Many wonder how I’ve become an expert at playing 20 questions– the answer should be obvious:  every day for the last 15 years, I’ve talked to complete strangers about their marriages and then guided them through the divorce process.  It is my job to get as much background information as possible, assess the present situation, and then help my clients develop a plan for the future they envision.  My clients come from all walks of life, divorce does not discriminate in terms of socio-economic class or ethnicity.  So, thanks to all my clients, I truly have learned to talk to just about anyone and understand people from diverse backgrounds.

After my own divorce a few years ago, it’s really no surprise that some of games we play in the dating world came quite easily to me– but I’ll admit that even after all this time, I’ve never fully embraced online dating.  However, I do recognize that 1 in 5 couples meet this way, and so for those of you brave enough to take on this endeavor, here are a few tips:

1. Pictures Matter– We are all visual creatures, although they say guys are much more so than women.  Well if that is the case, I truly don’t understand what some guys are thinking with the pictures they post.  Seriously- can’t you find someone, anyone to take a good picture with your shirt on?  No need to put on a tux or get a professional photographer, but don’t underestimate the importance of taking a nice head shot with you smiling.

2. Proof Read Your Bios–  I stop reading after 2 typos, or if it looks like you’ve written a dissertation.  Now maybe others are not so harsh, but honestly put a little effort into describing who you are and what you seek, without over-sharing.  There are some basic stats we are all screening for and you should be honest with data– especially about your relationship status, age, job, and position with respect to kids.  If you want kids, or don’t want kids, that is totally your prerogative, and if you have 3 kids full-time, or are enjoying your life as an empty nester,  just put it out there so no one wastes any time.

3. Geography is Key– While some guys seem to really be okay traveling quite the distance for a POA, most girls are not.  I am making a huge generalization here, and so of course I realize some will take issue with this statement, but the point I want to make is this: don’t take it personally if someone eliminates you from the running simply because you are geographically inconvenient.  Personally, if you are 20 miles outside my radius, you will just not be on my radar– and I know I’m not alone on this one.

4. Communication– No one who is doing online dating is looking for a new pen pal.  Don’t give away your whole life story in the first few emails or phone calls.  Seriously, you need to meet someone in person before you really disclose anything major.  The point of those initial emails or a call is simply to set up a date.  If you have managed to stay alive past the screening of your picture, bio and geographic location, then close the deal with a live meeting.  Just pick a date, time and place that works for all- end of story.  Afterwards, if all goes well, just pace yourself– you do not need to chat every day, nor should you wait a week to follow up with someone you like.

5. Chemistry– There is no way to predict whether this will exist or not until you meet, and it may take a few dates before you can see if you enjoy each other’s company and have a good banter.  If you find yourself on the fence after 3 dates, ask yourself truly whether this is about you and some issues you still need to work out, or is it about the other person and something s/he said or did that has made you unsure?  All I can say is that every time I have tried to let my brain over-ride my gut, I have regretted doing so.  You should not have to convince yourself that someone is decent enough for you.  What that really indicates is that you are perhaps tired of the games and thinking about settling.  While we may be able to settle on a lot of other things in life, love is not one of them.

Online dating is hard– it’s especially tough because everyone is not playing by the same rules.  Some people lie about their age, job, relationship status, and even feelings about family and kids.  Unlike when you meet someone through friends, in school, or as part of your natural environment, people online may have nothing in common with you.  They come from all walks of life, with all sorts of baggage, and they have zero accountability to anyone, except themselves.  This is why you have to be careful, and you need to take your time letting your guard down.

In the end, I want you to have fun, but just keep this in mind; Remember how your parents warned you as a kid never to talk to strangers???  Well, please try to take that advice to heart when you are out there on the web.  While there are plenty of fish in the sea, don’t forget that some may be piranhas.

If there is one rule you need to follow it is this: avoid those piranhas!

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.