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Divorced Dads: Approaching Online Dating for the First Time?

Divorced Dads: Approaching Online Dating for the First Time?

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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    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.

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    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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    Peter Mueller

    Founder of Father's Rights Law Center

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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