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By: Jane Milardo, LMFT

Online DateComputersShould you or shouldn’t you date people you meet online? That’s a question many widowed people are asking themselves today, since we have more options for dating than ever before. The answer to that question depends on a number of factors which you should consider before making your decision.

First of all, online dating is not only socially acceptable today, regardless of your age, but it is also the norm for many people when it comes to dating. So don’t be afraid to try it.

What do you want?

But first you must consider what you’re looking for in a relationship. Would you just like a friend to go out with, or do you want a more serious relationship? Would you consider remarrying at some point, or do you just want to keep it casual? Do you value good looks, financial security, shared interests or activities? Is it important to you whether the person smokes or drinks? Does it matter to you whether the person has also been married, whether they have children, and the age of the children? How about pets? How far are you willing to travel? Do you want to find someone soon, or are you willing to wait awhile to find the right one? How much are you willing to spend on a dating website?

If you are looking for a potentially serious relationship, I recommend you make two lists; the first is all the qualities that you really want and must have in a partner, and the second is all the things you absolutely can’t tolerate in a partner. Then, as you meet people, compare them to your lists, and eliminate the ones with characteristics you can’t tolerate. Why should you compromise, especially after having lost a spouse? You are more likely to find the person you want if you refuse to settle for anything less.

Which site is best for you?

Once you have determined what kind of person you are looking for online, it’s time to begin comparing dating websites. You will find that there are literally dozens of them out there, and it may take some time to choose.

Some ask you for little information about you, are inexpensive, and promise lots of dates. Keep in mind, you get what you pay for. The less expensive provide less assistance.

Other sites are more expensive, and have lengthy surveys to fill out about yourself, but they may be better at eliminating the kinds of people you don’t want to meet, and showing you only the ones that meet your “must have” criteria. These sites may take longer, but can find a compatible partner that you would be unlikely to meet the traditional way.

There are many kinds of dating sites. There are those for people looking for casual dates, and for those who want a lifetime partner. There are sites for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) communities, and some that cater to specific ethnic and/or religious groups, or specific types of people. Look carefully at a number of sites before making your decision. Don’t just go for the first one you find.

There are also matchmakers online whose profession it is to find you a truly compatible mate. A matchmaker is likely to be more expensive than most dating sites, but may be worth it in the end.

So you see, it’s important to decide the type of person you’re looking for, and the best type of dating site to find them, prior to beginning your search.

Many people wonder which is better: dating online, or the traditional way? I don’t think either is better, it depends on many factors. For example, if you choose to do it the traditional way and look for someone by going out to clubs, restaurants, social gatherings, or being introduced, keep in mind that it’s not necessarily as reliable as it seems. It’s always important to meet face-to face and get to know someone a little before deciding whether or not to date them.

Some things to consider

Regardless of how you find someone, be conscious of safety. It’s wise to ask lots of questions in an effort to find out what they’re really like. If you’re considering dating them, you have every right to ask. These days, some people do background checks on a potential mate. This may seem like an extreme measure, but if you are considering a serious relationship, why not? Better to find out something you wouldn’t want to know now, rather than years from now. Today we have the technology to do this.

If you meet in a social situation, notice whether the person is respectful of others and interested in learning about you, or just talking about themselves. Often in a relationship, what you see is what you get. So believe what you see and hear the FIRST time you see and hear it. Don’t second-guess your intuition. If you have a bad feeling about someone, trust it. Move on to someone else. There truly are many fish in the sea.

If you are looking for chemistry, you may prefer dating sites that show pictures of the person you’re considering. But keep in mind that chemistry can be very misleading. Good looks can be seen immediately, but character, values, honesty, and integrity cannot. People can be deceptive online, but they can also do so in person.

Everyone is on their best behavior when you first meet them, but you have no way of knowing whether they are really the person they present themselves to be. I recommend that people take all the time they need to get to know one another before getting romantically involved. Some people who are also looking for chemistry might be in a hurry to meet you, and ask for personal information right away. Don’t post identifying information about yourself, such as full name, address, or telephone number on your profile. It’s best to talk to someone online for a while before deciding whether to give them your phone number. After speaking with them on the phone several times, you can decide whether or not to meet them in person. Remember, you are under no obligation to do so if you aren’t comfortable with the way things are going. Just say you think it won’t work out, and move on. Be polite, but clear. Ask questions about what they are looking for in a partner, and about their values, beliefs, and relationship history.

If you have decided to give online dating a try, consider the advice of Carol Vara, MSW, Dating Coach. She suggests that in creating an online profile, “Keep it light and simple, but your picture must be illuminating and pop, and most importantly, profiles must stand out with outstanding phrases. Finding success in casual dating and/or a life mate requires daily intentions for positive results.”

I won’t list or recommend specific dating sites, since the one you choose depends on your own preferences. But I will say that if you are looking for a serious, long-term relationship, choose a site that has a comprehensive questionnaire about you, getting as much information as possible about your wants, needs, lifestyle, interests, likes and dislikes. The sites that get more information about what you are looking for in a partner are more likely to find you someone truly compatible. Sites that only want to know, for example, your zodiac sign, favorite color, or ideal vacation are unlikely to find you a compatible person.

One of the greatest advantages of a really comprehensive online dating service (or matchmaker) is that you don’t waste time meeting dozens of people you have absolutely nothing in common with. By patiently using a quality site, you can eliminate most of the guesswork.

Another advantage of a quality online dating site is that you meet really compatible people you never would have met by chance. A quality online site finds only the best people for you, and eliminates the rest. In this busy, hectic world, who has the time to waste meeting the wrong people by chance?

So if you feel that you are ready to begin dating again, you can increase your options if you try online dating. Many people have done it quite successfully, and so can you. Good luck!

If you have more specific questions about online dating, email them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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