By: Bea Arthur, Founder of Pretty Padded Room
This summer, Psychology Today posted an article about the stresses of online dating in which the author, clinical therapist Anne Rettenberg, stated that she doesn’t recommend the practice for her clients. While it’s true that digital dating can be daunting, it shouldn’t be regarded as dangerous to one’s mental health, as Rettenberg suggests. Of course it can be frustrating when women don’t get hits from the men they feel are their type; and it can be worse for men who, as in real life, do most of the hunting only to get completely ignored. But like any difficult thing in life, online dating can actually give you a lot of insight into who you are and what you want. Full disclosure: I met my current boyfriend online, and our relationship specialist, Alexis Auleta, met her husband on Match.com ten years ago when online dating was just getting started. So while it may not be for everyone, it might still be a match for you. Before you give up and go back to bar hopping, here are some tips to get the most out of your experience by making the best of it.
- Pressure Free is the Way to Be. After a couple of witty email exchanges, don’t assume the first meet up will be the best and last blind date of your life. No matter how perfect his profile may seem, there’s always the possibility that there won’t be a spark. In person, chemistry is clear right off the bat, but you two might have little in common. And it’s the reverse online: he might quote all your favorite movies and even be from your home town but in the end, you’ll be as attracted to him as your brother. So instead of thinking, “This might be the one!”, take it down a notch and go with, “This will be fun.”
- Get in the Middle School Mindset. I personally think most of the disappointment with online dating is related to the term itself—until you meet and get to know someone, you’re not dating! The actual dating starts when both parties are interested and want to spend time together, so wasting makeup and money on someone you only might want to get to know seems silly. Remember when your parents wouldn’t let you go to the mall to hang out with just any boy? As much as I hate to admit it, your mom was right. You need to know who you’ll be spending your valuable time with before you give it to him. Try talking on the phone first (or Gchat since this is not actually middle school and you don’t need to rush home to watch Carmen San Diego). See what he’s all about before you let him take you out.
- Don’t Let Yourself Be Let Down. Go in with little to no expectations and you’re less likely to be disappointed. But if you do get discouraged by one too many mixed messages or ignored ones, take a breather. You already know spending too much time in front of the computer can make you dizzy, so log off for a while and live it up. Organize a dance or dinner party or reconnect with old friends. Enjoying and appreciating the life you have will help you figure out the type of person you want to share it with.
The bottom line is you shouldn’t limit or set unrealistic expectations for your life, both online and off. Online dating can be a fun experience leading you to try things and meet people you wouldn’t normally; but if approached irresponsibly, it also has the potential to reinforce depressive behavior. By being honest with the person on both sides of the screen, you’ll build a stronger connection and be more likely to have a more intimate bond once you meet in person.
Bea Arthur is a therapist and entrepreneur looking to make the world less crazy one person at a time. Her website, Pretty Padded Room, provides online therapy to women on their own time and in their own space. By creating a secure platform that conducts real-time sessions via video chat or Digital Diary in the comfort of a client's own home, she created a resource that makes a potentially intimidating experience convenient and comfortable. In her free time, she explains to strangers that she was not, in fact, star of the 80s sitcom, The Golden Girls.