thats what she said

That’s What She Said… About Online Dating

In the fall, I held a workshop at Local Flames on online dating.  It drew about 20 people, men and women, who wanted to know more about how it all works. Here is some insight from the crowd that may help you as you journey online.

1. How long do you wait to email back?

“I write back whenever it feels right”.  The crowd felt it was fine to email back within the hour or whenever you have time.  Only one person waited a day or two to respond.

My advice: Email back when you have a break in your day and time to really think about what you are writing.  It is really easy to get a bit ‘addicted’ to the sight of a new email arriving in your inbox.  Your best emails will come out when you are relaxed and present.

2. What are the rules of the game?

“Don’t be too eager or aloof.  Don’t go “all in” too quick.  Take it slow.”

“Be respectful”

“Don’t exchange numbers.  Meet in a public place.  Give a friend the details of your date.”

“Be positive, truthful, and careful”

My advice: Keep it simple.  Use online dating as a tool to meet people.  So in that vein, there is little reason to engage in long overly intimate emails.  Within the first couple of emails, or even in the first one, arrange to meet in person.

4. For the Men… What catches your attention?

“The photos pulls me in… The smile does it!  Passion makes me stay”

“A good smile, common interests”

“Good pictures – not flowers and dogs and sunsets”

My advice: Get a good picture of yourself that shows you face and smile.  Ask an honest friend if it is a good likeness of you.  Even though none of the men were overly focused on the profile, I would suggest a medium length profile (3 paragraphs) focusing on things you love to do and what you are looking for in a partner.  This gives the guy something to ask you about and hopefully will dissuade inappropriate men from contacting you (although probably not).

5. For the Women… What catches your attention?

“Humor in the profile and a nice smile in pictures.”

“Nice up-to-date photo.  I like when it looks like effort was put into the profile.  Funny is good.”

“Photo and a well-written profile”

“More than 2 good photos.  Smiles with teeth.  No spelling mistakes”

“Good writing. Articulate. Some self-expression”

My advice: Include a good photo but also pay attention to what you write.  Women will be reading your profile closely.  They want to see ‘you’ in there and don’t want to see spelling mistakes.  Write at least two paragraphs talking about what is important to you in life.

6. What do you leave out or “lie” about in your profile?

“I leave out Past relationship stuff”

“If anything, I’m too honest”

“Situation with my daughter”

“I don’t lie”

“Nothing; it will burn you in the long run”

“I have used overly flattering photos to hide my weight”

7. What have you been lied to about?

“Old pictures; height”

“Level of activity; 10 year old picture”

“Body type; smoking”

“The way they look; their living situation; drug use; financial situation”

“Age; smoking; job status; intent; divorced”


What can make online dating fun and successful?

1. Use the settings.  Check out the settings on the online sites.  On some sites, you can feature your profile which may get you more attention (the “top spot”).  On other sites, you can pay to look at other people’s profiles without them knowing.  This may come in handy if you don’t want certain people to know you are perusing their information.

2. Don’t take it personally or too seriously.  View online dating sites as a tool to meet people.  Understand that everyone is looking and trying to find someone.  Also understand that we all have different tastes.  You may find someone attractive who doesn’t not find you attractive (things have not changed much since middle school).  Try approaching different people.  If you see it just as a way to meet interesting people, and not necessarily the love of your life, it becomes much more fun.  People recoil from desperation or neediness.

3. Be active. Online dating can work best when you take an active approach.   Approach a variety of men/women.  Invite people to have a quick 20 minute tea or coffee pre-date just to see if either of you wants to go on a date.

4. Be compassionate.  Have some set lines to communicate with those online.

Have some polite responses ready…  

“Thank you so much for contacting me.  I don’t think our interests line up so I am going to say no at this time.  Good luck in your search.’

“Thank you so much for the date.  I don’t see us as a match but good luck in your search.”

“It has been great getting to know you over the last three dates.  I don’t see things coming together for us but I wish you well on your search.”

5. Own it/be yourself.  It is tempting to write a profile to try and please the reader.  However, if your intention is a healthy long term relationship, it is best to stick with a more honest approach.  Presenting a couple paragraphs about your interests with a good photo is the key.

And…some other mantras from the group…

Be positive   …   Be patient   …   Meet early   …   Use it as a tool   …   Be forgiving   …   Be compassionate   …   Use it as a way to increase your self awareness   …   Keep an open mind   …   Think outside the box   …   Meet for common interests   …   Be open   …   Just meet   …   See it as a community   …   See it as a practice   …   Get a friend to do it with you.

Offline! At the end of the session, a number of people were even more convinced they didn’t want to go online.  Here are some ways to meet people offline. There are two good ways to meet people in real time, in-person.

  1. Meet Up Groups

A Touch of Grey Meet-Up:  For people born between 1946 and 1964.

Why Am I Single Meet-Up:  For 30-50’s.

Find True Love Meet-Up: “For all people desiring to be in a loving relationship. Singles and Couples welcomed.”

  1. Singles Groups

Single Hearts in Maine. Single adults ages 45 – 70 in Midcoast Maine looking to spend time with others.

My Single Friends.  A group for 45 – 65 in Portland.  Email for details.


Good luck on your search.  Contact me if you have additional questions at  See other blogs on online dating here.


Authored by Erin Oldham, Ph.D.

Erin is a researcher, relationship & divorce coach, and mediator.  Erin works with people as they navigate getting into, sustaining and getting out of relationships.  She also works with people as they negotiate divorce and the post-divorce world.  Erin has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching child wellbeing and the formation of healthy relationships among children and adults for 20 years.  She is approachable, pragmatic, empathic and effective.  She facilitates intriguing, engaging workshops on these topics as well.  Contact her now at or 207-200-3970.  More information here.

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