Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Truth or Dare: Online Dating in Midlife

While many mid-lifers cringe with the initial thought of online dating, the reality is that more and more are trying it.

Online dating use among 55 to 64-year-olds has risen substantially since the last Pew Research Center survey on the topic. Today, 12% of 55 to 64 year-olds report using an online dating site or mobile dating app versus only 6% in 2013.

If you are going to venture into online dating, here are some findings and observations that may prove helpful:

 What to Bring to Online Dating

The best things to bring to online dating are curiosity, self-reflection, patience and a sense of humor.

  • Online dating is very different than shopping for the item with the most stars. On-line dating is more about engaging in a process than finding the ready-made “perfect partner.” It is about self-reflection and identifying your core values and your enduring passions.
  • What have you loved from your early years that you never stopped pursuing? What qualities do you have that your closest friends and relatives hold most dear? What makes you laugh?
  • If someone you meet shares those passions or seems to enjoy or appreciate those qualities in some way – take a closer look.

 What to Include in an Online Profile

  • When it comes to creating a profile for yourself, less is more and authenticity is crucial.
  • While everyone wants to present herself/himself in a good light, little is gained by describing a fictionalized version of yourself intended to please all.
  • Choose a picture or pictures of yourself that you really like and present yourself as a person interested in meeting others who might match some aspects of you. Just a glimpse is far better than an autobiography.
  • For example – Do you love being in the out-of-doors or… prefer museums, know every sports team, enjoy exercising, love food but hate cooking, love laughing…

 Getting Enough Clicks or Winks

  • A profile designed to have universal appeal may bring hundreds of clicks; but that is not necessarily a good thing.
  • Many clicks tend to leave people feeling too overwhelmed and faced with the impossible challenge of discerning who is real and who is right for them!
  • This fits with what has been described by Ben Schwartz as “ The Paradox of Choice.” According to this theory, the more choices we have, the more anxiety, decision fatigue or choice overload we feel.
  • With too many choices, we are less able to make a decision or feel that the one we finally make is a good one.
  • We don’t want dating to turn into the famous “ jam study ” in which researchers in a grocery store placed six samples of jam on one table and 24 on another. Whereas 20% more people were drawn to the table with the 24 jams, only 3% of those people actually bought jam as compared to 30% who went to the table with just six jars of jam.

It is far better to have a few people responding to your specific profile…even if it takes many rounds… then many responding to a generically appealing description.

Anxiety About Rejecting Someone

What do you do when you meet someone who likes you more than you like them?

  • For as many people who have little or no empathy for anyone but themselves, there are many wonderful people who struggle with interpersonal relationships because they have been well trained to care for others – at a cost to self.
  • Over-empathy for the needs of another person– in the case of online dating, someone you hardly know–is often at the cost of your own needs. It takes you out of empathy with your own feelings and needs. It jeopardizes decision-making.
  • Of course, no one deserves to feel discarded. The best response to someone who persists in contacting you, but is just not a match,  is to treat him/ her with respect. Without leading them on, let them know you thank them for the interest but choose not to go forward.
  • Ultimately no one wants to be with someone who stays connected out of pity or obligation.

Worry About Being Deceived

A The New York Times article entitled “ Love, Lies and What they Learned,” addressed the question of deception with reported research.

  • The article suggests that there is actually less deception on sites where people are seeking long term romantic partners -given that the initial emails and conversations eventuate in face-to-face meetings.
  • According to this report, there is some minor deception found in online dating that is driven by the wish to make a positive first impression. Women, for example, describe themselves as 8.5 pounds lighter. Men lie by 2 pounds about weight but men lie more often about height, rounding up a half inch.
  • The report suggests that a few lie about age; but I would add from my observations that some lie about age because they feel trapped in a profiled age category. This speaks to the need to meet in person asap if there is interest – as trust and reality make it easier to disclose and accept people regardless of age.
  • In the study, no one seemed willing to talk openly about politics but particularly in the present culture, most people are likely to reveal their leanings as conversations unfold.

Identifying Hackers and Scammers

 While the majority of people are on-line to meet potential dates and partners, the increase in online dating in the last few years does bring with it those people who clearly misuse the dating sites with no intention of appropriate connection.

The best way to limit wasting time with imposters or “catfish,” as they are called, is to stop responding to anyone who trips your “emotional smoke detector” as offensive, pushy or inappropriate in some way.

Jeff Cohen’s 30 Minute Guide to Online Dating offers six common sense tips to avoid deception. Be concerned:

  1. When a person avoids certain topics
  2. Acts funny when receiving calls if you are out on a date
  3. Cancels a lot and makes excuses
  4. Has omissions and inconsistencies in his/her profile
  5. Refuses to talk about certain periods in their life
  6. Does not know things most people would know – important events, important dates in their own life etc.

Other Suggestions Include:

  • Inviting a friend to read the back and forth or hear what you have experienced. It is an advantage and sometimes fun to confer with someone when in unknown terrain.
  • If you have met a person who seems too good to be true, offer to step out of the virtual world for a telephone chat or actual cup of coffee.
  • If the other person does not offer this or does not respond to your offer, despite continued expressed interest and pursuit of you– think twice.
  • Too good to be true is too often not true.

 Valuing Your Authentic Self

Perhaps the most daunting task when on-line dating in midlife is valuing and expanding your authentic self.

If we re-define the goal of midlife dating as not simply the search for a partner but an opportunity for validation and expansion of self, then we go into dating with curiosity. What will this person be like? What will I learn about myself, men, women?

Some guidelines that foster your own authenticity and make mid-life on-line dating more of an interesting journey than a survivor show include:

  • Don’t make online dating your life’s mission and mirror.
  • Balance it with outside opportunities with men, women or both– doing things you love, learning new things, taking on new projects and opportunities. Find situations that nurture your confidence, build new skills, celebrate your talents and help lighten whatever life baggage you carry.
  • In terms of online dating, try different sites, and when you start emailing with someone, move out of virtual connection to an actual meeting as soon as possible. Take charge – A face to face is worth a hundred texts.
  • Believe in your own intimate and sexual timetable. There are no rules that necessitate intimacy because four weeks have passed and the other is insisting it is time. There are also no rules that preclude the invitation or disclosure of desire.
  • The real issue is self-reflection of why, when, mutual desire and mutual discussion with the other partner. If mutual considerations aren’t possible in the early stages of a relationship – they won’t get easier.
  • The more confident you feel, the more flexibility you may have with respect to meeting people, reading people and growing as a person.
  • Flexibility to unexpectedly liking someone or trying something new is not a desperate disavowal of self–if it feels right to you.
  • When it turns out to be unexpectedly ridiculous — laugh- You have another life story!
  • If it leads to a wonderful relationship or a more expanded knowledge or appreciation of self-Enjoy.

While it may not be for everyone, online dating might open doors you never considered.

“ Sometimes You Fall In Love With The Most Unexpected Person at the Most Unexpected Time”

( Lovendar.com)