Your Guide to Finding and Chatting with Potential Partners

The internet has given rise to an entirely new form of dating. More people are meeting online and forming relationships than ever before. However, it can be hard to navigate all the ins and outs of online dating and finding the right partner. This is your guide to everything you need to know to find your dream partner online.

Know What You Want

Before you can find what you are looking for, you have to know what it is. It doesn’t work like it does in the movies, where you stumble upon someone who is everything you aren’t looking for and fall madly in love with them and live happily ever after. At least not if you take the time to know yourself and what you really want.

The first step in this process is making a list. It may sound mundane, but it is extremely important. Making a list may not sound romantic, but it will be the first step in leading you to a fulfilling and lasting romantic relationship. Your list should have at least three columns. The first column should be your must haves. The goals, personality traits, and priorities that you will have to have in a potential partner to be content. If you want to have children someday, being good with kids may be a must have. If you enjoy leading an active or adventurous lifestyle, this may be a must have.

The second column should consist of things that you would like to have but aren’t deal breakers for a relationship. Feel free to fill in this part with anything you would like to see in your potential partner. If you were creating your dream partner, what characteristics would they have? Put these things in this category.

The third column should consist of things that are deal breakers for you. If you want children, not wanting children would probably go into this category. If you feel very strongly about getting married one way or the other, an opposing view on this would also go into this category. Think about the things that would truly make you incompatible, and include them in this category.

You may choose to include a fourth category. This category would consist of things that you don’t like or want, but that you could live with. If you are a non smoker, someone smoking may go into this category depending on how strongly you dislike it.

We will never meet anyone who checks every single box on our ideal partner list, but if you date someone who doesn’t match up with you in your must haves or deal breaker category, the relationship isn’t going to work in the long term. Take your time making this list. Let it sit for a day or two and read over it again. See if anything needs to be moved from one category to another. Think about what you will be happy with and what you can tolerate long term. Someone who drinks too much on the weekend may be cute when you first start dating, but how will you feel about it a year or two down the road? It’s important to keep a long term perspective when making your list. Once you are sure you have the list the way you want it, do not compromise on the two most important categories.

While most everything on your list will vary based on your personality, priorities, and passions, there is one thing that should always be a deal breaker, especially early in the relationship. If someone doesn’t treat you with respect, puts you down, makes you feel bad about yourself, or otherwise mistreats you, this should be a deal breaker. If you have been in a happy relationship for awhile, you may choose to say this behavior is unacceptable and if it happens again it’s over. If it is early in the relationship, cut your losses. It will only get worse. Everyone is going to have a bad day and be moody from time to time. That’s part of being human. However, when they cross the line and intentionally hurt you physically or mentally that is unacceptable.

Do not make the mistake of settling for someone who you are ultimately incompatible with because you like certain things about them or think you can change the things that are deal breakers for you. It’s natural and healthy to want those we care for to continue to improve themselves, but if you can’t love them just the way they are, the relationship isn’t going to work.

Making this type of list will save you lots of time and possible heartache because it keeps you from getting caught up in someone’s good traits and ignoring the bad. It also helps you focus on what you are truly looking for instead of getting caught up in things that don’t matter that much to you in the long run.

Questions to Ask

Of course you don’t want your first date to sound like a job interview, but as you are getting to know each other there are questions you should ask before you become too emotionally invested in the relationship. Of course, you should find out where they stand on the things that really matter to you. You should also find out what their must haves and deal breakers are so you know if you can meet their needs. In addition to these, here are some questions that will tell you volumes about how they will behave as a partner.

  • How do you act when you don’t get what you want
  • When you disagree with your partner, how do you get them to agree with you
  • Are you open to new ways of looking at things
  • When something is important to you, what are you willing to do to get what you want from your partner
  • What do you do when you don’t feel connected to your partner
  • Are you honest about your relationship needs
  • Are you trustworthy
  • How do you express your love for your partner
  • Do you have a hard time letting go of hurt and resentment towards your partner

Being Dateable

Now that you have an idea of what you are looking for in a partner, it’s time to make sure you are dateable. Everyone has room for improvement, and now is the perfect time. Even if you have an issue like being overweight or you aren’t financially stable, you will have a much easier time attracting a good partner if you are working on improving the aspects of yourself or your situation you don’t like. Being able to tell a potential partner your plans for improvement and following through with them is a sign that you take yourself and your life seriously.

You should also work on things to make yourself more interesting. Find a new hobby, read books that interest you, or watch documentaries. Constantly expanding your horizons will make it much easier to connect with someone new and be able to have an interesting conversation.

Where to Look

Where to look will partially depend on what’s really important to you. If you really want someone who has the same religious beliefs as you, you can check out Christian Mingle or J-Date. If you are over 50, OurTime is a great place to start. If you have specific fetishes you would like to share with your new partner, you can check out sites like Fetlife. Here are some more sites that cater to a specific target audience.

  • agesingle.com is devoted to those looking for a younger/older partner
  • Sites like Blackpeoplemeet.com and Asiandate.com are geared towards a specifc ethnicicity
  • millionairematch.com and Sugardaddy.com are devoted to finding a rich partner

These are just a few of the niche dating sites you can find online. There seem to be niche dating sites for every preference available. You can find an extensive list of niche sites here.

Of course, these aren’t the only places to look for potential matches. PlentyofFish and OkCupid are free sites with lots of members. The profiles are fairly extensive and you can filter your search results based on specific things you are looking for.

If you are willing to pay for an online dating service, Match seems to be at the top of the list followed by Zoosk and Eharmony. Regular dating sites have many more members than niche sites, so you have more options available. However, you may have to sort through lots of profiles to find someone that catches your interest. It really depends on how common your niche interest is and how important it is to you. You shouldn’t have a problem finding someone who meets your religious or ethnic preference on a basic dating site. However, if you are looking for a sugar daddy or someone interested in a polyamorous relationship, you will have a hard time finding it on a traditional site.

Don’t underestimate the possibility of finding a partner on your favorite social media site either. Facebook is a good place to start, because you likely know your Facebook friends, have a mutual friend, or something in common like attending the same school. We don’t tend to view our Facebook friends as strangers the same way we do other people we meet online, even if we’ve never met in real life. This can make it easier to start a conversation and get to know someone better. The biggest problem with Facebook is it’s hard to know if that hottie on your friends list is single or looking for a relationship. First you will want to check out their profile. Lots of people don’t update their relationship status, so their posts and pictures may be a better indication of whether or not they are seeing anyone. If they appear available, you will still have to spend some time talking with them before you ask if they are interested in dating anyone.

Creating Your Profile

You’ve followed all of the steps above and found a site or two that you would like to try. Now it’s time to create your profile. Many times this will be someone’s first impression of you, so you need to put some thought and effort into it. You also want to stand out from the crowd. Let’s face it, there’s lots of options when it comes to online dating, so you want to give someone a reason to choose you. Here are some tips to help you with your profile.

Find a recent picture of you that you feel is the best. If you can, you may even want to have a professional headshot. You should also post a few pictures including a headshot, a full body shot, and maybe one more of you doing something you enjoy. Keep it simple and don’t post a photo album, but don’t leave potential partners wondering what you look like either. Beware of any pictures with unflattering backgrounds like a bathroom toilet or a messy house. Don’t post pictures of anyone who may be your sister/brother/cousin but could be mistaken for your ex either. You should also make sure you are wearing something presentable. Guys save the shirtless pics for the getting to know you stage. Girls do your hair and put on something nice. You shouldn’t overdress, but you shouldn’t look like you do on Saturday mornings either. The exception here is if you post a picture of yourself doing something active. If you are rock climbing in heels or a suit and tie, that screams trying too hard.

Throw out generic phrases. How many profiles have you read that say I’m easy going, funny, outgoing, or romantic? Probably 95% of them. If you want to get someone’s attention, you need to be more specific. Instead of “I’m easy going”, say “I enjoy life and don’t sweat the small stuff.” Instead of saying “I’m outgoing” say “I have lots of friends” or “I enjoy meeting new people”. Instead of saying “I’m romantic” describe your dream date or something romantic you would enjoy doing for your partner.

Balance talking about who you are and what you are looking for in your profile. You don’t want it to be all about you or all about what you are looking for. You need to be balanced in the information that you give.

Don’t write a book. If someone sees your profile is very long, they will most likely lose interest long before they finish reading it, no matter how great you are. Don’t give too little information about yourself either. The best approach is to include your best or most defining qualities and the things most important to you in a potential partner. Give them an idea of who you are, but be sure to leave some mystery as well. People will be much more interested if they don’t feel like they know everything about you before you even have a conversation.

Catfished

Before you go any farther into the world of online dating, it is time to talk about being catfished. The term catfished refers to talking to someone online who isn’t who they say they are. They may look completely different than that picture that they sent you, or they may not even be the gender they claim to be. Here are some red flags that you may be getting catfished.

The first thing that you should do is a reverse image search on Google. This will show you all of the images that match the one you have. On some sites you can do this with their profile picture. If it won’t allow you to download their profile picture, then ask them to send you a picture. If someone is catfishing you chances are they are getting pictures from somewhere on the internet. If your search pops up with pictures of the person you are talking to with a different name, you have just been catfished. You can find a step by step guide to doing a reverse image search on Google here. You can also use this feature to make sure no one has stolen your photos to create a fake identity.

The next sign is that they seem like your dream partner. Someone you thought was way beyond your reach. The old saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” holds true here as well. If you love every aspect of them and their lifestyle, most likely they either aren’t being completely honest or they are catfishing you. They may also fall head over heels for you very quickly. They can’t stop thinking about you. They think they are in love. And all you’ve done is exchanged a few emails. You may just be that wonderful and charming, but it’s more likely that they are catfishing you or just desperate for someone to care about them.

If they ask you for money, this is a huge red flag. If they are trying to catfish you, they will have a reason for asking that really pulls at your heartstrings. Maybe their car broke down and they have no way to get to work and need money to get it repaired. Maybe a family member who lives far away died and they don’t have money for a plane ticket. They may even offer to cover your expenses to come meet them, all you have to do is give them your bank account information.

Perhaps the biggest red flag of all is they don’t have the ability to video chat with you. If they have the technology to chat with you online, then they have the ability to video chat. If they refuse to video chat with you, ask them to send you a picture doing something specific like holding up a peace sign or their favorite shirt. As long as it is something random that would be hard to find a picture of online, it will suffice. If they can’t send you one, just assume that you are being catfished.

Things like them being really into you or sounding too good to be true are red flags, but they don’t necessarily mean you’ve been catfished. However, if you find any of the other signs, you can certainly assume something is going on.

Sending or Responding to That First Message

If you are sending the first message, keep it to a few well thought out sentences. You want to mention something they have in their profile. Say “I saw in your profile that you enjoy cooking, being outdoors, sports, etc. I also enjoy this.” You should also ask a question in your first message. It can be a question about a particular interest they mentioned, or even how are you doing today. Asking a question makes them more likely to respond than simply making statements.

If the message has a subject line, do not put Hi or Hello as your subject. This is what most people do, so you are likely to get lost in the shuffle. Your subject line should be the hook. Anything is better than a generic Hi. If you are a funny person, you may choose a funny or tongue in cheek subject line. You can also choose something completely out of context, like “How bout them Braves?” when it’s clearly not baseball season. You can also mention a shared interest here. You want your subject line to stand out so they want to read your message. Women especially receive so many messages many times they only read the ones that catch their eye immediately. Aim to stand out but not to come off weird or perverted.

What do you do if someone messages you first? Before you respond, take the time to check out their profile and see if they are someone you are interested in. Mention something they said in their message to you. If they asked you a question answer it, and be sure to ask them one in return.

Regardless of whether you are sending the first message or responding to one, be careful not to write too much. You want to keep their interest piqued. This means don’t tell them your entire life story in your profile or your first few messages. You wouldn’t meet someone attractive at the grocery store and launch into a story about your dog dying when you were ten or your painful divorce, but for some reason it is much easier to overshare online.

So What Do You Say?

Part of this will depend on your personality. It is important to be yourself when you are dating online. Don’t water yourself down to be what you think someone else wants. If you are adventurous, it should show in the messages you send them. Perhaps you will move quickly to asking for a phone call or an actual date. If you are funny, don’t pretend to be serious all the time in your online communications. Just remember things are easier to be misinterpreted online, so if you are joking about something make sure it comes across that way.

You should strike a balance between letting them get to know you and finding out more about them just like in your profile. Don’t talk about yourself constantly, but don’t spend all of your time talking about what they are like either. Too much talking about yourself makes you seem egotistical or narcissistic. Not talking about yourself enough will seem like you have something to hide, low self esteem, or you are desperate.

You should also give feedback, especially in the first few messages. “I’ find you interesting”, “I feel like we are really hitting it off” “We seem to have a lot in common” are all phrases you can use to show your interest without seeming pushy or clingy. Women are perceived as being extremely romantic, but they are also practical. If they aren’t sure if you are interested or not, they may decide to move on to someone with clearer intentions.

Exclusivity

There is no reason to become exclusive with someone you’ve met online until you have had at least one actual date. Do not brush everyone else off because you’ve received a few nice emails from someone. Wait and see if the chemistry is really there. Exchange some messages, and then move on to phone calls. Your first phone chat is a good time to make plans to meet in person. If you don’t have any chemistry on the phone, chances are you won’t have it in real life either. It’s good to have a few phone conversations before you meet in person, but you should always aim to come to an agreement on at least when to meet in person before the end of your first phone call. Online dating moves fast, and someone else may beat you to the punch.

If you are looking for something serious, bring up exclusivity when you feel comfortable doing so after you have met in person. Be sure this is someone you like enough to be exclusive with, and don’t do it just because you feel it is expected. Bringing up exclusivity before you have actually met in person can feel a little desperate, so it’s best to wait until you meet in person. If they bring it up before then, go with your gut feeling.