No exaggeration, at least half of the people that come to me for professional dating advice do so because they have a problem “picking the right person,” and so they find themselves in unhappy situations. In traditional (offline) dating, you usually have limited information about a person before you find yourself sitting across from them at a bar. Online dating, however, can help in this matter because there is so much information about your date readily available to you before you even go out on your first date.

As somewhat of an expert when it comes to deciphering online profiles (yup, I can tell which guy will arrive late and expect to split the bill and which girl has very few interests outside of herself), here are a few tips to help you. And, some of these even apply to real-life dating!

1. Where or how you met doesn’t matter. What matters is how you perceive it. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “Oh, I couldn’t take him/her seriously! We met at a bar and we were kind of drunk…” or “Yeah, we met on a dating site, but planned to keep it casual. There’s no way he’d take me seriously.” It’s usually implied in those types of statements that you couldn’t take the “type” of person who does whatever activity you were doing when you met (getting drunk at a dive bar, online dating) seriously — which, frankly, is quite silly since you are the type of person who does those things too! Unless you’re bailing him or her out of jail, how you meet doesn’t matter, no matter how questionable it sounds. If it bothers you that much (it shouldn’t!), make up a story and stick to it. This always makes me think of my friend Adam*. We met on a kind-of-sketchy online dating site (nope, not JDate!) and per his request, we always tell people we met elsewhere. Easy.

2. Talk is cheap, baby, but actions aren’t. Classify 90% of the things that come out of the person’s mouth as “trust, but verify” because really, until you do trust them, you should be doing your homework. Smile graciously and accept compliments, but don’t let it cloud your vision as you continue to get to know this person. Pay attention to what they do and not just what they do for you. What they do in front of you and in front of no one is just as important.

3. Still, believe what they say when they are giving you warnings! Ever sat across from a girl on a date and she says something like “I’m such a jerk for saying this, but…”? Or, have you ever heard a guy say, “I kind of have a reputation for being a player, but it’s not true.” That last one was something a guy I fell for in college said to me. In retrospect, I was stupid for believing him (or believing I could change his bad-boy ways)! It’s so common for people to slip those little warnings into their everyday conversations. And, unfortunately, most people completely ignore them! A few key ones to watch out for:

  • I’m not really a good guy/nice guy. (Usually in defense to you calling him that.)
  • I guess I’m kind of a hard person to deal with. (In trying to rationalize a behavior.)

This is particularly important in online dating. Pay attention to the statements someone makes about themselves!

4. Worry less about how they make you look and more about how they make you feel. I recently went out with a guy (I met him on JDate!) and we had a pretty decent first date. Good conversation, good food, lots of laughs. Initially, I had hesitated to respond to his message because he’s ten years older. However, I sensed the chemistry and went with it. Here’s the thing: he didn’t make me feel the way I wanted to feel around my guy and it had nothing to do with physical attraction (he had a killer smile and great body)! He was relating to me too much as if I was one of his “buddies” and I couldn’t see past that. We would have made a damn cute couple though!

On the other hand, there are people we write off because of how they make us look (to the outside, or from our mind’s eye). Too old, too short, too out-of-shape, too whatever. When we ignore the way they make us feel, we are ignoring the most important thing of all. Some people, despite your glaring external differences, will disarm you and make you feel safe. Go with it.

These tips are pretty general, and I’m sure you’ve heard them from somewhere before. Still, if I could teach you anything that would make your relationships (or the often arduous search for a relationship) any easier, it would be to teach you how to pick!

Melissa E. Malka is a dating coach and matchmaker in Chicago, IL. She’s been described as “a cross between Darwin and the Millionaire Matchmaker” and would love to hear from you here.
  1. I have gone online twice and I am giving up. I am unable to connect to anything good out there. I have tried very hard but it just does not seem to work.All I am finding are jerks who all want the same thing and they want it right away. Are they crazy I tell them where to go. Someone asks if you are sensual because you don’t want them kissing you on the lips on a first date. Then when you tell them they say cut the crap we are too old for this. So I told him I cut the crap, you are the crap. I could write a book, just like everyone else who is dating except mine will make you laugh. Offer me some interesting advice.By the way I have always been fed on my dates, but I am not a prostitute you don’t get sex in return. One man who I had not even met wanted to come over for innocent kissing, are they all crazy? What ever happened to a gentleman, are there any in today’s world.

  2. I disagree that a profile tells a potential mate enough before you go on a date with someone. There is a key questions : where do you live? a) at home with mom and dad b) renting a place with a few roommates c) renting on my own d) renting with my mom e) own a house f) want you to buy a house for me and my mom. I know that I sound bitter, but I have it together and it seems to me that a good portion of the men that I have been dating from Jdate have a ton of growing up to do. Living at home with mom/mom and dad and not being able to move out and take care of yourself in your own living space is unacceptable at the age of thirty or over. It’s really unacceptable in your late twenties. Not doing anything to work towards being more independent is even worse. I am not going to be Tinkerbell for a Lost Boy.
    Maybe, I should be dating someone older. Maybe, I need to learn how to read between the lines better. Maybe, I give guys too many chances to get their lives together. Or, maybe these people should be looking for someone in the same living situation as them and not for a replacement mom who will be expected to take care of them when they move into our living space. It kills me that anyone would expect that from a potential mate, and someone that they “want to marry.” But, it is what I am seeing these days and it makes it hard to stay focused and positive while searching on here.

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