If online dating is new to you, or if you’ve been plugging away at it so long that you’re about to throw in the towel, you may be asking yourself: can I find a real relationship online? It’s a reasonable question to ask. After all, life is short, and we’d all like to spend a little less time staring at a screen and more time enjoying life in the real world.
You may be asking yourself if it’s worth having an online dating profile at all. You may be wondering if your odds are better just waiting for the right person to come along.
But finding a real relationship online is indeed possible, and we think it really is a better option than spending evening after evening at bars and clubs hoping you’ll trip over the right person—in fact, you’re less likely to find a person ready to commit in those settings.
Here are our tips for you to make the most of your online dating experiences. Oh, and if you’re brand new to online dating, here are some free trial accounts to some of the best dating sites for serious relationships to get you started on your journey!
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First Things First: Decide What “Real” Means To You.
Does a “real” relationship mean one that starts slowly and will eventually lead to getting married and having kids? Or does “real” mean finding someone who’s fully committed—daily texts, standing weekend dates, hangs out with your friend—but content to see where the future leads things?
“Real” can mean different things to different people, so going in knowing what you’re looking for in terms of commitment is important. We’ve gathered a list of sites to help find the right “real” for you:
Look at the “Looking For” Answer
Unless you’ve signed up for a site that specifically caters to people who want to settle down, you’ll find that dating sites are a mix of people who know exactly what they want or who are open to a few different options. While the variety and sheer number of daters online is a plus, those “open to (almost) anything” folks are a mixed blessing.
While you can filter out the “hookup only” daters right away, daters that are open to both short term and long term dating can be hard to figure out. Some people really do mean short term. They may want a relationship of a few months or a few years, but don’t have plans to settle down.
Or they may have answered yes to short term dating so they can set boundaries and take the pressure off of forcing the relationship escalator, where there are expected phases for a relationship to level up, leading to marriage.
Give It Time
Once you’ve taken a potential date offline and into the real world, you’ll find that it’s no different than meet-cute dating. The hard truth is that dating is trial and error. Even if someone looks perfect on paper, you could meet in person and find there’s no spark.
The benefit of online dating sites is that the number of people you interact with significantly increases. This means that you can shuffle around all your variables and dealbreakers before you even begin a conversation, let alone meet in person.
Don’t fret if you feel like you’ve looked at every profile on a site thrice over and still haven’t found the love of your life. New people join dating sites every day, so there’s no need to get anxious. Hitting refresh twice an hour won’t find you love any sooner.
The first few days on a dating site can feel like a frenzy of new information to take in, but once you stop treating online dating as if it’s a second job, you’ll come to enjoy the experience of checking in now and then to see what’s changed on the dating landscape.
Trust Your Gut
Someone you meet online may say they want a serious relationship. They may even believe that’s what they’re looking for. But when the chips are down, they may find that they’re not as ready to commit as they thought they were. While it can be a simple case of not clicking, there are plenty of people who just aren’t going to settle down.
Unfortunately, this type of dater can be harder to spot. Things can be going well and on the road to something more serious, but when the time comes to take it to the next level, they may get scared off and jump ship. Keep an ear open as they mention past relationships and how they ended. You might gain some insight into what’s kept them from sealing the deal—and save yourself from investing too much time into something that will eventually dead end.
Likewise, keep an eye out for the type of person who wants to get too serious too quickly. While they may just be enthusiastic, it could be an indicator that they’ve got a level of relationship energy that you might not be able to sustain.
No matter how real a relationship you’re looking for, it’s likely you’re not interested in being smothered and that someone too quick to commit may have some boundary issues that could make a long-term relationship problematic.
You may feel like either of those situations is fixable given time and attention, but it’s not likely. The truth is that you can’t change a person; a person can only change themselves. While having a relationship at all may be the security you’re seeking, save yourself the time and energy of trying to mold yourself into a relationship that isn’t the right one for you.
Finally: It’s Worth the Wait
If finding true love was easy, it would feel much less special. No one should feel like they have to suffer to find true love. Even if you’re seeking your ride or die, enjoy the process and know you’ll have some dates along the way who are great people, just not your soul mate.
Unfortunately, there’s no crystal ball that will give you the precise day and time you’ll fall in love. The mystery is part of the fun. Embrace it. And as the adage goes, good things come to those who wait.