All’s fair in love and online dating? Not quite. While there are those who see the semi-anonymity of dating sites as a chance to get away with something, this arena won’t work in the long run if it’s rife with cheating, lying, and generally immature behavior.
Accordingly, be honest with yourself first. You may not be eligible yet for online dating if you see any of these traits in the mirror.
1. You’re not over your previous relationship
Are you truly ready to treat the people you’re about to meet as humans unto themselves? Or are you going to view them through spectacles tinted by remnants of your previous lover?
Those lenses may be rose-colored, if you’re widowed, or aviator blue, if you’re recovering from a breakup. Either way, you’re lugging a steamer trunk of distortion to every encounter.
Most people you meet don’t really want to hear about your ex on the first three or more dates. But even if you keep your mouth shut, the ghost of a still-vivid relationship will cast a pall on any new one.
All that said, relationship hangover can serve as a useful variation on “It’s not you, it’s me” when you want to end things with someone who doesn’t do it for you. I first encountered this on the receiving end, after a pleasantly bouncy dinner with a widower. We parted with mutual vows to dine again, but the next day he called to say that meeting me had made him realize he still wasn’t over his wife’s death. (Mind you, it had been five years, and though he was new to JDate, he’d told me the ladies from his synagogue had been fixing him up for most of the interim.)
I believe this was actually a rejection, but it’s one of the most considerate I’ve ever received. I began using variations of it, too.
But don’t use it if you really mean it, because that means you’re not ready to dive into the dating pool. Give yourself a few more months, years, therapy sessions, whatever you need.
2. You’re in a seemingly committed long-term liaison
Granted, certain dating sites accommodate those seeking plural relationships (a.k.a. cheating). They let you announce your status as “married” or “in a relationship.” Some of them even let you announce more frankly that you are looking for a sex-only sideline to your main squeeze.
This is all fine if a) your main squeeze knows this and maybe even squeezes someone else on the side, and b) you are honest from the get-go with your online self-declaration.
Otherwise, you’re a stinker. I won’t get into the impact on your primary relationship; that’s none of my business (which doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion). My scold here is, it’s unfair to others in the online pool.
If you present yourself as free of entanglements and available for a new relationship, people who read your profile will set their expectations accordingly. Like, hey, she looks interesting, I might like to meet her, date her, maybe even marry her someday. Please don’t waste their time.
I think men do more outright online cheating than women. A male friend of mine, on his first date with a woman he met on Match.com, learned enough about one of her recent online encounters to realize she was talking about his currently married former boss. Yuck.
I myself was contacted by a married man on OKCupid who was overtly seeking a mistress, and because his profile foolishly revealed bits of career, bits of facial hair in a fuzzy photo, and enough bits about his situation—he loved his wife but her health had ended their sex life—I suspected he was the husband of a close acquaintance of mine. He himself seemed to realize this, too, when he bumped into me at a public event and his usual bonhomie turned stilted—since my photo on OKC was not fuzzy. Oops.
Now, what if you are entangled but the end is in sight? And you want to make yourself feel better with the reminder there are other fish in the sea? Indeed, your decision to try to keep your relationship going or call it quits depends in part on how your partner stacks up against the online inventory?
I’ve done it, more than once. There’s a fine line between intention to cheat actively, and self-assurance of personal or partner worth (or lack thereof). Tread carefully.
3. You hate men (or women)
I’m talking here about a temporary attitude, probably held for good reason. My friend Roberta is Exhibit A. She assumed she had an OK, if no longer great, bond with her husband of 20 years, a man of inflating body and declining physical and fiscal health. This assumption turned out to be wrong on several counts.
Her husband suddenly moved in with a young woman he’d met through his contracting business, which was actually doing well on an unreported cash basis. Her pre-teen daughter already had a nicely furnished room at the new woman’s house, where the supposed father-daughter weekend camping trips were actually taking place. All sorts of ugliness ensued.
Roberta decided that dating well was the best revenge. Her pretty profile picture drew men like flies, but messaging with them rarely progressed to dates. Her occasional first dates didn’t lead to seconds.
I read her message exchanges and listened to her reports of date conversations, and immediately saw her problem. She was seething. Her anger infused her interactions, even if she didn’t go on at length about her specific troubles, and male antennae quivered in fear.
It’s not easy being a man. Many American men of ripened generations feel like they’ve had the rug pulled out from under them. As a feminist, I think it’s about bloody time that possession of a penis no longer makes you automatically eligible for more power, responsibility, and pay. But these guys had a set of expectations drilled into them while young, then had them yanked away in the decades that followed.
So they’re stuck with the worst of both worlds: old-fashioned muscle-bound isolation combined with undermined societal status. Father no longer knows best; he doesn’t know shit. Nor does he have supportive girlfriends he can complain to and rely on to talk him through blue spells.
Men like this do not need you to make them feel any worse than they already do from over-and-done-with relationships. Women who are escaping lonely or crappy marriages do not need you to go on and on about what’s wrong with American women.
Be kind, rewind, if you’re still in hate-mode from a lousy partner. The good men and women deserve better.