Having some concerns about venturing into online dating? Everyone does. If you’ve looked through any Match.com or Plenty of Fish profiles, you’ll probably find the word “skeptical” used more than any other.

In this busy and connected world, it can be difficult to meet potential partners who share your values and interests. When you have children’s needs to take of, it’s even harder to find the time and brain space to devote to your personal happiness. Tip-toeing into new territory always goes better with a guidebook, or in this case a guide blog post that covers all the concerns and tactics for trying online dating for the first time. To make the material both thorough and easily consumable, we’ve taken the journalist’s route of listing the What-Why-When-Where-How of meeting people via a website.

What is Online Dating?

Online dating is a very elaborate form of personals ads where users can describe their looks, likes, values and hobbies at length. An online “profile” can be 1,000 words or more. There’s also typically a space for explaining what the profile writer is looking for. Religion, politics, hobbies, pets, smoking and drinking preferences and more are also listed. Where once, finding out all of these attributes could take months of dates, online dating puts it all out there right away.

After picking out the right matches, users message each other via the services and typically start communicating through their personal email addresses or phone. They meet shortly after that to determine whether they are interested in each other or have “chemistry.”

Why Online Dating?

1. It works!

Doesn’t everyone know at least one couple that met through an online dating site? Turns out, robust research confirms that our cousins and friends who find love online are just a small sliver of those who do so nationwide.

In 2013, researchers at the National Academy of Scientists surveyed 19,131 people who married between 2005 and 2012. They found that one in three of these marriages, the couple met through an online dating site. Further, the couples who met online expressed higher degree of satisfaction with the marriage and a lower divorce rate.  Those reporting the least satisfaction and highest divorce rates met either in bars or through friends.

Happier marriages and fewer divorces could be due to the fact that those participating in online dating select prospects based on similar values, interests and backgrounds, three factors that many studies confirm contribute to marital success. eHarmony founder and psychologist Dr. Neil Clark Warren certainly thinks so. As he explains in his book, Date or Soul Mate: How to Know if Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less, he created eHarmony to increase the number of happy marriages. Too many couples, he claims, marry based on superficial factors like looks, lust or earning potential. A career psychologist, Clark Warren had studied the real qualities that build a firm foundation in a relationship. His website eHarmony helps people select each other based on meaningful characteristics and similarities.

2. Stigma about Online Dating has Dissipated

Where once people whispered only to their closest friends that they were meeting with someone they met online, today that embarrassment has dissipated. The renowned Pew Research Center gives us some solid facts about the attitudes about online dating they gathered three years ago. The chart here reveals that online dating wasn’t even ridiculed ten years ago. 44% found it a perfectly legitimate way to meet romantic partners. By 2013, 59% of Americans agreed that the online dating is “a good way to meet people.”

pewresearch

Online dating is no longer seen as a last resort for the desperate.

Now that we’re in in 2016, these numbers should be even higher, particularly since younger stars have come out about using online dating. Singer Adele is open about using eHarmony; Joan Rivers went on Match.com, boldly using her own photos. Chelsea Handler, Charlie Sheen and Matthew Perry admit to using multiple sites. It just goes to show, even the attractive and wealthy find online dating a practical tool for finding love.

When Should Divorced Dads Start Online Dating?

Despite the fact that this is an online dating primer, keep in mind that the decision to date should be made cautiously. The unspoken online rule is that if your divorce isn’t finalized yet, you have no business seeking out new partners. This rule has actually bubbled up more from the users of online dating sites rather than the sites themselves. It seems that those on the dating sites who have been divorced for a few years tried and failed at online dating when they made an attempt when just separated or newly divorced.

The risks include:

  • Bringing in someone new while you’re still in a great deal of pain. The newly divorced need time grieve and heal. Experts say that divorced couples should take one year alone for every five years they were married. It’s tough to hear, but as the pain diminishes and confidence returns, most recognize they would rather choose another partner while in a healthy, confident frame of mind than a needy, frantic one.
  • Bringing in someone new while the children are still getting used to the divorce and the new routines that follow. Experts find that these changes are the maximum kids can handle for a while, even a year or two. While the newly divorced who stay single do forego the comforts of being in partnership, they win in other ways. The time devoted to children’s needs sets everyone up for a happy and successful future. Avoiding the chaos that children can create when resenting a new partner keeps the family dynamic on a positive track.
  • Behaving badly with people who could be great partners down the line, alienating them. The newly divorced are notorious for engaging in risky financial, drinking and sexual behavior. Unloading on a decent person about the ex, while drinking and proposing sex does not impress her in the least. Keep an ideal prospect on the backburner until you’re ready to bring your A-game and win.

Friends and family members are too quick with the advice to “get back out there!” They just don’t know what to say. These days, society respects all styles of families. Don’t feel frantic to pair up again just to prove your worth or feel like you’re a “real” family again. In fact, many of your colleagues will respect you for focusing on the children for a while.  Working and raising children takes a great deal of emotional and physical energy; waiting to date until you have a surplus of both sets you up for online dating success.

Where Divorced Fathers Should Consider Uploading a Profile

Believe it or not, Match.com, the game-changer in how people meet, went live in beta in 1995 . . . 20 years ago. At that point, just 14% of all Americans even used the Internet at all! Started by an engineer who still lives in the San Diego area, Match now has approximately 2 million paid subscribers in 25 countries. The website’s internal data claims that single people with profiles are three times more likely to find a relationship than those without a Match profile.

While Match.com is the most visited online dating site in the world (far outstripping its closest competitor), it’s not the only one by a long-shot. Users consistently rate OKCupid, PlentyofFish, OurTime.com and various Meetup.com groups effective as well. These general dating website tend to charge less than Match or eHarmony.

Where general sites have all types of users, narrower niche sites exist that cater to farmers, devout Christians/Jews/Muslims, pet lovers, Star Trek enthusiasts and more. With limited markets, however, fewer partners exist. Still, sharing a passion can light a fire. The niche sites tend to deliver fewer dates but those that you do find could have the potential to be more appropriate for you. That’s the theory behind the business model anyway.

Niche sites for divorcees and single fathers include SingleParentMeet.com, Just Parents.com, and SingleParentLove.com. Like the sites mentioned above, these have fewer users so choice is more limited. Dating experts also encourage single fathers to simply use a big one like Match.com or eHarmony. After all, most people disclose their family situation and their level of involvement with their children there as well.

How to Online Date Successfully

Once you feel you’re truly ready to date again, venturing online can be fun. Follow these do’s and don’ts to increase your chances of having a positive rather than mortifying experience.

Online Dating Do’s

  • Take the time to create a genuine profile that reflects the TRUE you. No lying.
  • Fill out the profile as completely as you can. No one responds to an empty profile.
  • Upload three to five pictures. One photo isn’t enough.
  • Understand that you will be nervous. So will your date. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
  • Understand that many will not respond to you. Send a message and if there’s no response understand they’re not interested.
  • Prepare for someone to stop communicating with you. This is how it goes in online dating.
  • Understand that many are looking for a reason to reject you. It’s a defense mechanism.
  • Meet within a week or so of emailing.
  • Meet for a short walk or coffee. Don’t set yourself up for a two-hour-long meal on the first date.
  • Talk about your children, family members, friends and hobbies and the joy they bring you.
  • Determine whether the date went well enough to consider a second date. Have a one date at a time attitude.
  • If the date went well, ask for a phone number or card and permission to call.
  • Follow your gut. If someone seems unstable, distance yourself.

Online Dating Don’ts

  • Don’t choose a free or low-cost dating site. Put money, time and effort into this if you’re really ready.
  • Don’t lie on your profile about age, weight, height, income etc.
  • Never reveal last names, addresses or other personal information until you’re comfortable.
  • Don’t expect that you’ll KNOW after one or two dates. As above, one date at a time.
  • Don’t speak negatively about your ex.
  • Don’t go on and on about your financial settlement.
  • Don’t carry on an email conversation too long. People seem to lose interest that way and go on to another prospect.

Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind, but remember, too, that online dating will take time, energy and money.  You won’t get it right the first time or even the first 10 times! Your first attempts could be failures but failure is a great teacher. In fact, you really can’t get to success without it.

When the date doesn’t work out, simply consider that you’ve gotten these preliminary meetings out of the way. Sales people are famous for welcoming the number of “no’s” they get because they realize the more they get out of the way, the closer they are to YES! It takes courage to go outside your comfort zone, but the great rewards await you.  Dating when the time is right for you, not your parents or friends, makes the most sense.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via thumb9.shutterstock.com

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