From the first click to the first date.
I had to go on 121 first dates before I found my love, Mr. Lucky #121. Can you even imagine? Boy, did I experience a lot. I saw the good, the bad, and the truly ugly, and I learned hundreds of lessons the hard way — so that you don’t have to.
With this in mind, I’ve discovered that there are 10 stages of online dating. Knowing about each stage will help you navigate the tricky and sometimes insidious world of online honey-hunting so that you can have more fun and freedom on your journey to meeting the love of your life.
1. Ready to date.
You’re probably in one of two camps right now. You’re either:
- Eager and enthusiastic: As in you’ve finally slipped out of that going-nowhere-for-way-too-long relationship, or the ink is drying on your divorce papers and you’re ready for the real deal this time.
- Reluctant but willing to try this crazy online thing: Even though you don’t reeeally want to, it seems like everybody is doing it with some modicum of success, so why not give it a go? I mean, how bad could it be, right?
This is what “ready to date” looks like. So, pick yourself a site: Match, Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, JDate, Farmer’s Only — whatever suits your fancy. Once you’ve chosen your online automated matchmaker, you’ll need two things.
The first is a recent and kick-a*s profile photo. No pro photographer need. Ask your friend to shoot a half a dozen (well-lit and natural) candids on your smartphone or use a timer app that will take 100 selfies in under a minute and you can pose-pose-pose-pose-pose!
Common Pitfall: Posting photos older than six months. This will backfire on you one way or another, so keep your look current.
Hot Tip: Shoot for happy, relaxed, and naturally beautiful. Don’t forget to include a full body shot, too — show off all your curves!
The second thing you’ll need is a winning profile that showcases your unique personality.
Common Pitfall: Using too many adjectives like “happy”, “genuine”, “nurturing”, “loving”, etc. will just make you sound like everyone else.
Hot Tip: Instead of saying, “I’m Italian, sensitive, open-minded, open-hearted, love opera, and am moved by music”, you could tell a short story: “When I was a little girl and I didn’t know anything about anything, I was sitting at the family dinner table and I complained about opera. The next week, my Italian grandma dragged me down to the local opera house and I was moved to my core. This is how I learned to be open-minded and open-hearted about new experiences.” One story like that could be your entire profile — boom, there it is.
This stage has simple answers that are easy to arrive at and apply. Any dating coach worth a dime can tell you the myriad of do’s and don’ts for your dating profile.
2. Overwhelmed and excited.
Welcome to the next stage! You’re now swiping right, winking, liking, and favorite-ing, and there are oodles of promising people out there. Your inbox is swimming with potentials. You’re popular!
Common Pitfall: Being too accommodating in your correspondence. He said what to you? Do you have to respond to that? No, girl, you do not. Use your DELETE key.
Hot Tip: Create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all that potential. Really. It sounds nerdy, and maybe it is, but you know what else? It’s useful.
This is the stage where you think you’ve got it handled.
3. Nervous and curious.
Is this the first date you’ve been on for a long time? Or, let’s be honest: Is it the first time you’ve ever dated someone who wasn’t at least a friend of a friend? You may be wondering:
- Can I do this?
- What do I wear?
- What do I say?
- What’s going to happen?
- Am I ready?
- Who picks up the check?
- Who is this person?
- What if they’re a nut?
- What if they think I’m a nut?
Common Pitfall: Waiting to be ready. Don’t wait to date. Trust me: no one is ever 100 percent ready for this.
Hot Tip: Wear an outfit that makes you happy, talk about things in your life that you love, and ask him what gets him excited about his life. You’re just getting to know this new and interesting person, nothing more. Don’t micro-manage it.
4. Disappointed and discouraged.
You were hoping to get lucky and be “one and done.” You’ve been on a couple of first dates and knew from the first moment that this person wasn’t right for you, but when you departed, you were still hurt that he didn’t ask to see you again.
Or when you departed, you were relieved that he didn’t ask to see you again.
Or even though he wasn’t right for you, you were willing to see him again because hey, you’re dating and you are open to see if he grows on you. But he doesn’t.
Now, you have to go back online and meet more new people. Argh.
The thrill is gone: Going out on dates feels like just another task on your To-Do list and the drudgery of it makes you want to kick it down to the very bottom of your stack.
This stage is when you second-guess yourself and wonder why you’re feeling the way you do. You will also be hunting for the answer to the question, “Can’t I find a way to not have so many uncomfortable feelings at the end of a date?”
Common Pitfall: This is the stage where people give up. Don’t do it! Dating isn’t linear and there’s no science to predicting your timeline for success. One thing I know for sure is that you’ll find your love if you keep going, and you won’t if you quit. That’s the only simple part of this dance.
Hot Tip: Remember that, after a less-than-stellar date, you never have to have that exact experience again. It’s behind you.
“I met someone! It finally happened! I have a boyfriend! Yay!”
You are probably feeling one of two ways about this development: “It’s so easy! Just like what other people have said. We just click. I feel so comfortable. He’s here!” or “Wow. This is happening so fast. I’m not sure if I can make this work. It’s nice to have a man in my life, but it’s also really intense. I’m not sure if he’s the one for me.”
This is the stage when you are flying high and don’t need anybody but your brand-new, super-sexy boyfriend, right? It’ll all work out, right? (Truth: Yes, it totally might. Or it might not. Both of these are actually okay.)
Common Pitfall: This is the stage where people settle. He’s in front of you, he seems great so far, there’s a couple of deal-breakers in there, but hey, beats being alone, and sure as hell is better than dating!
Hot Tip: Know what you need for a happy life, and keep those rose-colored glasses off your face and your eyes wide open. If your new dude’s not quite fulfilling your absolute musts, then maybe it’s time to keep looking.
6. Confused, frustrated, or lost.
- “I like my boyfriend so much. I’m so afraid I’ll blow it.”
- “I had a boyfriend, but now I don’t. What happened?”
- “Why did they disappear?”
- “Why wasn’t I given a chance?”
- “What’s with all the mixed signals?”
- “What am I doing wrong?”
- “Why do they keep pulling away and then coming back?”
This stage is when you need answers now.
Common Pitfall: Believing this is your only chance at love or that love is elusive.
Hot Tip: Remember, if they’re the right person for you, they’ll stick around, communicate, see you and make themselves seen by you, and they’ll love you just as you are.
7. Ready to quit.
You put all that work into being good at dating, and now you feel like it’s never going to work out for you. You’re losing patience, confidence, faith, and your heart feels broken.
Common Pitfall: Believing you’ve lost your chance at love.
Hot Tip: Get loved up from a friend, or talk to a good dating coach. Someone who can listen compassionately, help mend your heartache, and show you the way to put this behind you so you can be magnetic to the right one for you.
8. Fear of hope.
At this stage, you’re afraid to get your hopes up because you’ve been disappointed and hurt. I mean, is a relationship really all that? Being single is starting to look pretty darned good at this point.
You don’t want to go through the pain of another letdown, and frankly, you’re getting a little tired of both the rejection and needing to reject the ones who aren’t for you.
This stage is full of big questions: “How can I trust that love really exists for me?” and “How do I open my heart and feel safe and secure to keep pursuing love?”
Common Pitfall: Turning off your profile, binging out on chocolate, getting another cat, and calling it a day.
(Special note: I do not think “single” is a bad choice. If you enjoy being single and you find it empowering to focus your energies outside of romantic and/or sexual partnership, then good on you! You rock your single life, my sister-friend! But for those of you who feel underutilized, unfulfilled and a deep longing for more from life when you’re not in a partnership, this is a pitfall and a mistake.)
Hot Tip: Have faith, and when you can’t, turn to people in your life who can keep the faith for you when you cannot. Get a dating buddy, a dating coach, or a family member to hold onto your vision, too, so that it’s not just you carrying that flag.
9. Confidence restored.
You muster up the courage to keep going and putting yourself out there and bam! Someone cute and promising flirts with you.
This stage is when you know the lay of the land, it’s not your first rodeo, and you know you can live through the disappointment and keep going anyway because you know to your core that you are in it to win it.
10. Your love arrives.
You didn’t know what to expect from this date, but oh yeah, it’s a pretty great one. It was easy, you felt seen, liked, and fun, and you can’t wait for more. And then more happens — again and again, and again.
Common Pitfall: You don’t believe it when it finally happens to you. Don’t let yourself sabotage a good thing just because it took a hell of a lot of work to get there.
Hot Tip: Don’t ever forget where you came from. The struggle is real, but you were strong enough for it — your success is the proof.
I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor. Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!
By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com.