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Dating on the Internet

Maxine B. Cohen, M.F.T.

When I was asked to write about dating in the new millennium, I started to laugh. Oh my gosh, where to start? How do I say what it's really like and what I think needs to be shared and not turn everyone off or frighten them away?

Well, bottom line is I dunno but I am going to share my own experiences and those of some friends and acquaintances who were willing to share theirs with me.

The age of Internet dating has arrived. It is the preferred way to go for the majority of people. My own experience is that, for the most part, people are honest. There are a few caveats however. Rules of the game that seem to apply more often than not. They are not an X-out but it is good to keep them in mind.

First, for men and women both, beware that some people can only email. They are not able or willing to make more contact than that. My take on it is that the anonymity confers an ability to be forthright in a way that the face-to-face presence of another person inhibits, and the process of emailing back and forth and saying nice things about each other is sufficient ego enhancement and thus, becomes self-sustaining.

Other people can take it a step further. They can make one phone call. If the voice or the connection or the rhythm of the conversation isn't perfect (whatever that means), that's the end of that.

Then there is the candy store phenomenon. If you don't like the flavor, texture and appearance of the person wholly, there's lots more to choose from. Simply move on to another bin full of candy and have a sample of that one. On and on.

Then there is the perpetual dater. This person, usually a man since men are the ones who do most of the asking out initially, uses meeting people one time as a way to have a social life. The game is to set up a date as a means of having someone to eat with, the end being to go out to a restaurant and not be alone.

Then there are the half-truths. Men lie about their height. Any man who is less than 5'10" says that he is 5'10" (and probably has convinced himself that this is true). Men only underestimate their weight by a little; that is not a biggie.

Women, on the other hand, fudge their weight (I have this on reliable information from several men). Not a big surprise really.

Both men and women post photos that are highly complimentary, to the point of being unrecognizable. Not infrequently, the photos were taken years ago. My informal sampling indicates that women are the worst offenders in this category.

Personally, I think that is just part of the mix. Expect it. Anticipate that face-to-face, the person will look different than on the dating site and be forgiving. After all, this is just another way of getting to meet people who are wanting to be met and it is the connection that counts most of all.

Alas, that brings up another point. It is not unusual for people to fool themselves that they want to be in a relationship when they really don't. People who fool themselves are eternally picky. Everything needs to be perfect and feel just right from the get-go. Or they are always so swamped with business, family matters, or one thing or another that they don't have time to meet anyone. One might ask why they bother to post on the internet, but then they see their busy-ness as just temporary and lose the perspective that it keeps going on and on..

So, a word or two about how to set up a first meeting. My best advice is to agree up front to a venue that keeps it brief. Possibly, meet for coffee or a glass of wine. That way, if it is painful and clearly not a match from the get-go, you have a built in time limit and it's not awkward to end it. If the connection is good, one of you can always suggest extending the time together by taking a walk and/or going to dinner.

Bottom line, I hope I haven't scared you away. But knowledge is power and a little bit of heads up on the reality of what's going on out there can be a valuable thing. So, fully informed, go at it.

One last caveat: Don't take what happens personally. It's not about you. And have a real good time!

Maxine Cohen
949-644-6435 | maxinecohen@roadrunner.com
Maxine Cohen is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has worked with individuals, couples, and families since 1989. She is an expert on all aspects of the divorce transition-from how to tell the children in the best possible way, to riding the emotional roller coaster and grieving the loss, to dating and rebuilding a life that is satisfying and good. Maxine is also a writer, having contributed columns to Orange Coast Magazine and the local editions of the Orange County Register and the LA Times (Daily Pilot) for the past 10 years. She is in private practice in Newport Beach.

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