As Valentine's Day approaches, it might surprise you to know that, according to the US Census Bureau, there are 97 million Americans that are over 45, and 40 percent of them are single! That's more than 32 million singles out there, and that means a lot of potential love matches.
Because of that, online dating sites have seen a huge increase in the number of middle-aged and older members online, looking for love. On dating sites like eHarmony.com, the over-fifty crowd represents the fastest growing segment of their millions of users worldwide. And Match.com reports that 25 percent of its current members are now between 50 and 65.
For many of the fifty-and-over crowd, the idea of online dating may still conjure up images of desperate singles, misleading profile pictures, awkward first phone calls and deadly dull dates. But the truth is that the world of online dating has evolved over the years and is now a mainstream means for singles hoping to find their match. And as long as you follow some simple rules of thumb, it can be an exciting, safe and potentially rewarding adventure.
So if you're among the many, many singles out there who would like to meet someone new, why not take advantage of Valentine's Day this year as an opportunity to get back into the mix, start shopping around, and maybe find that special someone?
Just keep these guidelines in mind and you can get started today!
Almost all matchmaking web sites offer a free tour or preview of user profiles before they ask you to pull out the credit card. Take a little time and do some comparison shopping to find the site that will work best for you and your budget.
A good, recent profile photo is essential. Have a friend or one of your kids take some new, flattering photos in a nice, casual setting. Their objective opinion will help you choose the best ones and they can help you upload them if you're not that tech-savvy. And over time, add new pictures to update your profile and keep things fresh.
Your profile should be light, optimistic and positive. It should include a little bit about who you are, the things you like and what you are hoping to find. Don't pour your heart out, tell a sob story or include overly personal material. In short, don't talk about anything you wouldn't discuss in the supermarket if you met your match there. Have a friend help you out if you get stuck.
Set up a separate email account just for your online dating, and don't put anything in your profile or username that could identify you (other than your photo.)
Don't share personal information like your contact info until you reach a certain comfort level with the person. If you decide to have a phone conversation, you can place the call yourself and just dial *67 before you dial their number to keep your number from being revealed.
Don't be too rigid when it comes to your potential partner's age, height, profession or any other traits. You can mention what you usually prefer, but avoid absolutes unless they're truly a deal-breaker. You don't want to shut down a potentially great match who might surprise you.
Are you looking for a long-term relationship, casual dating or just a hookup? Tell the truth and you'll be far more likely to get a response from a like-minded prospect.
It's only an email, and you're only saying hello. You don't need to pour your heart out the first time you make contact. A simple message is best so your ego won't be bruised if you don't hear back. Something along the lines of, "Hi, I liked your photos and your profile. Let me know if you'd like to chat."
Have you found someone you like, or is someone interested in you? Ask your friends to take a look. Sometimes they'll be able to offer an objective opinion and help you decide who's really worth pursuing.
Don't take it all too seriously. You should approach online dating like you would mixing and mingling at a cocktail party. It's not a life-or-death situation, so don't treat it like one. Enjoy the process, keep a sense of humor and keep your expectations in check so you don't get carried away.
The idea here is to find someone to date, so beware of getting into endless email exchanges that never lead anywhere. Don't wait too long to move things along if you want to meet and test your chemistry.
It's perfectly normal for online daters to keep communications open with multiple people on an ongoing basis. Even after the first date, don’t assume you've become their one-and-only or stop looking. Just relax and let things progress naturally. If the chemistry is there, things will get serious in their own time.
If you don’t want to be competing with faces half your age, try a site like <a href="www.OurTime.com">OurTime.com</a> which caters to a more mature demographic.
For a first date, you should both arrive separately at a public location. Keep it short – a cup of coffee is ideal. If the chemistry isn't there, you're not stuck with each other for hours, and if it is there, you can extend things by ordering some food or taking a walk or whatever else seems appropriate. Also, just as a precaution, it never hurts to tell a friend who you're meeting and where.
Don't go on and on about your past relationships, bad dates or how hard it is to meet someone. Talk about the here and now, ask questions and keep the conversation light and fun. Debbie Downer rarely gets a second date.
Don't be discouraged if your email conversations don't lead anywhere or if you have a few bad dates. Finding the right person sometimes takes time, and like anything else, online dating takes practice.
Follow Marlo Thomas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MarloThomas