Want to meet the love of your life? Follow our internet dating tips to help you find someone who loves you just the way you are…
Online dating is one of the most popular ways to meet a new partner. And it works: according to a study of more than 20,000 people, couples who meet online are more likely to enjoy a long marriage than those who get together by chance. Here's how to do it:
Choose the right dating siteThere are numerous options, from the massive (Match) to more niche sites such as My Single Friend, which relies on your friends doing all the hard work. There's a site for everyone, whether you're gay (Gaydar), vegetarian (Green Singles), mature (Saga Connections) or in search of a particular lifestyle (Sugardaddie).
Write a great profileYour profile is the only chance you get to show prospective partners how amazing you are, so take your time to get it right:
1 Try to express your personality Think quality, not quantity. Lengthy descriptions of your hobbies won't help people work out what you're like. Allude to your hopes, fears, dreams and schemes. Psychologists believe strong couples share peak experiences, so make it clear what makes you tick. Does your perfect day involve a 10-mile hike and a pub lunch… back-to-back movies… or shopping until you drop?
2 Tell the truth Resist the temptation to exaggerate: if you claim to be 6ft 2in, she will notice if you're really 5ft 6in. Plus, imagine trying to explain why you knocked five years off your age. Especially at significant birthday celebrations and family gatherings. Remember that any inconsistencies (or lies) are likely to come to light and could jeopardise any future relationship.
3 Retain a sense of mystery While honesty is important, there's no point putting off potential suitors by revealing all your shortcomings straightaway. It's no-one else's business that you're a bottle blonde.
4 Use humour A touch of self deprecation can be endearing.
5 Get a second opinion If you're not sure how you come across in your profile, ask a trusted friend or family member for objective feedback before you send it out into the ether.
6 Proof read carefully before you hit the send key Proof read again. (Spelling and punctuation errors won't enhance your image.) Did we mention the importance of proof reading?
See who's out thereOnce your profile's online, you can start communicating with other potential matches. Before you dive in, you may find it helpful to make a list of your ideal partner's essential personality traits and deal breakers. However, bear in mind that you may have to compromise (few of us are perfect). It's also helpful if you can:
• Keep an open mind.
• Value yourself.
• Be selective. New profiles can be bombarded with 'winks' and 'pokes' (indications of interest from other parties), but remember you're under no obligation to respond.
• Filter out undesirables. It's not uncommon for men (and women) to send unsolicited photos of intimate body parts. If this doesn't appeal to you, feel free to block the culprit and report them to the website administration team.
• Avoid taking it personally if someone you like the look of doesn't reciprocate. It's their loss.
Get togetherSome people like to meet up as soon as possible; others prefer to spend weeks emailing first, in order to find out more about each other. There's no right or wrong way, but however you go about it, try to:
• Treat others how you'd like to be treated. If you meet up and there's no spark, be polite and let the other person down gently.
• Be realistic. You may meet the love of your life on your first date. More likely, you'll have to kiss a few frogs before (if you're very lucky) finding your prince/ss.
Stay safeMeeting virtual strangers inevitably involves an element of risk. To minimise the danger:
• Avoid giving out any personal details (surname, phone number, address etc) until you're sure about the other party. Although most people you're likely to meet are normal, decent human beings, there are some strange types out there.
• Arrange to meet in a public place (such as a pub or cafe) where there will be other people around.
• Make your own way there and have your journey home sorted. Getting into a car with someone you barely know is not sensible.
• Keep the first meeting short so you're not obliged to spend too long together if it doesn't feel promising. It's a good idea to ask a friend to ring you half an hour into the meeting, to provide a pre-arranged 'get-out' clause (panicking babysitter; sick child etc).
• Follow your instincts. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, there's probably a good reason for it so cut your losses and move on.
Online dating: a success storyLizzie Jones* met her husband online after overcoming her fears about what people would say:
Before I met David I was worried about the stigma associated with online dating, but as soon as I set eyes on him I forgot all about it and focused on getting to know him properly.
It felt just the same as meeting in a more natural way – at a party or in the pub – only it was better because we'd already exchanged enough information to know we had lots in common and shared the same outlook on life. There was a tacit understanding that we would be kind to each other and I felt safe with him from the outset.
Crunch timeWith any new liaison, there comes a time when your trust in each other is put to the test. Lizzie says:
Six weeks after I met David, my neighbours invited all of us (me, my children and David) to their wedding. We were looking forward to it, but the night before the big day, my son, Luke, started to vomit. I resigned myself to staying at home to look after him, but David offered to do it instead, leaving me free to go to the wedding with my daughter, Emma.
I'd never left my son alone with David for longer than a few minutes before and I had to work out whether I could trust him to care for Luke in my absence. Once I'd established that Luke was happy for me to go, the decision took about 10 seconds. Emma and I went to the wedding (an hour's drive away), had a great time and got home at midnight. David was still up, washing out the sick bucket for the sixth time. Luke was asleep, having finally worn himself out.
That night marked a milestone in our relationship. I'd trusted David with my precious child and he'd rewarded my trust many times over. Since then, we've tested each other many times, but I often think back to that day.
*Names have been changed.