Tinder. eHarmony. Match.com. Plenty of Fish. These are just some of the online dating sites and apps available to find a romantic partner. There are so many options to try that it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been in the dating game for a while. Trying out this increasingly popular method for meeting people for the first time can be daunting so we asked local, licensed professional clinical counselor Linda Waters to talk about what to expect when dipping your toes into the waters of online love.
Waters has been married for 25 years to her husband Patrick, and together they have two sons. Their relationship began rather traditionally—they were introduced by a mutual friend. Waters says it is common for her clients to struggle with meeting someone, especially later in life, especially given the way dating has evolved.
“One of the groups I work with includes people transitioning from being married to being single, whether from divorce or death of their spouse,” she explains. “Almost all of these people are unfamiliar with apps and online dating, so that’s a bit scary for them.”
Learning the Lingo
People entering the world of dating for the first time in years will probably encounter lots of terms they’ve never heard—ghosting and catfishing for instance.
“Catfishing” means the act of pretending you’re someone else in a dating scenario, either as a prank or for some other ill-intentioned reason. “That’s always a concern, especially if you are recently widowed,” says Waters. “That can be a problem because there could be the presumption that you might have a settlement from life insurance, and you might be vulnerable (to those seeking to take advantage).”
If your last dating experiences involved hanging out with people in your inner circle, like at church or people you met through friends, “ghosting” might be a new concept. “Ghosting” means that a person you’ve been chatting with online, or maybe even with whom you went out on a date, stops returning your texts or calls.
Don’t rush it
Waters cautions that it is important to take things slow and not take setbacks personally. Though she also acknowledges that it’s easier said than done. She advises that online daters have “appropriate expectations. Don’t internalize these things, which can be hard if you’ve experienced rejection from a divorce or deep loss with death of a partner.” For these reasons, Waters recommends to her clients that they wait for at least a year after a marriage ends before dating again.
“It can be a really exciting time for somebody, but also anxiety-provoking,” she says, adding that she might sound like a real downer on this subject; on the contrary, she thinks expanding the dating pool through online dating and apps is a good thing.
Waters does point out that along with emotional caution should always come attention to maintaining your personal safety. This includes alcohol use in moderation, meeting in public places, and always practicing safe sex when things get to that level. Waters explains that it is far too common for people over 50 to be less cautious about STD prevention because there is no risk of pregnancy. After being married for years, some people might have a difficult time being cautious with intimacy, but that is vital in order to maintain sexual health.
The best thing about online dating? For Waters, she finds that it is easier for people to find common interests. “That’s certainly a benefit of these sites and apps,” she says. “You can really narrow down your criteria.”
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
One of the most popular (and free) dating sites is Plenty of Fish, where two local couples found love. For Jon and Barbara Hutson of Whitehouse, the match felt right from the moment they met. A friend of Jon’s, who had herself experienced success with the site, assisted him in setting up a profile.
“I saw Barb’s profile and it took me three days to email her,” Jon said. “I emailed her and we started talking.” As it turns out, he needn’t have been worried. From their very first date at the Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas, they clicked. Two years later, they got engaged.
“I woke up next to her one morning and said, ‘Honey, I reckon we ought to get hitched.’” He proposed soon after that at a cookout where they were surrounded by family and friends. Jon’s advice is to simply put yourself out there. “You never know,” he said. “You could find the perfect match.”
Chad Grycza of Toledo wasn’t nervous about trying online dating. Along with Plenty of Fish, he tried eHarmony and Christian Mingle. Grycza found all three of the sites to be more or less the same, though eHarmony was the best at narrowing down specific traits in a potential partner. It was with Plenty of Fish, though, that he met his now fiancé Amanda Sheldon.
Their mutual love of Michigan football is what led him to propose. “I rented out the entire stadium at the University of Michigan for a couple of hours,” Grycza said. That’s where he got down on one knee and asked her the big question.
Sheldon said Grycza was the first date she met online, though she did have conversations with others through Plenty of Fish before that. She warns that sometimes you might get some rather bold requests. “If they ask you for nude pictures right way, they probably aren’t looking for a relationship,” she points out. She said it is just as important for online daters to be safe with judging a person’s intentions and meeting in a public place as it is with any other kind of dating. She seconds Waters’ advice, that it is important to communicate for a while online before meeting in person.
Modern dating can certainly feel like the Wild West, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it. As long as you manage your expectations and, most importantly, prioritize your safety, it can be very fulfilling. “I think it’s a good thing,” says Waters. “The cautions we have for younger people about safety are the same cautions I would have for people in their 50s (and older) who are using apps for dating.”
Tips For Finding Romance Offline
While it’s true that more and more people are finding love through online dating sites and apps, there are plenty of other options that might suit you better. Try these tips for making a romantic connection.
♥ Join a club to meet someone with like interests
♥ Get more involved in your place of worship
♥ Say “Yes!” to more invites to parties and get-togethers. You might meet someone through a mutual friend.
♥ Volunteer for a cause you care about where people work together in groups. This is a great way to bond over a shared passion.
♥ Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation while running errands. You never know who you’ll meet and make a connection with. It could be at the grocery store, at the pharmacy, or while you are out for a walk in the park.
♥ Be confident. Take time to look your best. This could be the day you meet your partner! This isn’t as superficial as it may sound – when we look put together, we feel a self-esteem boost.
♥ Above all, make sure that you are open to sharing what you have to offer, while still being safe about getting to know new people in public places.