A little over four years ago I met me wife. When I was a younger man, meeting a significant other usually meant a bunch of awkward social encounters in bars or nightclubs, furtive attempts to get someone's attention across a smokey dance floor (it was in the days when almost everyone smoked) and the moment of tension when the other person looked at you like you'd just taken a dump in their bed if you offered them a drink. But we met like many other modern couples - via online dating. Here's how it went and what I learned.
Online dating is a numbers game. There are lots of people out there and the number of potential dates is massive so you need some way of narrowing the field.
Be ruthless in your criteria
I started by narrowing the age range of potential dates to women aged between 35 and 50. As I recall, that narrowed the fields from tens of thousands to mere thousands. Next step, some physical characteristics.
This is where the whole process feels very superficial. I narrowed the field to women who were no taller than 177cm (5'10"), who described their body as slim, average or athletic and non-smokers. That cut the field a bit but not enough to make it easy to decide who to chat with.
Throw in non-smoker and being OK with kids but not wanting anymore pulled that down to the hundreds.
Now I was starting to get somewhere.
Eventually, by adding selection criteria around education (I specified women with a degree or post graduate qualification) and who lived within 25km of my home at the time, I hit a number of profiles I could manage.
But don't get too ruthless
Dating sites let you narrow the number of potential matches using hundreds of criteria as well as their own algorithms. I was not concerned about ethnicity, hair and eye colour, politics, star signs (because we know they're so accurate!), pets or diet. So, I left those fields blank in terms of what in was looking for. But I did fill them in on my profile so someone searching could use them in their searches.
Once I had all those criteria in, I narrowed the field of potential matches from many thousands to fewer than ten. Now I had a manageable number of profiles I could look at and consider making contact with.
Photos matter - a lot
My profile pic was pretty ordinary. It was me with no great embellishment. If someone didn't find that picture off-putting I figured they were semi-serious about contacting me.
My wife's photo was cute.
My wife and I started tentatively, using the canned messages used by the website. I started with the "I think we have a lot in common" message. My wife replied with the canned "I look forward to hearing from you". After a couple hours we struck up an online chat, mainly around stuff what we do for work, number and ages of kids and other small talk.
We chatted a little more the next day about what we were doing. No details like kids names, but just what we were doing with our time and all that.
It was clear that we were hitting if off as we exchanged about 30 messages over that first weekend of online contact.
By about the third day of chatting we took the big step of talking on the phone and arranging a first date. We both, eventually, confessed that we had a Plan B in case the date (at a low-key cafe over lunch) didn't go well.
And the rest... well, we were married last November.
- It's tough but be ruthless in narrowing the field
- The dating site algorithm won't precisely respect all of your selection criteria. For example, my proximity criteria was fudged by the algorithm as the other, presumably more highly weighted, criteria were deemed more important
- Be honest
- Use a decent photo
- If you don't want to share a piece of information, then don't.
- If you hit it off, print all your chats and profiles. They make a great memory and are useful when writing wedding speeches!