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How to Date Online Safely and Successfully

Kate Swanson writes about mental and physical well-being based on her personal experiences, as well as those of her family.

I strongly believe that on-line dating is the best option for older singletons - because our modern society makes it hard to meet a wide enough range of potential partners anywhere else.

Having said that, on-line dating can be a discouraging business, especially if you approach it the wrong way. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the experience. Who knows, if you follow my suggestions, you may also be like me and find your Mr Right (and marry him) at 50!


If you were house-hunting, would you expect to find the perfect home on the first inspection? How many houses might you inspect before you buy? If the first half a dozen were useless, would you give up? Or would you keep on looking until you found the right one?

Now consider, a husband is a far more important investment than a house. So tell me, why do so many women give up after "inspecting" only half a dozen men? Make up your mind, before you start, that you're going to be persistent - even if the first few guys are utter losers.

DON'T confuse chatrooms with dating sites. Chatrooms have their place, as a forum for sharing discussion of common interests with other people. But there are lots of pitfalls if you try using them for romance. More on that later.

Also avoid free sites. There are plenty of genuine people on free sites, but they are also more attractive to predators. On a free site, it's easy to use a fake name and address and no one is any the wiser. On a paid site they will need to use a credit card, and that credit card will require a real name and address. Even if the card has been obtained fraudulently, the transaction gives the police a place to start investigating - so predators are more likely to go for the free sites where they don't run any risk of being tracked down.

Browse through a few dating sites before choosing which one you want to list on. Check out some of the profiles and make sure that most people are looking for life partners.

Some sites specialise in casual relationships (it will be obvious from the profiles). No matter how lonely you feel, there's no point wasting your time on them! I also don't recommend sites that focus on specific sexual preferences, because they can also attract people who want casual sex rather than a long-term relationship.

Take your time. Most sites will allow you to register but keep your details private. That's not going to get you anywhere long-term, but it will let you write your profile and get to know the site well, before you put yourself "out there". Same goes for your photo - add it when you're ready, not before.

Tell the truth in your profile. Personally, I think it's fine to lie about your age IF you look younger than you really are - but not otherwise! Men seem to think all women over about 40 will be wrinkled old bags (even if they are 50+ themselves!). If taking a couple of years off your age gets you as far as meeting for coffee so he can see you still have a great figure and a good complexion, do it!

Once you start to feel confident, don't be passive. You are not a winsome young lady in some Jane Austen novel where you have to wait for the gentleman to acknowledge you!

On most dating sites, you can contact people in a couple of ways. One is free (sometimes called a "kiss"). All it says is, "I'm interested, here's my profile". Alternatively, you can buy coupons or stamps, which you can use to send emails (in which case you can say as much as you like).

If you send a kiss, the recipient has to use one of his coupons to reply to you (although he can say "no thanks" for free). Naturally, this means the guys are going to be choosy in who they reply to, because it's costing them money!

If you send an email, on the other hand, the recipient can reply for free. So you are much more likely to get a response if you take the initiative and send an email.

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Yes, yes, I know that goes against advice you've heard, that you should be cautious about meeting men from dating sites - but that advice is balderdash.

I'll tell you why. Men with bad intentions are actually more likely to delay meeting, because a long email, phone or even Skype correspondence gives them time to "groom" you. It's very easy for a predator to hide his true nature from you, while sounding completely warm and sincere. By the time you've been chatting for a few weeks, you'll feel you know him well even though you may actually know very little about him. When he finally proposes a get-together, it will be at his home or your home, or he may offer to pick you up in his car - all places where you'd be easy prey. So don't risk it - if he sounds like your kind of guy, insist on meeting him at once, in a safe neutral place.

Besides, at our age we can't afford to waste time with someone who isn't telling the whole truth (maybe he's married; maybe his photo is twenty years old - or not even him!; maybe he's five feet nothing or seven foot tall; or two hundred pounds). It is easy to tell half-truths in writing but much harder face to face. I've known plenty people who've had long email correspondences before finally meeting someone, and then found out they're nothing like what they imagined. You haven't got time for that!

If the person is cautious about meeting in person, be suspicious: why wouldn't they want to meet you, unless they've got something to hide? Challenge them with that - if they don't agree, cross them off your list and move on.

If you're thinking, "but meeting is dangerous", get that silly idea out of your head. Once you're sitting in the coffee shop or bar, you're in exactly the same position as if you'd met this person on a date. The difference is that you know a lot about their likes and dislikes, hopes and aspirations, their age, their marital status etc. already.

  • Use a dating site that requires a paid membership, not a free one. A site that requires payment means that members can be tracked via their credit card payments, so they are less attractive to predators.
  • Set up an email account (e.g. on Yahoo or Google) that you use just for dating. That way, if you do come across a jerk, you can dump that email address and he will have no way of finding you.
  • Never give your address, or even your phone number, until you've met the person face to face, and feel confident that you want to take the relationship further.
  • For your first date, always arrange a meeting in a safe neutral place such as a coffee shop during daylight hours.

Follow these simple safety rules and online dating is actually less dangerous than meeting someone by chance in a bar. Don't be shy, go for it!

New love is possible at any age - be brave!

New love is possible at any age - be brave!

© 2016 Kate Swanson


dashingscorpio from Chicago on August 10, 2016:

The only way we have of knowing someone is "genuine" is over time.

It will take more than one date to determine that.

If one is truly worried that someone isn't who they say they are you have the option of conducting a SKYPE video call prior to meeting them.

However why bother meeting someone (in person) if you've haven't established a comfort level with each other on the phone?

A first date doesn't need to be an awkward date.

When people relax they let their guard down and are more likely to reveal their authentic selves rather than try to find a way to "impress" us. This by no means that (you) have to let (your guard) down!

The faster he/she becomes relaxed the sooner you know if they're right for you. In many ways you're speeding up the process by slowing down.

Those people who fear establishing rapport and getting to know someone {prior to meeting them} are usually the ones who are only (focusing on one person) at a time! This is what causes them to become more "emotionally invested" in him or her then they should be.

I instruct people to create folders on their laptops with notes about all the conversations and information they have gathered on their perspective future mates. After every call, email, or date evaluate if the person has the traits you are looking for in a potential mate.

This allows you to cross check statements he or she makes each time. People have a difficult time lying or misleading over a period of time. More often than not you'll be glad you didn't rush into anything.

Eventually one narrows it down to a single person and they enter into an "exclusive relationship".

Evaluating multiple candidates is the key to remaining objective.

Never separate your mind from your heart when making relationship decisions. The purpose of the mind is to protect the heart.

One man's opinion! :)

Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on August 09, 2016:

That "rapport" is exactly the reason I tell women not to delay meeting! If the woman feels like she already knows the man, then she's going to be more relaxed and less on the alert for signs the guy may not be genuine.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on August 09, 2016:

You're probably right about it being a cultural difference.

Most women in America do expect the man to pay for the date even if the woman "offers to pay half".

Generally speaking a first date is not dinner but something casual like a lunch. As I stated if the date happens after having several phone call conversations and email exchanges you've pretty much established a casual friendship at the very least and most likely have shared some laughs. Therefore odds are it won't be the "typical first date" where it feels like (two complete strangers) trying to come up with something to talk about because you've already established a rapport.

Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on August 09, 2016:

Why on earth would you go for a meal on a first date with an internet prospect? Meeting for a coffee or a drink doesn't involve much cost for either party, and it doesn't require a lot of time commitment either so you're not going to reach "burn out" that quickly.

Then again, this may be the difference between an English/Australian and an American. I would not dream of letting a man pick up the tab on a first date, we'd each pay our own. In fact I probably wouldn't see him again if he insisted on it, because I'd be worried he was too old fashioned for me.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on August 09, 2016:

I hear what you're saying but I also stated one should be communicating with (multiple prospects) who are gradually moving from one milestone to the next one as you decide who is worth meeting in person based upon email exchanges and conversations you have had on the phone.

(That's if you feel he/she is worthy of exchanging phone numbers with.)

In most instances after a couple of weeks you can make that decision.

It's the focusing on (one person) that causes people to emotionally invest with someone prior to meeting them. As I stated a company usually has (several candidates) they are evaluating in their selection process.

Having an effective "screening process" is a very important key.

Then again maybe it's one of those differences between being a man and a woman. Since men generally pick up the tab on most first dates they probably aren't in a rush to (take out every woman) they make contact with. If a first date goes bad for most women at least they got a free meal out of it. The guy not only had a bad time but (he paid for it) too! LOL!

Now that can really lead to having "dating burn out" if he's not careful.

One man's opinion!:)

Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on August 08, 2016:

I hear what you're saying about not rushing things, but I still disagree about having a long email or phone exchange before dating.

You can avoid "date burnout" by being selective about whom you agree to interact with in the first place. Having a long email exchange just gives you a chance to build up your hopes and probably start investing the guy with qualities he may not have in real life, IMO

dashingscorpio from Chicago on August 07, 2016:

Some very good advice!

The one point I do disagree with is rushing to meet someone after one or two emails. When I teach my class I tell people to act like an employer.

Rushing out to meet people after one or two email exchanges can easily lead one to experience dating "burn out" with having too many "first dates". I encourage people to have a "screening process".

Not everyone who emails a company their resume gets called by the HR rep, not everyone who gets a call from a HR rep gets a phone interview with the hiring manager, not everyone who gets a phone interview with the hiring manager gets a face to face interview, and not everyone who gets a face to face interview gets offered the job!

In my opinion there should be multiple email exchanges and phone calls before deciding if someone is worth meeting with in person.

Women should be hesitant of any many who "rushes them". Oftentimes people with something to hide don't want you have the time to analyze them in detail over time.

Another thing to beware of is becoming emotionally invested in anyone too quickly. You should be considering "multiple candidates" for the job. Until there has been a discussion about becoming "exclusive" you should assume the other person is still keeping their options open as well.

Just because you've had two or three dates doesn't make it a relationship!

I agree you should never give out your address, place of employment, or social media links until after you've met them assuming that isn't right away. When you do go out on a date make sure you meet for lunch at a neutral place you are familiar with. Don't have him pick you up.

Generally speaking I have found that people who (rush) or are looking to "fast forward" to exclusive relationship status HATE dating!

It's nearly impossible to succeed at anything you despise.

Great tip regarding researching sites before choosing one.

And always use good commonsense when dealing with strangers whether you meet them online or offline. Allow them to earn your trust!

Lastly it's important to understand online dating sites are nothing more than a "tool" for meeting new people. Just as a fork is a tool for eating.

Ultimately you are responsible for the choices you make when it comes to people you decide to engage with. No obese person ever blames their (fork) for their weight gain! And yet people blame the online dating industry for the people (they chose) to meet with!

If you're having one bad dating experience after another it's probably time you reexamined your "mate selection process". The only thing all of your bad relationships and dating experiences have in common is (you).

When we change our circumstances change.

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