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Online dating: It works if you work it

Take advantage of opportunities and don't be intimidated

John Huthmacher Staff Reporter

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I'm not saying it's 100 percent, but I know all of the dating sites out there really try to focus on matching singles so that they are paired properly with somebody they like. Anybody who wants to connect with another human being in a romantic way, online dating can be good for anybody.
- Carmelia Ray, online dating expert

Navigating the jungles of the online dating scene can be a harrowing experience, especially for those looking for true love.

From singles looking for one-night-stands to users who lure in dates through "catfishing" (using another's photo for their profile picture) and misleading profile information, landing a prize catch can seem elusive and downright impossible at times.

Yet, statistics bear out that for those who persist, opportunities abound. More than 1 in 3 couples in the United States met online in 2019, according to datingsitesreviews.com. The eHarmony dating site reports 20% of current committed relationships began online. And with 49.7 million Americans having tried online dating at some point (per datingsitesreviews), there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the prospects.

Carmelia Ray, celebrity matchmaker and online dating expert, says online dating is the "fastest and safest way" for couples to meet. By utilizing information collected from users, most online sites create a list of matches for their clients based on a series of questions used to create algorithms that highlight how many things they may have in common.

"You can search people according to certain filters and compatibility," said Ray, who was recently voted Best Dating Coach of 2020 by iDate Awards. "I'm not saying it's 100%, but I know all of the dating sites out there really try to focus on matching singles so that they are paired properly with somebody they like. Anybody who wants to connect with another human being in a romantic way, online dating can be good for anybody."

In fact, successful encounters are far more likely to unfold for those who invest time and effort into them. A sincere and well-written profile can be the difference between meeting or missing the person of one's dreams, Ray said.

"The most important thing is to make sure that your profile is an attractive profile that's the best and most honest representation of who you are," she said. "Diversify your online portfolio. If you really want a positive outcome, try all kinds of things."

Perseverance Can Pay Off

For Kevin Butler, online dating apps proved the perfect tool for finding his future bride. It took about 100 dates, most of them amicable, but once he found her, his fate was sealed forever. They have now been married for almost a year.

"For my generation, it's very hard to go out and meet somebody in public besides bars," the 27-year-old farmer-rancher said. "And bars are kind of a no-go for dating. It's a 50/50 chance, so you've got to gamble pretty much."

You never know where the path leads

What began as a quest for friendship turned into a happy-ever-after encounter for Sandra Bales, 53. A divorced mother of three, she turned to online dating as an opportunity to meet like-minded men for friendship. That pursuit led to a fateful long-distance encounter with a man to whom she is now engaged and plans to marry in October.

"I'm a homebody and didn't want to go to bars to find people to be friends with," the airport transportation security officer said. "I wanted to find people with common interests so we could go enjoy days off and a little time before or after work. I want to make some real connections with people so I wouldn't have to do everything alone.

"I liked the fact that you could go through and read everything ahead of time. I felt good about this relationship before I even started talking to him. I felt like our goals were the same."

The Advantage of Getting More Information

Because they live in different states, it took Bales and her fiance two months before they were finally able to meet face to face. Bales said she thinks that's probably why she felt comfortable saying yes when he proposed to her following a week-long whirlwind visit that included screenings by several family members, friends, and even her minister.

"That was a definite advantage," she said of their pre-dating experience. "It's better to learn somebody from the inside out than to become physically intimate right away. Once you become intimate, it changes the game, and if it's right away, that's not always for the best.

"We spent many hours talking and getting to know each other and that made our relationship stronger once we did get intimate physically. It turned out to be a lot more than I expected. I wouldn't change a thing about what has happened."

When to Go All-In With a Relationship

For those still on the fence about whether to try online dating, Bales said that while caution is advisable, users must be willing to take chances to reap the rewards of a successful relationship.

"Make sure you're following the guidelines of the app and the precautions they put in place, but not too cautious," she said. "You've got to put yourself out there so that people will be interested in you."

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Online dating: It works if you work it