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Dating Advice #70 - Off-Line Maneuvers

May 9, 2009 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

Online, the light is green. But making the transition to the real world has been a dismal failure.

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm a SJM. I have used several online dating services and have encountered the same situation every time. I fairly easily meet women that live in my area. We can spend time trading e-mail messages and talking on the phone to get to know each other. But then, when I think the woman is comfortable with me, I ask if she would be interested in meeting. At this point, everything changes and before we even have a chance to meet she decides that she is no longer interested in me.

I wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Or have I just experienced some unfortunate coincidences? Or maybe most of the women using online dating services are not really serious about meeting someone?

I understand that women have valid reasons to be cautious, and there is good reason to be concerned about safety when meeting someone for the first time. That's why I wait until I think the woman is comfortable with me. I guess I have assumed that if someone gives me their personal e-mail address and phone number, these are signs that they are beginning to trust me.

I just started using SpeedDating, and it happened again! I connected with a woman who I seemed to have a great deal in common with. Because of my previous experiences, I didn't want to scare her away, so I was very careful about not suggesting that we meet as quickly as I had done in the past. A few days went by without me hearing from her, and then I received an e-mail saying that she'd recently started dating someone, and wished me good luck.

Every experience I've had meeting women online has ended the same. I'm ready to give up trying to meet women this way. Can you offer any advice?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm a SJW. Lately, I have been baffled by the disappearing act that so many men have played, especially when it comes to Internet dating. Often, the guy will initiate a conversation, and after two or three innocent e-mail exchanges, they just vanish, never to be heard from again. I have also had simple, quick phone conversations or little games of phone tag from guys who had contacted me, and then nothing. I am confused how these guys can determine in 15 minutes that they have not met the woman of their dreams and there is no reason to meet face-to-face, let alone continue any further conversations.

I find that with Internet dating, men and women describe their "ideal date," and if you don't fill each and every aspect of that ideal, you're history. I had a conversation with a guy who agreed with me, that 15 minutes is not enough time to get to know someone, and he even experienced the same thing and was ready to quit. And then – poof! After our first coffee outing, he was gone. The date was fine, just innocent conversation. We even made specific plans for a second date, but he never called back to confirm and I haven't heard from him since.

I am ready to give up on the concept of meeting someone through the Internet and am at my wits end on how to meet a "normal, decent guy." I have already given up on the bar scene years ago, and between work and home responsibilities, I thought this would have been the ideal way to meet some nice guys. Please help before I totally give up on ever finding Mr. Right!


We've been receiving a lot of similar questions lately. It seems that this problem is widespread, on both sides of the fence.

While some of your efforts at dating through the Internet may have failed purely by coincidence, in all likelihood you may be making some mistakes. We suggest that you ask a trusted friend, perhaps someone of the opposite gender, to look at your last few e-mail exchanges with potential dates. They may be able to point out a pattern you have not recognized before.

It's possible that once you get comfortable with someone, you unwittingly say things that he/she might find inappropriate or offensive. If this is so, you'll be able to adjust your style of writing to meet with more success.

One thing to remember is that people are super-cautious in online forums. So anything you do which could be somehow misconstrued as being "wacko," will probably be blown out of proportion and ruin your chances before they even start.

The first letter printed above is an example of this. You sound like a great guy, but your e-mail address "seaducer" has got to go. You're much better off with a name that reflects your true character, or is humorous or creative, rather than one that gives such a scary impression.

Another factor is that the anonymity of the Internet gives people a reduced feeling of attachment, and they may take more lightly the idea of following through on commitments. We see this as a negative trend in society in general. As your letters indicate, people are getting hurt by this, and it is essential for anyone who tries online dating to follow a few simple rules of etiquette:

  1. Reply to all e-mail inquiries you receive, even if it's to say: "Thanks for your message, but I'm not interested."

  2. After a few exchanges of e-mails and a chance to check out references, schedule a meeting at a coffee house, cafe or similar public location.

  3. Once you schedule a face-to-face meeting, be willing to invest a good 60 minutes, no matter how awful a time you may be having. Anything less than that will likely be perceived as an insult. (However, if your "radar" makes you feel that there is something potentially dangerous or extremely "off" about the person, be prepared to leave graciously at the end of the hour.)

  4. If you're unsure whether you want to go out a second time (or if you know that you don't want to, but are too uncomfortable saying so), just say, "I'll be in touch in the next few days." Then if you decide not to go forward, just send an e-mail saying: "I enjoyed meeting you a few days ago. But I don't think this is a match. Best of luck to you."

Remember, the purpose of online dating is to break the ice and see if you'd like to get to know each other better. Be forthcoming about your goals in dating. That way your emotional investment will be small to start, and any disappointment (which seems to be heightened in the online world) will be less.

For more suggestions, see our article, "Maximizing Dot-Com Dating," online at:

Wishing you lots of success,

Rosie & Sherry

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