Over the years, we’ve seen online dating flourish from the “red-headed step child" of romantic setups to a practical, and wildly common way of bringing people with similar interests together. Gone are the days of whispering about how one met their significant other online or being embarrassed about the development of their love story a la Match.com, and in its place is open acceptance of the practicality and genuine romantic success that can come from online dating. That being said: while the design of online dating in theory should make connecting a walk in the park, anyone who has tried their hand at this form of connecting can likely attest to how monotonous, and sometimes disheartening, the process can be.
In a perfect world, one would upload their profile, have a few immediate hits from the perfect suitor, and begin their dating quest to find their Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. The reality, however, consists of a lot of sifting, awkward online “flirting” with strangers, a good portion of those conversations leading nowhere, and then the tricky task of deciding if those messages warrant an in-person meet up. If you’re giving online dating a go after recently finalizing a divorce with children, this process can be even trickier, as you’ll likely want to be careful about picking a partner who will be a positive influence in their lives. While online dating can be a wonderful tool for meeting a mate, make sure you do your research before hopping into the complex world of internet matchmaking. We’ve compiled a list of factors to consider beforehand:
Make Sure You’re Emotionally Ready
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the period of time following a divorce finalization is often when the healing truly begins. Just because your divorce is finalized doesn’t mean that you’re emotionally in the right place to move forward with a new relationship. Everyone’s pace is different, but make sure you’re checking in with yourself and really evaluating how you view relationships, and why you want to foster a new romantic connection. If you realize somewhere along the way that you still have some baggage from your last relationship to work through, take that time to process. You’ll be better for it, and most likely your next relationship will thank you if you’re able to enter it with a clear and healthy mindset towards yourself and your future partner.
Take the Time to Pick the Right Site
There are countless dating sites out there—ranging from broad and generalized sites, to incredibly, and almost humorously, specific forms of dating sites. For this reason, it’s important that you take some time to identify what you want out of your online dating experience. Are you looking for a long-term relationship, or a casual encounter to enjoy an event around town? Different sites will cater to different relationship goals.
If there’s a certain quality in a partner that you’re absolutely positive is a must-have, there may be a site out there that will cater to that niche. For example: there are dating sites such as ChristianMingle (if a similar faith is a must-have), DivorcedFreeandSingle (if you want to meet someone who can relate with your divorce tribulations), or SingleParentLove (if you want to meet someone who has kids of their own and will know how to interact with your own). These niche sites will connect you with singles with those particular traits. Do your research about what’s out there and try to determine if a generalized or specialized site is more up your alley. It’s okay to experiment with different sites to figure out what works best for you.
In addition to this, some sites will require a form of payment, whereas others are free. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a paid site is better—it really all depends on how the site operates, and it may just be that a free site better fits your needs or your budget.
Another consideration for sites is the form of communication it allows between both parties. For example, some sites allow any interested suitor to reach out, regardless of a mutual match. Other sites require that both parties like each other’s profiles before opening a portal of communication. Even more specific, some sites, such as Bumble, only allow the female to spark the conversation.
Stay Safe Online
When chatting online, there are a few safety “no-no’s” you’ll want to be aware of. For starters, be wary about giving out too much personal information from the get-go. While still getting to know each other, don’t offer any personal addresses (home, work or otherwise). There are situations when online dating can lead to “catfishing”—a term coined to describe the event of someone using false photos or information on their profile, which can lead to a huge surprise for the other party, and potentially an unsafe situation, when meeting in person. To avoid this, you can ask your suitor to Skype or Facetime with you before meeting in person.
If you’ve been chatting with a match for a while and are ready to take the leap to meet in person, it’s always a good idea to take certain precautions. A general rule of thumb is to meet in a public location. Don’t invite your date over to your house or any private location for the initial meeting as a safety precaution. In addition to this, let a friend or family member know what location and what time you’ll be meeting.
It may go without saying, but if you have children, hold off on introducing them to your suitor until you’ve had multiple dates, and can feel confident in their character. It can be difficult for children to meet their parents new boyfriend or girlfriend, so you’ll want to make sure that your new interest has serious potential, and won't be someone who comes and goes quickly out of your children's lives.
Take it Slow and Don't Sweat the Small Things
Ideally, every person who creates an online dating account would find a soul mate in the first person who they make a connection with. The reality, however, is that the process may take time. It may take a few failed suitors to find a person who really sticks. Consider the process more of a marathon than a race and try and have patience with the process.
In addition to this, try and keep a positive outlook on the process. It’s a vulnerable move to sign up for a dating website—putting your profile out there for potential suitors to assess whether you match up to what they’re looking for is, by all accounts, easier said than done.. It can be easy to get in your head about it, but take comfort in the fact that it is absolutely normal to have hits, misses, failures and eventually successes. To the best of your ability, don’t take it personally. Nobody can be everybody’s perfect match, and that shouldn’t be the goal—the goal is to be the best match for one individual out there, and that process can take time. If you’re finding that your self-esteem is tainting the experience, or the whole affair has just become a huge chore, it might mean it’s time to close the account and take a step back.
If you’re ready to take the leap into online dating, keep these tips in mind. Do your research, stay safe and try to keep a positive outlook while experiencing the ups and downs of meeting new people. It can be intimidating entering the dating world again post-divorce, but don’t let the “newness” of it all keep you from taking that step when ready.