How To Win at The Internet Dating Game

I just got off the phone with a friend who wants me to take a headshot of him for an internet dating profile. After a recent breakup with a girl he had been dating for eight months, Jason (not his real name), an almost thirty foreman by day and musician by night, thought he would try his hand at internet dating.

But he is understandably ambivalent, as are many who take this path.

Being an internet success story (I met my current partner 6 years ago on Lavalife and we’ve been living together happily for over three years now!), as well as having worked with many couples in therapy over the years, I thought that perhaps I would delve into this realm of the human pursuit for love, and offer you, the reader my collected wisdom and opinions on this very intriguing subject. There will be a series of ten online seminars examining different aspects of online dating, love and relationships (what makes it work, what are the pitfalls, how to improve your relationship skills, etc.) and I invite readers to submit their questions, comments and stories throughout the entire process.

Let’s first take a look at how internet dating works as a path to love and romance.

Ah, love. It’s warm, delicious, inspiring, activating, but also frustrating, heart-breaking, and oh so puzzling! Young or old, abled or disabled, free or incarcerated people – we all want it. Most fail at it at least once or twice in their life, but still want it and try over and over again to find and keep it.

John Lennon was right – all we need is Love! People are looking for someone to be with, to connect to, to love. With the world population at over 6.7 billion, you’d think that finding a mate wouldn’t be so difficult. And you’d think that with all the resources available these days – online dating, professional matchmaking, singles events – that it’d be a cinch finding potential mates. Not so.

People have been looking for mates since cavemen days. It was probably simpler then, for the criteria were based on Darwin’s natural selective process – characteristics that ensured survival and propagation of the species became important for mate selection. Quite likely, some form of connection occurred, or at least emerged, between men and women over the ages, and we may call it an association that is probably underscored by favorable feelings. But the construct of romantic love is something that emerged much later, and it is that which has complicated things. Listen to what some people have to say about it:

“I am a successful, independent woman in my thirties. I can’t seem to meet successful, independent men. Why can’t I find someone to be with? said Anna.

“I think that online dating is for losers, people who can’t find a date...I’m reluctant to try it, even though I don’t seem to be meeting the kind of men I’d like to date,” reflected Molly, a beautiful, forty-something divorcee.

“Yeah, I do meet women online, but they are such fabricators,” said Jeff, a twenty-something graduate student. “They don’t tell you the truth about who they are...they post old or Photoshopped pictures, or angled shots...and then they have these “rules”...like one girl I dated once told me, much later, that she didn’t go out with me again because after our first date I didn’t drive her home. I was already late for work that afternoon!”

Jo, a woman in her early fifties, summed up the dilemmas of older women who try their hand at the dating game: “I lie about my age because I believe that men my age want to date younger women. That’s why some women post younger pictures of themselves! You think you need to misrepresent yourself in order to give yourself a fair chance at being considered. And then, hopefully, you can be who you really are.”

The reality is that both men and women misrepresent themselves to a greater or lesser extent, in order to be ahead of the game as they say. The perception that whoever they are isn’t enough to attract potential dates leads to many to lie about who they are. For example, a friend of mine went out on a date with a guy who described himself as “athletic” who in fact was a guy with a healthy beer belly! This friend wisely said that it would be better to “undersell and then overdeliver” rather than the other way around, as her “athletic” date chose to do.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, if you post a 10-year old photo of yourself on a web profile, how will you explain that when your date sees you in person and you look nothing like the person in the photo? “Err...I thought that old photo really represents who I am inside?”

“I think that people are doing this fast dating thing. They don’t get to know each other first, jumping into relationship or sex quickly after they meet,” offered my 26-year old daughter. “That leads to lots of problems down the road. And even though women have a lot more freedom now, they may not always make the best decisions as far as being truthful goes. Some think they have to play a game in order to get the guy.”

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