Trying to find that special someone can be a frustrating and soul destroying experience. From the arranged dinner party with your ‘best friend’ who just happens to have invited a single male friend from her husband’s office who looks like a toad in a blender with a personality to match – to the excruciating agony of meeting a guy in a bar who’s coherent enough to string two sentences together but falls asleep after vomiting on your shoes in the club. It’s no wonder people are turning to their computers to help them in their search for love.
Online dating is no longer a taboo subject. Gone are the days when meeting someone online conjures up images of seedy old men in darkened rooms preying on desperate divorcees fighting to give love one last chance before succumbing to the allure of becoming the crazy cat lady.
In years to come meeting your partner online will probably become the norm… ‘What? You met face to face while walking your dog in a park? How very quaint!’
In the past ten years online dating and dating websites have sprung out of the ether and are all competing for our affections (and sometimes our wallets) by promising you that your soul mate is on their books and just waiting for you to email them so you can get started on your happy ending straight away. But do you need these websites or is it just like real life where you get lucky and meet someone who has the same interests as you by joining chat rooms and forums instead of photography and cookery classes?
Sarah from Bishopstoke is definitely on the side of the dating websites. She met her husband Andrew three years ago when a friend of hers posted a profile on mysinglefriend.com and they were married 15 months later.
‘It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done’ Sarah tells me as we sit down with tea and biscuits. ‘If I hadn’t gone on the website, I would never have met Andrew. We worked in different counties, socialised with different people and I don’t think our paths would have crossed if we hadn’t started messaging each other on the website’
Sarah’s friend created her profile for her after seeing her get hurt by scummy boyfriend after scummy boyfriend and decided that it was high time her friend met her prince charming. Andrew sent her a message via the website and they began chatting on MSN. After a month they decided to meet to see if they were compatible and their whirlwind romance flourished. Sarah attributes this to the fact that they already knew a lot about each other before they actually met. They had discussed core values such as children, marriage and fidelity (yes kissing someone else IS cheating and I will remove your crown jewels) before meeting so were much further down the relationship path than they would have been if they’d met in Tescos. Their relationship has been met with scepticism by some who felt that they were moving too quickly but three years on with a beautiful baby boy the couple have surely proved their cynics wrong.
On the other side of the fence on the subject of dating websites is Fiona from Southampton. Fiona met her husband Zach, who’s from the US, on a wrestling forum where they chatted for several years before the subject of meeting was even bought up. Two and a half years of chatting online later, Fiona took the step of flying out to the US to meet him.
‘Sure I was nervous she tells me, It was a pretty big gamble yet at the same time I knew it would go ok. It’s hard to explain’
As they were both still at university, the online communication continued until Fiona graduated and decided she wanted to be with Zach in the US. Now happily married for seven years, she’s been there ever since.
‘Online dating is just like real life dating. If you go out looking for it, you’re bound to stumble across jerks and losers. My relationship is different because it didn’t start with the goal of love and happiness. You don’t fall in love just by putting your name up on one of those dating websites. Take the time to be friends and see where things go from there.’
Fiona’s take it slow and build a friendship first outlook differs dramatically from Sarah’s heady whirlwind romance but ultimately they both found lasting love online and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Internet dating tips
Be honest. If they like your profile, great! If they don’t, you’ve just saved yourself the hassle of getting all dressed up to meet someone you have nothing in common with.
Keep it real. Just because the only decent picture is of you ten years ago on holiday in Marbella doesn’t mean you should use it. If you put a picture up that doesn’t represent you truthfully, you’re only wasting your own time. Again.
If you’re going to go for the dating website option, you get what you pay for. Shop around and do your homework before you sign up.
Do not, under any circumstances, give any money to anyone you have met online. Especially if they tell you they are being held by customs/being deported/going to have their finger chopped off….
Keep yourself safe. The emergency phone call works quite well in this situation. Get a friend to call you half an hour after the date has started and if you get even a hint of loser or a whiff of axe murderer reply with a solemn ‘Oh no, you’re in the hospital? Of course I’ll come and get you!’ Throw your date a ‘sorry got to go, emergency’ and get yourself out of there pronto. Similarly if you’re flying to another country to meet someone make sure you handle all the bookings yourself and don’t tell them where you’re staying until you’ve had your first meeting. This is to avoid the whole ‘I thought you’d be ok with staying with me and my seven kids in a trailer in the back of beyond’ situation.
Above all, trust your instincts and have fun with it. If someone’s not right for you it’s not the end of the world! You can find love online but you can also still find it out there in the real world.