Millions of people of all ages use online dating sites, and many have found love or friendship that way. But whether you’re actually looking online or have just flirted with the idea, if you’re an older woman you might have an inkling that this way of meeting potential partners is especially challenging for you. That’s because the messages we grew up with about what a woman is supposed to do and say can hinder our ability to find the person we’re searching for.
Remember those admonitions about being “too forward”? That’s just part of it.
Online dating is a process that starts with “who is this person?” And the only way to start answering that question is by getting answers. But as older women, we may not feel we can ask a lot of questions of someone we’ve just exchanged a message with online. What if we come across as demanding? Speaking up about what we’re looking for is even harder—will we be labeled aggressive?
Yet when you don’t speak up about you want, you reduce your chances of finding a good match. So you settle, feeling frustrated with the process or afraid that you’ll appear undesirable or too old.
The online dating process can increase those frustrations and magnify your feelings of age-related inadequacy. It can make finding someone you like seem more like a competition. And when we fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as less appealing than other women, it’s easy to feel grateful to be “found.”
That’s a recipe for a bad match.
Here’s why: Your concern about being viewed as “young” or attractive makes you even less willing to speak up about what you want. Rather than appear too assertive or pushy, you do what women have been taught to do—quiet our voices and give a nice ‘sweet’ smile. And your concern about being chosen can lead you to ignore warning signs or settle for someone who isn’t really right for you. What if he’s the only one out there who finds you appealing? Paired with our culture’s messages that aging women aren’t desirable and the “nice girl” messages you grew up with, the fear of being overlooked can lead to painful online dating experiences.
You write and he doesn’t respond. You read profile after profile of men looking for younger women. Days may pass, and no one’s looking at your profile. All of these create a sense of being not good enough. They trigger your insecurities about being an older women. And those insecurities lead you to give up the control that you need to have over the process of finding someone with whom you can develop a positive relationship.
So how do you find that guy who seems like a good match without feeling beaten down by the process?
Here are some basic tips that can increase your chances of success.
How to Control Your Online Dating Experience
Know and Say What You Want
You can start by being clear about what you want. Give yourself permission to express your opinions and preferences. That means first asking yourself who you really want to meet and the type of relationship you’re comfortable with and then, after you’ve asked plenty of questions and received answers, giving yourself the freedom to say, “Thanks, but I think we’re not a good match. I wish you the best of luck in your search.”
Know—and Say—Who You’re Looking For
It helps to figure out in advance who you’re looking for, and what kind of relationship you want. You might write a different profile and share different pictures when trying to meet a partner for romance than if you’re just looking for a friend to go to movies and events with. When you’re clear on what you want and your profile reflects it, there’s a greater chance of the ‘right’ people connecting with you.
Unapologetically Show Who You Are
As you write your profile, think about the kind of person you’re trying to attract . What about your life might be attractive to your ideal date? Be honest and realistic about the details you reveal. You want to attract people who’ll like you for who—and the age—you really are, not some idealized image of who you want people to think you are. Talk about what you like to do and read and watch. Display your most recent photo, not the one from three years ago. Admit that you hate camping or fishing or baseball, or that you don’t drive at night, and let that help draw the right kinds of potential daters.
Control the Pace
We do a better job at screening out people who aren’t suited to us when we take time to engage in a little conversation without rushing to meet them. But the thrill of interacting with new people and the excitement of courtship can lead us to move a little too fast and increase our risk of making bad choices. So can yielding to a potential date who wants to move faster than we do. Don’t let him rush you. Suggest an email or two and then a phone call. Give yourself time to get to know this stranger and figure out whether he has what you’re looking for.
Be Clear About Sex
You might think you’ll lose the chance of getting to know him better (it’s an old story), but if you’re not comfortable with the fast track to bed, be ready to say, “I’m not interested in talking about sex right now, maybe we can discuss that at a later time. Let’s get to know each other first.”
Don’t Be Wooed by Unrealistic Admirers
Be aware that many profiles are fake, set up by scammers eager to work their way into your pocketbook. Scambook, the Internet’s leading complaint resolution platform, issued an advisory in response to statistics showing that women over the age of 50 are most likely to be victims of online dating scams. These individuals write charming, romantic, flattering messages designed to convince older women to fall for them—they assume that because we’re older, we are more likely to respond to flattery. You can avoid scammers by looking for inconsistencies in a profile, taking it slow and asking lots of questions.
Realize That You’ve Got Nothing to Lose
There are plenty of people out there, and a small percentage of them would be suitable matches. The vast majority are not. It feels a bit hopeless at times and you can easily feel undesirable. Rather than trying to be an all around appealing woman, put the real you out there. Show your uniqueness, be off-beat or traditional or whoever you are in real life.
Know That It’s Acceptable to Make Demands
It can be tempting to make yourself more appealing by letting the guy lead the way in dating. Our conditioning leads us to silence ourselves just a little; your eagerness to meet this guy might lead you to forget that your wants and needs are important. The ‘right’ guy will respect you for having your own voice. So practice asking for what you want.
Demand to have a phone conversation before meeting, from a blocked phone number. Demand to set the first date at a place that feels comfortable for you. Demand a conversation about sex before you take those steps, talking about STDs and your needs. There’s nothing wrong with you making the rules. If he balks or disappears, consider yourself fortunate to have learned about his character so quickly.
It’s difficult putting yourself out there and dealing with all the challenges online dating presents. But, it’s also fun and exciting and possible to meet someone who fits your criteria. Your job is to put the real you out there, to stay true to what you want and who you are while being open to meeting new people. Whether you find that activity partner, friend, or lover you will meet some new people during your experience. And you’ll have some good stories to share.