    Lesson: Keep your eyes open for red flags and deal breakers.

  5. Online dating is a tool and should only be part of your dating strategy. Sure, it works for some people –– the ones you see in the commercials! And when it works, it's great. (In fact, the whole concept of screening a potential partner by getting to know them online first is a good practice for staying safe.) But in general, online dating should only be one part of your overall dating strategy. Don't neglect your in-person social life in favor of the computer screen. Make an effort to get out there with friends or join a support group for single parents where you're sure to meet other moms and dads –– who may have friends they can introduce you to.

    Lesson: Your online life is only part of your life. Don't neglect the people who surround you every day in favor on online hopes and aspirations.

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