Online dating is hard.  I’ve been there.  It feels like navigating through the fog.  You can’t see things clearly and you don’t know where the danger is.  I learned a few things and worked out a way to navigate better.  Here are my tips.

          1.  Know yourself and what type of person you need in your life. Soul searching and evaluating is crucial.
          2.  Take your time and write down exactly what is important for you and what characteristics in a mate you value, need and want. A list of what is important and what you can compromise can be a good reminder of why you are doing this, or convince you to try something else.
          3.  Always, be careful.  Do not risk your safety with the type of information you put in your profile.
          4.  Be honest, specific and detailed in describing yourself in your profile description.  Make it clear who you are and what you are looking for. I spent almost three hours writing and editing mine. 
          5.  When reviewing the profiles of men who respond and reach out to contact you, immediately delete anyone who:

               A.  Has obviously not read your profile or admits they have not read your profile.
               B.  Has not taken the time to fill out a detailed profile description.
               C.  Does not match what you are looking for.
               D.  Seems fishy in any respect to you.   
 I could write for days about the number of men, who looked at my photo, and ignored all or most of what I had written and still contacted me—they wanted a one night stand, someone to cheat on their wife with, borrow money from, or Heaven only knows what else…I never gave them the time of day—their profile or lack thereof said all I needed to know. 


          6.   After steps 1-5, and you’re ready to take the first step, exchange a few brief emails and a phone call and if you’re feeling good about meeting him, then waste no time in a meeting.  Do not drag on with emailing.  I made that mistake. Once.  It’s best to find out as soon as possible whether there is promise in a relationship or not.
          7.  Once you decide to meet, arrange to meet somewhere for coffee.  Yes.  Coffee.  Do not meet for drinks, or lunch or dinner.  Save that for your second date.  Coffee dates are not costly, allow for casual conversation, and can be planned at all times of day or evening.   Meet for coffee in a public place that you are familiar with.  YOU choose the place. Period.
I chose a place close to my home in my comfort zone.  I knew the area and people were familiar.  It felt safe to me.
          8.  Always have an ‘escape plan’ in place.  What does that mean?  If within the first 15 minutes (or sooner) you realize there is no chemistry, but you can tell he’s already decided you are the ONE and never wants the date to end, be polite and finish your cup of coffee, but at the same time, casually work into the conversation an OUT.  For example, mention you have a work deadline to finish or your sister asked you to help her; have something to do or somewhere to be later.
           9.  When you get home, you can write an email saying it was nice to meet and then say that there was no chemistry and good luck.  Do not get emotionally invested at this point. Manipulative personalities can suck you in and waste a lot of your time. I know it may sound cold, but I made these mistakes in the beginning, until I approached this process more as a business transaction.  Then it got easier.

      10.     When you are in your car and ready to leave to go home, if you have ANY concerns, leave AFTER he does and don’t go straight home.  Stay in public view.   I cannot stress personal safety enough.  I had several safeguards in place when I began online dating.  Make sure you have them, too.

This is your search and your life.  Do not be bullied or persuaded by guilt to continue beyond your first date with anyone you do not feel in your gut is right for you.  Remember, you do not owe anyone your time, if you are not interested in pursuing a relationship with them.  You should be kind, but foremost, be true to yourself.
 I did go out on one second date in order to avoid telling the truth, but learned quickly that was not fair; to either one of us.  I learned to speak honestly and move on without agonizing.  I appreciated similar mutual honesty from two men I dated, who on the same search as me, but for them, I was not the right one either.  We decided on friendship and were supportive of each other’s search for our mates.
I was on the same online dating site for two years and during the time, I went on a lot of coffee dates, and took two breaks of a month or two, where I didn’t date at all and invested in two separate relationships that didn’t work out.  I was about to take another break and even considered terminating my subscription to the site when a profile caught my attention.
A first date evolved into saying yes to spending the rest of my life with Mr-Right-for-Me—this summer we celebrate 15 years together.  

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