When I was ready to start dating after my divorce, I was afraid of online dating.
I remember telling my fears to a dear friend who had used these sites for a while after her divorce.
I said that I thought most people on the sites were scammers, losers or crazies. I wondered:
- Why do they have to resort to online dating?
- What’s wrong with them that they can’t meet anyone the old fashioned way?
- If I joined, wouldn’t I become one of the losers who couldn’t meet someone any other way?
But I was most worried about my safety. I imagined men lurking in the shadows just waiting to lure women like me into the darkness.
She reassured me that, if I took simple precautions, I didn’t need to worry about my safety.
And she said that dating someone you meet offline came with similar safety concerns.
The thing is, I had tried the old fashioned ways for quite some time and got zero results, perhaps compounded by the fact that I live in a very rural area. The dating pool of eligible men around 60 was very limited.
I knew that online dating would open me to a much wider pool.
And then I realized that my friend had been on dating sites and met some nice men. She certainly wasn’t a loser or scammer, so there must be plenty of decent people there. And I might have good experiences with them too.
You can read more about my story in How Dating at 60 Led Me To Find True Love Twice.
Women may be more afraid of online dating than men
The things that make women afraid of online dating may be different than for men.
Whether or not it’s founded, we tend to worry more about our safety than men do.
Perhaps that’s because, when we dated in our youth, men typically ran the show:
- They approached women and asked them out.
- They chose where to go.
- They paid for the first date (and often ALL dates).
We’re used to them being in charge. But we also probably knew them from school or work, so they weren’t complete strangers.
With online dating, you’ll be speaking with and meeting strangers.
For safety purposes and because, in these times, women CAN run the show, the old rules don’t apply.
If you’re dating again after widowhood . . .
You may face a different kind of fear or anxiety if you’re thinking about dating again after widowhood.
Losing your life partner is, of course, a highly emotional time and a difficult life transition that should be dealt with carefully, without having to tend to a new partner at the same time.
Conversely, you may be so grief-stricken that you feel you never want to date again. You may think you’ll never find someone you will love as much as your late partner. And you may wonder whether it’s even worth the effort.
Give yourself time to be ready to fully bring someone new into your life.
If you think it’s better to meet someone the old fashioned way . . .
You may be fortunate enough to have a large, far-reaching network of family and friends who will keep supplying you with possible dates.
But that’s not true for most of us, and wasn’t true for me.
Many of us don’t have those resources, so online dating sites are a boon for us.
For several years before I finally jumped on the online dating bandwagon, I clung to the notion that I would magically bump into Mr. Right and all would work out well.
Of course, fairy tales rarely do come true.
I tried all kinds of ways to position myself around potential dates out in the world, but none of it led to anything.
My advice: Don’t give up on either method of meeting dates.
How to stop being afraid of online dating
Women need to take the reins (in general) and men need to let them set the pace:
Either he or you can make the first move.
You don’t have to wait to be sent matches by the dating sties, or for men to make the first move.
The dating sites will send you matches, but in my experience, they’re not always good at connecting you to the kind of people you want. It’s best for both women and men to be proactive. Spend time reviewing profiles and reach out to men of interest.
But you may not get as many men reaching out to you on the sites as you’d expect. I’ve read that men can fear rejection so much, they don’t want to take a chance.
One of the strategies that worked best for me was to spend a little time every day or so flipping through profiles and looking for new members that were appealing. I’d immediately reach out to them with a brief message like:
“I like what you said in your profile about [whatever he wrote]. I had the same experience once and [fill in whatever happened to you]. If you’re interested in talking, let me know.”
Beware of scammers and other people out to take advantage you.
No doubt, there are people on dating sites who are up to no good.
Some, like men who are married or men who just want to talk and never meet, are relatively harmless (and mostly just annoying). If you’ve tried once or twice to get them to commit to meeting, and they’re slippery about it, you’ll have your answer. They’ll probably never want to meet in person.
Others, like catfish (people with false identities pursuing deceptive dating practices) or other scammers out for your money, CAN be harmful. But you have to fall for their trap for them to do you harm.
These people are experienced and know how to manipulate. First, they study profiles and target those who come off as lonely and vulnerable. Then they gently, slowly and patiently lure people in, gaining their confidence (thus the tag “con artist”)
They use poor grammar on purpose as a screening device when they write to you. If you fall for, and respond to, someone who emails you something nonsensical like the following, the scammers know you’re an easy target. You’ve shown yourself to be naive and gullible:
“My heart good for you” or “Nice you. Pretty lady”,
If someone asks you for money (especially large sums), run the other way. You have the power to say “No way!”
Here are a few ways such scammers operate:
- They urge you to move your communications off the site. A typical reason they give is that their membership is about to run out.
- They lavish you with attention and flattery. If you’re lonely and vulnerable, they’ll pick up on it, make you feel like a million bucks and then easily convince you that they’re in love with you.
- They always have some kind of excuse for why they can’t meet you in person.
You’ll find more dating safety advice here.
Take your time getting to know each other a bit via messaging.
Before you meet in person, message each other (using the sites’ messaging feature) a few times to find out more about each other’s interests and share stories.
Men should be willing to spend a little time on this. If they push to meet right away, it’s probably best to back off from them. The fact that they don’t respect your wishes is a telltale sign of an overly controlling person or someone nefarious.
Try the sites’ video dating feature.
Video dates can minimize a lot of the fears because you’ll be safely ensconced in your own home, or somewhere else comfortable and safe.
There are good reasons to use the video chat features offered by some of the dating sites and apps, instead of off-site video chat platforms like Zoom and FaceTime.
First, you have the built-in security that comes with each platform. No phone number, email or other personal identifying information is ever revealed when you’re communicating within these platforms.
Some sites also have added features like video blur to make you feel more secure on the first video date.
Second, it’s easier to manage all your online dating activities in one place. You don’t have to worry about whether someone has Skype or Zoom or some other software installed. Your potential dates are already on the platform. Communication is simple to start and easy to track.
Third, video dating is much cheaper than an in-person first date. It also serves the same purpose in that it lets you discover if the prospect is suitable for a second date and beyond.
You choose where to meet.
Coffee dates or something that will allow you to bow out quickly and easily is the best option. Having a meal together usually means you’re stuck with each other until the check comes.
Choose somewhere you know where people will be around you, and where you know the exits.
If you’re discussing this with a potential date and he insists on going somewhere you’re not comfortable with, think twice about meeting him at all.
I faltered with this a few times and regretted it. Not so much for my safety, but because they wanted to meet for a meal and I preferred just a coffee date for the first date. Sitting through a meal with someone you’re not clicking with can be agony.
One time, a man reached out to me on a dating site and right off the bat, he asked if I wanted to meet him for a hike in the woods! There was no messaging back and forth to get to know each other a little. I hope the thought of that sent a red flag up in you, like it did for me.
In all of the above remember:
Just because you’ve exchanged a few messages, you don’t have to actually meet with them.
And just because you’ve had a date or two with them, doesn’t mean you have to KEEP dating them.
You hold the reins.
Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, forget about them and refocus your efforts on men who don’t send up red flags.
How to get started when you’re afraid of online dating
Work out your dating game plan before doing anything else
One of the reasons you may be afraid of online dating is because you haven’t put any thought into who you are right now, what you want for your third act in life, and what you’re looking for in people to date.
Once you’ve worked out your dating game plan, you’ll be properly prepped to get started with online dating, and your planning should also help alleviate some of your dating fears.
Choose a few sites to use
The best online dating sites are typically the ones with the most members. Obviously, they provide a bigger pool of people and more opportunities to find the right person for you.
Initially, you don’t have to make a commitment. Many of the dating sites let you sign up for free and look around at members’ profiles.
Then you’ll have to pay to be able to communicate with anyone.
Create your online profile(s)
Take your time writing about yourself, what you want in life and who you want to share it with.
You’ll find all you need to know in my article, How To Make a Dazzling Online Dating Profile To Attract Your True Love Faster.
Review members’ profiles
Search profiles of people and look for those who meet the various criteria you detailed in your initial dating game plan work from above.
Reach out to people and respond to people who reach out to you
Your first communications with people should be messaging using the sites’ messaging feature. It’s best not to use your personal email or texting until you know each other.
Cosmo outlined tips for writing the perfect first message to attract the right dating partner.
Communicate via the sites’ messaging and video features several times, until you feel comfortable enough to set a date.
Plan when and where to meet in person
If and when you find people you want to continue getting to know, decide where and when to go on your first date.
You’ll find all you’ll need to navigate first dates in the compilation of articles written by both Cosmo and me.
Now you’re on your way to fearlessly use online dating sites!
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