How To Find An Actual Relationship Online

Contrary to popular belief, lots of people find love online. If you've ever participated in online dating, you know it can be rough out there. Well, actually, if you've ever participated in dating, you know it can be rough. But dating online has a particularly bad rap, especially in the age of Tinder, where "sup" is a complete sentence and dudes you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley (much less a bar or coffee shop) are lurking beyond each swipe.

But it happens every day: Two people meet online, decide to hang in real life, have a good time together and do it again. And again. And again. Sometimes, though, it can seem unlikely that this particular experience could happen to you.

With that in mind, I asked eight experts how to find a partnership online. Their advice varied, but almost all of them agreed on one thing: Be yourself. Nearly every expert pointed out that being your authentic self from the very beginning, on your profile, starting with what you say and how you say it, are the beginning of really finding love — not just playing around, going on dates and hooking up. (Note: That's totally OK too, and there are lots of reasons to go that route. But if you want love, I'd suggest giving a few of these ideas a try.) I suppose it can be scary to be so upfront in a profile — admitting you're looking for love has a certain ring to it, and that ring might scare of someone who's emotionally unavailable. But that's for the best, because those people are probably not looking for love. Here are the experts' best tips on what to do and how to be while trying to attract love online.

1. Be Selective

Dating expert Gina Stewart's mantra is "Get more dates!" When writing an online dating profile, she says there are two methodologies to consider — the first in line with her tagline, which will result in "meeting people and figuring out how you mesh in person, because that is the most important." But maybe you've already met enough people. Maybe you know what you want, and are ready to find a lasting connection. Perhaps you've swiped your last right on Tinder, and are heading for greener — or at least more stable — pastures. Here's Stewart's two cents on that:

"You can also write your profile to be appealing in a more selective way. Maybe you don't want to appeal to a wide range of people. Maybe you're not looking to date and figure out what you like. Maybe you have already dated a lot and know exactly who you're looking for. In which case, it may be better to have a more selectively written profile. So how do you do that? Make sure your profile exudes your personality. You want the reader to feel like they know what it would be like to hang out with you just by reading about you.

To accomplish this, you'll want to discuss not just your likes and dislikes but the 'whys' behind your likes and dislikes. This is a much more revealing way for readers to get to know you, and feel whether or not you'd mesh. Don't be afraid to put things in that are a little controversial if they are true to you or your match. Don't be afraid to show your sense of humor. Is it important to you that your match be politically incorrect? Don't worry about who you'll offend by stating that. Again, if you're trying to appeal to one person, you're not running for class president. So absolutely don't be afraid to be unique and share your thoughts and stories. This is how you will connect with someone before you've ever even met. And connection is the first stop to love."

2. Be Positive

Dating and relationship expert Elly Klein has so much to say on the subject of dating, she wrote a book about it ( Men Are Like a Box of Chocolates ). She's adamant that love is out there, and has used online dating to her own benefit, having met numerous boyfriends over the past 10 years online. She also helps people write dating profiles professionally. Calling herself a "big believer" in online dating, here's one of her top tips:

"You must start with a great attitude. Online dating takes time and energy. You must be willing to put in that time and energy and bring a positive vibe to the table no matter how many times you've been disappointed or hurt in your past. The next man or woman shouldn't have to pay for the last man or woman's mistakes."

3. You Need An Engaging Profile

"After a great attitude comes a great profile," says Klein. "The secret to online dating profile success is twofold. No. 1: You need to figure out exactly what you want to say, including who you are and what kind of person and relationship you're looking for. No. 2: You need to say it in an engaging way.

Let’s start with No. 1. While it might be tempting to lapse into what you do for work, what you do on weekends, and all the places you’ve traveled to, you really just want to give a snapshot of what it’s like to spend time with you, what you value most in life and what you bring to a relationship. As for the kind of person and relationship you’re looking for, give an outline — not a laundry list. You don’t want to look too picky or small-minded. Leave the door open a crack for a pleasant surprise — Mr. or Ms. Right rarely comes in the package we expected.

Now for No. 2. In a nutshell, 'an engaging way' means turning adjectives into anecdotes or showing instead of telling. For instance, you don't say you're 'active'. You say you rollerblade through the city with a group every Thursday night and soak up the city lights on tiny wheels. And you don't say you're 'funny.' You show you're funny by being hilarious in your profile and cracking the reader up. These kinds of things aren't easy. Most people aren't professional writers, which is why I find what I do so fulfilling — I help people find love online with a well-written profile."

4. Be Authentic

Amy Baglan, founder and CEO of MeetMindful, an online dating site geared towards singles who value healthy and conscious living, has a lot to say about finding love online. MeetMindful is "built on the premise of building meaningful connections with like-minded people," says Baglan, as opposed to sites geared more toward "casual hookups based on physical attraction." In your profile, you'll be asked to share your personal mantras and mindfulness practices, and how you integrate such practices into your life. Tinder it is not. To find love, she says, be honest:

"First and foremost, make sure your profile reflects your authentic self. So often women fib on their profiles because they want to put off a persona that they think will attract the 'right kind of guy.' The problem there is that the right guy for you is one who accepts and loves you for exactly who you are, and you'll never find that guy if you don't show your authentic self from the get-go.

Post at least two photos, and make sure one of them is full-length. Again, this goes back to being your authentic self. Whoever you end up dating needs to appreciate you for who you are, and this includes your physical appearance. You are beautiful. That's a fact. And you should should show off your natural beauty in your profile. If a [someone] doesn't appreciate your unique beauty, [they're] not the [person] for you and you don't want to waste time trying to impress [them]."

5. Have A Phone Conversation Before You Meet In Person

"Not a text conversation, but an actual phone call, where you can hear [their] voice and communicate authentically for at least 15 to 20 minutes, says Baglan. "That gives you enough time to figure out if you have enough chemistry to at least carry on a conversation. If it feels like you're pulling teeth just to keep the convo going, that's probably a good indication that meeting in person isn't worth either of your time.

One way we've tried to provide that clarity with MeetMindful is by giving users the option to clearly express what kind of relationship they're looking for — with options including friendship, dating or long-term relationship. So in our case, users looking for love should indicate that they're looking for a long-term partner. On other sites, I recommend being upfront with what you're looking for on your 'about me' section of your profile. Don't worry about scaring off potential suitors because of your clear expectations. The people you want to attract should also be looking for love, not just sex, and for those people, your clear expectations are likely to be a turn-on.

Honesty is definitely the key to finding love and not just sex. Many times we may feel compelled to rush physical intimacy when it comes to a first date because we fear giving off a 'prudish' impression if we don't. Know that you should never compromise your beliefs and expectations based on what you think a guy wants — especially if it's the first date. To clearly express your desire to find love, make sure you're asking meaningful questions on your first date, and answering all of his question authentically. That shows you're interested in getting to know him as a human being, not just a sex object."

6. Be Upfront

Todd Valentine is a dating and relationship coach — usually for men. Online dating has become an integral part of the modern dating game, and it’s actually one of the most effective and efficient ways to meet someone great," he says. "However, most people don’t have a clue how to unlock this potential." He gave me tips he shares with his clients to find love online:

"Tell them what you’re looking for. This is important for two reasons. 1) To attract the right type of people, and 2) In every relationship there is a buyer and a seller, and if you’re trying too hard to sell yourself, you’re going to look needy and awkward. Conversely, if your desired date is investing time and energy in winning you over, he or she is only going to like you more for the effort. Cast your net wide. The most beautiful thing about online dating is that you can literally interact with hundreds of potential dates in a matter of minutes. Face-to-face meetings would tell you more about people than their profiles do, but that would take a really long time. Start lots of conversations. It’s better to get into an interaction and cut it off than to have never opened yourself up to the possibility in the first place.

Be loved or hated, not merely liked. We’re not looking for Mr. or Mrs. Pretty Good here. We’re looking for Mr. or Mrs. Amazing. So put yourself out there unapologetically. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate you in your rawest form is probably not someone you’d enjoy dating anyway, so it’s better to save your time up front. The general philosophy with these approaches is that you want to meet the best people possible for you as quickly as possible, so it’s really all about finding those people without wasting too much time in the process."

7. Be Confident

Fliqpic dating app CEO and matchmaker Michelle Chin has a lot of ideas about dating online. Fliqpic is a social networking platform that's all about developing authentic human connection while dating. It's video-based, and encourages users to post profile videos and interact with each other via video before deciding whether to go on a first date. Sounds smart. She knows all about dating, and has a few hints to share with those of us looking for love online:

"Love yourself. You have to love yourself to be able to love another. Do things to boost your confidence and nurture yourself every day. Get a massage, play tennis, read a book, and share on your profile how it makes you feel. Your matches will take notice and feel the love too. Trust in knowing that you are becoming the best person you can be.

Share your passions. Do what you love and share your passions, dreams, and goals. Your character shows in how you live your life and what you do with your time. High-quality people love life and are passionate about what they do.

Just be yourself. To make a true connection, you need to be who you are and allow the other person to truly see you. This doesn't mean telling your life story and what you think are all your flaws in the first conversation, but drawing on your strengths and finding the confidence in yourself to allow your inner light to shine. You are unique, and each experience has led you to be the person you are today. You are a work in progress, but when your inner light shines and you have open and honest communication, the right one is bound to fall in love with you."

8. Be Honest

Sarah Jones, founder of Introverted Alpha, specializes in assisting introverts find love. Online is where it's at for introverts, Jones says, as it's easier to meet on the 'net first for someone who is on the shy side. She gave a few pointers on how to "authentically engage" online:

"Be honest. Don't misrepresent yourself, and tell the truth. Hell, go get some professional photos if you are self-conscious, but make sure that the person you are representing on your profile is the real you. When you are genuine, you will attract people who are genuinely interested in you. If you are quiet, bookish and shy, don't pretend to be some gregarious life of the party. It's impossible to uphold that if it isn't you, and you can never make a true, natural connection if you start from an inauthentic place."

9. Don't Rush To Establish Sexual Chemistry Before You Meet

"This is where most most people go wrong," says Jones. "Sexual chemistry is best established in person. If you bring sex up too soon, you stand a very good chance of scaring off a legitimate love interest. If you are looking for an actual connection, remember: There's plenty of time to build up to sexual chemistry in person, and the more build-up there is, the more exciting of an experience it will be for both of you. Online love connections are definitely possible! It's important to remember that much of what applies to offline love should also apply online: Be honest, establish trust and enjoy the process, rather than rushing it."

10. Be Focused

Clinical psychologist Erika Martinez echoes Baglan in encouraging women to be upfront and super honest about what they are looking for from the beginning — since we're talking online, this means in their profile. She found love on two years ago (but used other sites as well), so she has a particularly inside angle to the whole concept of finding a real relationship via an online platform. Here's what she has to say about all of this:

"The tip that I share (and used myself) with my clients is to be very clear about the person they're looking for. This helps my clients be very intentional about the people they're choosing to interact with and the dates they go on. Too many people 'just date' anyone that offers. This becomes a distraction (and [leads to] flings) and comes from a scarcity mindset — both of which hinder the search for a serious relationship.

I definitely found that certain sites attracted certain individuals, translating into the type of relationships they were looking for. Generally, I found that sites that charged had members more serious about their interest. These people tended to see their expense as an investment. With that in mind, I stayed off/deleted memberships to free dating sites.

Being clear about what you want inwardly is paramount. Once that happens, it's a matter of translating that into the profile in a clear, concise, and conversational way. How do you get clear? Just admit to yourself that you want (or don't want) a serious, committed relationship. A lot of people vacillate between wanting commitment and playing the field which can be confusing for all involved.

Design your ideal partner in minute detail. Think of the attributes that have been attractive and repulsive in friends or previous partners — write as many of those things down as possible. If you're looking for something, you kinda have to have an idea of what it looks like, no?"

11. Know When To Move On

"Rank your list in order of priority (most important to preferred but negotiable)," says Martinez. "Check the list repeatedly as you get to know someone new — is this person displaying the attributes that are important to you? If yes, you keep getting to know them. If not, then move on. Moving on is where many people struggle, because they stay in a situation that's not a good fit for them. Mostly, it's out of the scarcity mentality. They think to themselves, 'What if no one else comes along?' or 'What if I don't have a date this weekend?' This mindset leads to settling for a relationship because they don't feel they deserve the very best for them. So it's important to work on eradicating the scarcity mentality when wading into dating waters".

The first few dates are about getting to know someone as a person and figure out if there's a connection. Yes, you'll probably discuss parts of each other's profiles and ask questions for elaboration. It's important to really listen to the answers and ask follow-up questions. Most people feel nervous and insecure on dates, so they forget to actively listen. It's important to ask yourself: 'What do the answers reveal about them as a person?'; 'What are their values?' and 'How does this information fit my list?' Again, if it's fitting with the list, then keep going on dates and getting to know them. If not, move on and clear the way for a better fit."

12. Be Active

Don Desroches, a divorce mediator, wrote a book called Conscious Coupling with his partner, Dana Greco. (She's also a divorce mediator, as well as a licensed couples' and family therapist.) Desroches is a big proponent of trying Meetups instead of going on date after date one-on-one. Here's what he says he and Greco think about online dating:

"We have found that most people do best when they find an activity that really interests them, and then find other groups of people that offer the same activities. There are sites like that can help you quickly and easily find a group near you. If you cannot find a group near you, then you can start one.

First, [don't] pick a singles' Meetup, unless you are doing a singles' Meetup for a specific activity. The first step is being able to become friends with other singles in the activity you enjoy. Any Meetup group that you go to will most likely have some singles. You just need to try different groups with activities that you love, and will definitely become friendly with other singles. The love will come after the friendship. True love is not found, it is created, built and developed. You don't fall in love, love increases and grows.

People say they don't want to settle, but every time we chose to stay with someone long term we are settling. That's OK, because it is having that mutual respect for each other that allows us to enjoy each other's differences. We all come with some sort of baggage and we are all human. That's the best part about it."

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