Seeking strategies for successful online dating when you're an unconventional type of person and unsure of what you are looking for.
July 12, 2009 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Seeking strategies for successful online dating when you're an unconventional type of person and unsure of what you are looking for.

I am doing the online dating thing, and am looking for what strategies I might employ in order to attract someone who will be more likely to be a good match.

Part of my difficulty is the medium; it’s hard to capture a person—their spirit, kindness, energy level, etc.—in a list of hobbies and interests and in a few paragraphs. I often feel that I just want to get to the “meeting” stage since I believe it’s so hard to tell what someone is like on paper. I rarely even talk on the phone prior to meeting; I figure I’ll find out what I need to know when we meet in person and if it’s not a match, I’ve only lost an hour or two of time. I wondering if I might have better luck if I were more careful about screening people. At the same time, I feel uncomfortable at times dismissing someone for a very superficial trait (e.g. they love baseball and I don’t), especially since past relationships have taught me that you can match well with someone who isn’t your “perfect on paper” guy.

I do have an idea of my “type”; however, I’m not married to it since I believe that people don’t *necessarily* know exactly what or who will make them happy. This makes it hard for me to know how to screen people. Also, since I've had friends and family tell me that I'm wayyyy too picky I've been trying to cast a broader net. Towards this end, I will pretty much go out with anyone who meets some very minimum guidelines I have in my mind (right age range, not someone I find physically repulsive, similar political leanings). This has resulted in a lot of non-matches.

I think a lot of things about my background and my views make me rather unconventional, and looking for someone like me sometimes feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. For example, some of my experiences as a first-generation American with a family who struggled very hard to achieve the American dream can make it hard for me to relate to some people who had a more typical upbringing (although I really do try to be open minded). However, I am highly educated, which makes it hard to connect with many people who had similar backgrounds to me....To sum up, I often find that people who share similar levels of success or education tend to look down at my family background, and people who come from my background don't often share my interests, views, or educational achievements, if that makes any sense.

If I were to describe myself and what I’m looking for, briefly, it would be someone who’s opinionated, interested, passionate, engaged in the world; someone who is self-made, funny, interesting, a good conversationalist, warm, and puts me at ease. Someone who can relate to my background, or at least find what my family has accomplished impressive and not look down at my modest upbringing. I tend to be attracted to clean cut, white collar types, but again, I try not to be too picky about that sort of thing.

So, any thoughts about how someone who is comes from a very unconventional background can find someone who’s perfect for them, either online or in person? I'm looking for ANY tips or suggestions or real-life examples of what has worked for you.
posted by mintchip to Human Relations (9 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Online dating is a numbers game. You have to accept that most, if not all, of your potential matches aren't going to work out. That's the case no matter how fine-tuned your profile is.

That said, your penultimate paragraph is actually a good start. You should also definitely include activities you enjoy, religious preference (if any), your favorite books, that sort of thing. Other than a list of adjectives, what do you think helps describe who you are?

Hope that helps! Good luck!
posted by orrnyereg at 3:46 PM on July 12, 2009

The best online dating tip I've received is to meet as soon as possible. Many folk can seem great on paper (well, email), and one can be tempted to build expectations of that person from what they write. Those expectations can play havoc when one meets in person after a long correspondence and the person doesn't match one's constructed idea.

Personally, when I find someone I like online, I get to the phone stage early (I was giving my number out in the second round of contact to anyone I thought I may like) and then if one or two phone conversations go well, I arrange to meet asap. And in my book, for a phone conversation to go well, he needs to ask as many questions about me as I do about him. That's the sign of a listener.

Another thing I have learned is to loosen up my criteria. I used to be all "if they can't spell" yadda yadda dismissive. Same with their education standard. Not all smart, warm, kind, successful people go to college.

Think about what kind of character traits you are attracted to in a person rather than their outward appearance/origin/education etc. You've listed some good ones in your second last paragraph - passionate, self-made, warm, puts you at ease etc. Not sure about the opinionated trait: sure, you want someone who knows their own mind, but not all folk in that category are vocal about it.

Also think about what type of person you are and show through your words your attractive traits on your profile (using the writer's rule of show, don't tell). Are you funny? Don't say you are funny, write something funny! Are you creative? Don't just say it, show it by description.

Similar age and values have been found to be a greater indicator of compatibility than origin or interests. Don't dismiss the guy who likes baseball if he also likes things you like. In time, his baseball loving time during the week may be just the time you need to enjoy things you like doing on your own or with friends.

I was single for many years and doing lots of online dating. One fella wrote to me once and I ignored him totally - hah! he couldn't spell 'friend'. A year later he wrote to me again, by which stage I'd loosened up my criteria, and whaddya know. He's a gem! I love him madly! Even though he doesn't read books and I have thousands, our compatibility is the best I've ever met in someone. Turns out he is dyslexic but has an amazing brain (and heart).

So, in conclusion, I say work out the deep character traits you admire and seek, and those you have to offer, and go for them. Your concerns regarding class and origin (is there a small chip on your shoulder?) will not matter with a person who respects you and themselves for who you are as people.
posted by Kerasia at 4:30 PM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

In my experience, online dating works best when both people really go for it in their profiles. Don't be afraid to let your personality out in an interesting and engaging way instead of the "I like going out, but I also like staying in" pablum of most profiles. Your words might not appeal to everyone, but the reality is that you won't in real life either. The important thing for me (both in writing my own profiles and viewing others') has been showing, not telling. Don't just say you're funny--demonstrate that in your writing and answers to the questions. If you're looking for a conversationalist, maybe mention some of the things you like to talk about. Everyone is "fun-loving." The problem is finding someone who loves the same kind of fun.

I also completely get your reluctance to talk on the phone and waste time, but unless you're making up that contact with lots of e-mails you will probably meet a lot of bad matches. Perhaps try the same go-for-it tactic in your initial contact to move things along more quickly. Instead of writing to say, "Hi, I liked your profile..." ask them an insightful question about something obscure they mentioned or make a joke about something they said. It's another opportunity to show your personality and invites them to show theirs.

Finally, if your family background is one of the most important things about you, don't hesitate to mention it in the profile. Same with anything else that really matters to you. My feeling is that it's better to find someone who is compatible with those aspects of yourself right off the bat, instead of holding off for a big reveal. There are ways to do this without sounding strange. Have friends read over your profile to make sure that it doesn't overpower the overall picture.

Good luck!
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 4:35 PM on July 12, 2009

"I wondering if I might have better luck if I were more careful about screening people."

I'd argue you might have better luck if you were less careful about screening people, though I notice certain cultures (e.g. USiAns) place what some might consider to be an unhealthy amount of importance on "must think/act/be like me" in their list of 'ideal attributes in a partner'.

Vive la différence!
posted by Pinback at 5:01 PM on July 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Just keep in mind a couple things when checking out profiles:

1) It's the internet, you can always walk away. Meaning, if you get a weird vibe online or after a date (or three) it's okay to not continue contact out of politeness sake.
...that being said 2) No need to be totally rude. A short explanation (without making it about them) is usually way nicer than just disappearing.
3) Expect that people will often be different online/in their profiles than real life. Even when trying to be 100% honest, it's too easy to self edit online. This means you should both give people a chance that maybe don't seem perfect on paper and be ready to find out that someone perfect in their profile doesn't totally click in person.

I agree that the second to last paragraph you wrote is a concise and compelling explanation of what you are looking for If you are able to sum up your own personality similarly, you should have no problem finding some interested parties. And, please, post a good profile picture. It may seem shallow, but when I found profiles on sites with no photo, I usually did not write or respond.
posted by piratebowling at 5:14 PM on July 12, 2009

Do not simply list your good qualities and the qualities and habits you look for in a mate.

We're not checklists.

I like punk music, electronic gadgets and sounds, coffee and conversation, and can be sort-of kinky sometimes. I like quiet, open-minded, intellectually and physically adventurous men. I enjoy conspiracy theories and dischordian philosophy.


But then read this, which is the same thing:

I want a man who'll whoop and turn up The Clash when it comes on the radio and then smiles at me knowingly, because I'll be singing along. Someone who knows a real steak doesn't need anything on it to taste good but won't ridicule me for drinking flavored coffee. Someone who can give me a hug and a spanking within 10 minutes, and for the same reason. A guy who'll go out dancing with me and then stay up late teaching me how to tie the knots he learned after he became and Eagle Scout to get into college.

Someone who knows that rap is derivative, because weren't the Masons were the original G-Unit?

I'd rather have an origami crane out of a two-dollar bill than a bouquet of flowers on our date...

/end example

There are ways to tell people things about yourself that aren't lists of qualities, adjectives, magazine subscriptions and your favorite cereal. THINK about ways that you are unique and different; express that, and you'll express yourself.

Also, 1-3 emails, then some kind of phone contact or IM, then quick date. boom boom boom. Emotional buildup leads to a greater let-down, and yeah, it IS a numbers game. Update pics often, update text often, email first, and make the most out of bad first dates (find out if not-your-match-after-all has other single friends, seriously). Don't promise to go on 2nd dates you don't want.

Call when and if you say you will. Don't be afraid to be honest if it doesn't work out; above all else, don't be negative in any way until at least date 3 unless you share some kind of weird experience together that allows mutual complaining.

You get 5-7 words typically to catch a person's eye if they're skimming; make those first few words really count in your online dating profile.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:54 PM on July 12, 2009 [19 favorites]

So many women out there have very similar profiles (and yes, so do a lot of guys.) Make yours stand out by really showcasing your personality and you will attract guys that are interested. It's important to show things like your sense of humor, and this would be better done by writing something funny than listing your favorite comedians. Look at what the other woman on the site are writing, notice the trends, and then do something different. This will attract quirky, interesting, white collar guys.

Your situation isn't as unusual as you think. I am dating a woman that sounds similar to you. From my experience at least, there are guys that don't care where you come from, but where you are going or who you are. Some men find it attractive that you are independent and hard working. On a shallower/online profile level, some men may also find your background more exotic than the other whitebread people and may assume that your tastes won't be as expensive. Being the needle in the haystack can certainly be a disadvantage, but with the internet (and if you are in a large dating market), it can be an advantage by making you stick out. If you are in a bad/small dating market, the internet can't really help though.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 6:54 PM on July 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

One more thing, because this always gets me:

You are NOT your job. Too many people define themselves by their jobs these days; you won't be working on a date, so try not to talk too much about work in your profile or on your date unless you're Wayne Newton's plastic surgeon or something mind-boggling like that.

You are also not your cultural and ethnic background. Don't make too many jokes, self-effacing remarks, or over-explain things about your family or looks or whatever it is that you sort-of danced around mentioning above. Again, unless you are making a chart determining which recessive traits might pop up in future children with your date... this is also kinda irrelevant, though it certainly helps define your identity as a person.

Focus at first on other things, date-like things, positive and funny and unique things about you and the other person. THOSE things define what you'll do together to enjoy yourselves, and isn't that what being with another person is really about?

I can tell little about you without reading your entire posting history, so whatever you're looking for, just remember... you WILL fall in love. It's just a matter of time before you find that person. Keep telling yourself, it really DOES make a difference in the way you project yourself to strangers! :)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:02 PM on July 12, 2009

It took me a day or two to think about this question before I could really reply, so here goes.

From the masculine side of the coin, the things I look for are a sense of adventure that doesn't come at the expense of responsibilities. Maybe it's just my experience in this little college town, but I've found that a lot of the dating pool in my age range just isn't interested in the same things I am. I'd like to settle down and slowly work towards building a small organic farm... really making things with my own two hands. The people in my age group all seem to be interested in traveling the world at the drop of a hat. I have two special-needs dogs and regular commitments here that I can't easily get away from, so I need to plan my hat-drops. It's a giant dichotomy that I haven't managed to resolve. It's important to go into things with a good idea of what you want to do, though. If you're a homebody like me, a world traveler who wants to spend three months hiking the app trail probably won't be your best match unless you're happy doing it separately.

And frankly, that's another problem that I've had: Women seem to be looking for a guy who shares all of their interests that they had independently, and not willing to look at guys who have different interests. I don't understand the dichotomy because I don't expect to share 100% of the interests that I have with someone.

I'm the opposite of the people who said to meet quickly -- I don't seem to feel I have anything in common with someone when I do that, so I prefer a long email chain first. I'm trying to reverse that, but it really does make me feel more comfortable (as someone who has tendencies towards social anxiety) to have built some ground-work or done some pre-screening to figure out who a person who thinks they are and how closely I think their self-concept matches who they really are. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt until I probably should've cut things off a week or two before, but I really wish more people extended that benefit to me.

So, I'd say keep looking. Don't drop your standards, but keep an open mind and don't be too rushed to slam the door on someone when they stick their foot down their throat till they're chewing their knee.

For what it's worth, I've now gotten three or four really good friendships out of dating online just in the past two years. Just not the love of my life!
posted by SpecialK at 12:40 PM on July 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

« Older Best WWII air battle movie scenes   |   Stay at home mom's dilemma Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.