Online Dating - The 3 Key Rules

Want to keep things safe and fun when looking for The One? Follow these simple strategies to do just that.

by Rachel Greenwald

t’s no surprise that single parents are turning to online dating in droves: When you don’t have much time and energy left over for dating after working and parenting, the Internet is an efficient and effective way to look for a partner. But as great as online services can be, there are unique issues that arise when you have children. Try these tips to navigate the Internet dating waters.

Talk about kids in your profile, but don’t let them dominate
Definitely mention your kids in your profile. This is the place to describe who you are, what you like, and what you’re looking for, and of course, if you’re a single parent, your children are an integral part of all of that. But keep it brief about the kids: perhaps only two or three sentences. Examples might include “I love reading books to my 4-year daughter before bedtime. Our favorite is The Diggingest Dog.” or “My 12-year old son and I enjoy camping in the summers, especially at Yellowstone.” The trick is to bring kids in subtly, but not have your whole profile be about them. Keep the focus on you. After all, you are the one dating, not your children.

Scope out a potential date’s parenting style
Compatible parenting style is important, and you can look for clues early on in someone’s profile and in email exchanges. If he speaks of traveling, does he mention taking the kids with him or leaving them with a nanny or relative? If she works full-time, does she mention getting home early enough to read a bedtime story to her son? Paying attention to casual comments like these will provide hints about whether a fellow single parent is “hands-on” or “hands-off” and how central the children are to his or her life. However, parenting style is complex, and something that is best left to in-person conversation. So don’t rule out someone online based on limited comments or clues about parenting.

Remember to move beyond kid-talk
If you’ve made a connection with another single parent online and you start to exchange email, it’s easy to find common ground by bantering about your kids: “So, your son is four? My daughter is three, and obsessed with Dora The Explorer. If your son is a Dora fan too, maybe you can finally tell me what a ‘Swiper’ is??” But remember, your goal is to get to know this person better. You need to be efficient online and make sure you steer the conversation toward getting to know someone’s personality and interests, not just the details about their kids. You don’t want to waste your time with the wrong person. I’ve coached single parents whose emails were dominated by talk about the kids, and when they finally met in person, they realized they knew little about each other and had nothing in common beyond their children.

When you do make a true connection, anything can happen. I just attended a wedding last summer of two single parents who met online. Her son was the ring-bearer, his daughter was the flower girl, and the happy couple make a perfect match. There is definitely love to be found online!

Rachel Greenwald is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. She is also a dating coach and matchmaker. She is a frequent guest on “The Today Show” and has been featured in dozens of magazines from Oprah to People.
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