real life

If online dating is good enough for Tara Moss….

A Group Therapy question from Tammy* who writes

“I wanted to get some views on online dating from the Mamamia community. It’s something I don’t have any experience of, being part of a long-term couple, and I recently encouraged a friend to give it a go. I realise my coupled-up status probably makes it easier for me to recommend to someone else, but I’m certain that I’d be up for trying it if I happened to be single. My thinking is that we already live so much of our lives online (keeping in touch with friends, shopping, reading news, paying bills…) why not date, too?

Anyway, this friend has a lot going for her – smarts, looks, kindness – but is a fairly shy person initially who doesn’t get into the club or bar scene, and therefore her options for meeting someone in ‘real life’ are somewhat limited. She works in a female-dominated industry and has a nice but small circle of friends that she’s unlikely to meet anyone through. She’s a bit reluctant about putting her profile online and not quite sure what to expect from it. She has also admitted that she’d be pretty embarrassed if anyone found out she was looking online. I’m all, “who cares?!” and “just do it!”, but I acknowledge that people in long-term relationships can be embarrassingly out of touch with the dating scene and all its intricacies.

I know two couples who met online (one of them is married) and they are all lovely, normal, one-headed people who I’m sure wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. I’ve also tried to work the topic into conversations with other friends and the responses have been quite varied, ranging from the open-minded “seems like a perfectly fine, logical way to meet someone” (said with a shrug) to the “are you kidding?” (said with a mortified look).

I’ve looked out for websites that chronicle other peoples’ experiences, but a Google search really only brings up the fairytale romance types who knew they’d get married after the first date, and a few, er, bitter and twisted individuals who insist it’s all a ridiculous scam and that you should save your time and self-esteem. There must be some middle ground here, and I’d love to hear from the MM community.”

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Tara Moss and husband Berndt
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I know a stack of people who are online dating at the moment. In fact, I think all my single friends have at least flirted with it as a way to meet people. There certainly doesn’t appear to be any stigma attached to it anymore. Heck, even Tara Moss met her husband Berndt that way.

She said she was sick of the men who pursued her based on what she looked like (older, rich) and since she didn’t care for either of those types, wanted to try and connect with someone via words.

Some friends have told me there are distinct advantages to meeting people online – if they’re on a dating site they’re likely to be, you know, SINGLE, and looking for a relationship of some kind.

As opposed to the person you might meet in a bar who has their wedding ring in their pocket and doesn’t want to give you their home number.

Others though, say that there is a degree of ‘waiting to see what else is out there’ that can beset someone (particularly men) who have their profiles online. They’re always waiting for, you know, Tara Moss to click on their profile and suggest hooking up.

Have you tried online dating or know anyone who has? What’s it like?
Do you think it still has a stigma attached to it, or is that a thing of the past? What other ways you can meet people if you don’t have an large social circle?

UPDATE

Buoyed by the positive responses on MM and possibly worn down by the peer pressure I was inflicting, Sally and I spent an hour or so on a Saturday afternoon putting her profile together. We obsessed over which words best described her – would ‘independent’ be seen as a positive trait, or would it give an impression of a selfish, stand-offish person? In the end, we decided to stop thinking of it as an advertisement (where embellishment and positive spin is key) and take a totally honest, transparent approach. So many of the disaster stories we’d heard about online dating came back to expectations not being managed, and the old cliche holds completely true: honesty is the best policy. When you’re writing your spiel AND choosing your photos.

The first few days were exciting. Sally’s inbox started pinging with ‘kisses’ (which is an expression of interest) almost straight away, and even though none of the potential suitors seemed quite right – and some sounded totally batshit crazy – it was still a good start. After a week or so, Sally started sending out her own kisses. Some resulted in a couple of emails being exchanged but nothing more, some weren’t responded to, and some were met with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ response. This is completely par for the course with online dating and far preferable to being strung along but…rejection sucks. There’s no getting around that. Still, Sally’s resilience was impressive and she kept plugging on.

Within a month or so, Sally worked up the courage to meet with a guy who she’d enjoyed email contact with. They had a perfectly pleasant coffee date and exchanged a few stilted text messages, but it soon fizzled out. It was actually a good, non-confrontational start. A warm-up. She met another three guys over the next few weeks – two of them didn’t go further than one date (again, no disasters, just no spark – but more on spark later), and the other one went really well. She continued to meet this guy and they were getting along famously, but he was never easy to get hold of. He had a super-busy job and played sport so time was an issue. This was hard, as Sally was really keen on him, and though the feeling seemed to be mutual initially, this guy didn’t have enough spare time to have the kind of relationship she was looking for. It took about a while for all this to play out, and Sally was crushed every time she sent a text that wasn’t responded to, or had dates cancelled that she’d been looking forward to.

It was gut-wrenching to witness. Sally had really gone out on a limb for this guy, and there’s nothing worse than watching those you love in pain, especially when they’re feeling rejected and let down. and Sally took her profile down for a while just to step away from it for a while. RSVP can be a bit of a beast – it’s hard not to check it compulsively if you’re keen to meet someone – and it certainly takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. That sounds melodramatic, but even if you’re a confident, secure person, the online dating environment can make you feel very vulnerable and exposed.

After Sally put her profile back up, she received contact from a nice-sounding guy – I’ll call him Sam – who didn’t really look like the type she’d normally go for. Still, the emailing went well and they set up a lunch date. Sally was lukewarm after meeting him. The date seemed to have gone well, but she didn’t think the spark was there. We got to talking about the whole spark thing, and decided that a first encounter doesn’t necessarily have to be filled with lust and desire. And weren’t the best relationships founded on mutual values and respect? This is not a euphemism for ‘Sam is ugly’. Far from it. Sally decided she’d sold the first date a bit short and agreed to a second. And a third. Before she knew it, she was spending every second or third night with Sam, as well as most weekends. Their attraction grew in a natural, easy way and they were soon in a Proper Relationship.

They’re still going strong, and it’s highly unlikely they would’ve met without RSVP. As for telling people how they met? Depends on the audience. Most people don’t see it as being any different to meeting someone through a friend or in a pub. And if you’re uncomfortable, you can just tell the pub story (how are they to know the pub was a virtual one?). The one thing I’m conscious of in sharing the update to this story is not wanting to sell a fairytale ending. Of course online dating isn’t going to work out for everyone. Sitting behind a computer does not make you immune to heartache and rejection. Sally went through a tough time and had to step away for a while. But what it does is increase your odds of meeting someone. There’s no guessing if someone’s looking for a relationship – everyone who’s there is looking for someone, and one quick click should tell you all you need to know before you make that initial contact. Beats scoping out a ring finger or having the awkward ‘I have a girlfriend’ conversation. And it worked for Sally.

Thanks again to everyone who responded to the Group Therapy post. You guys are AWESOME.

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