“What are you looking for….?” The expectations when online dating.

When you try something new for the first time, it’s ok to be nervous, wary, keep battling in your mind whether you should or not. There’s no rule book. When I first went online with the intention to meet someone, I didn’t tell any of my friends. What I didn’t want was “words of advice” from well meaning friends who had been there and done that. In my experience, I’ve come to realise that no two stories are the same. Everyone’s journey takes a different path. However, although ready for a new relationship, I wasn’t sure what to expect for a number of reasons. Setting up my online profile, I always knew I’d keep it short, to the point and most of all, honest. It’s easy online to lie about things, your age, the way you look, your job. Everything. I wasn’t tempted to do that, I told my real age and posted current pictures, but how would I know that the person I was talking to would do the same? On the couple of sites I signed upto, it asked your preferences of an age range, distance, even height, body type and whether you’d date someone with children. You even had the chance to choose what level of education you wanted a potential partner to have. Ludicrous to think that using this information, the site would “recommend” people for you to chat to. The only one that made sense was distance. I don’t drive. I needed to find local men. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that by entering your preferences, you could actually exclude the one person you are destined to meet. Should we have set criteria when looking for love?
Another tricky part was the “what are you looking for?” question, designed to find out if you want to just find friendship, fun or marriage material. I never got this one right. At first I put “looking for a serious relationship”, it was an option, I chose it, it was truthful. Hardly any interest at all. Probably scared people off thinking I was a full on type that would suggest walking down the aisle a week after meeting. So I changed it to “casual relationship/dating”, and this option led to a string of men sending me their mobile numbers in the first message!! Errm, no thanks.
I went back to the original idea and started messaging men myself, with a bit more luck. On the next dating site I went to, where I met my other half, I chose the “casual relationship/friendship” option… with the intention of telling any person I spoke to that I was ready to settle down and wanted a relationship but that the whole “what are you looking for” thing didn’t work for me, as I always chose wrong. I wanted to be honest but honest was getting me nowhere. To this day I’m still being teased about my choice…..he’ll learn, bless him. I still tease him about what he wrote in his “blurb”. Somethings though dear readers, will remain private.
After making this blog public, a couple of friends have asked me to expand on the whole online dating part. I can’t say with certainty that my stories have encouraged them to give it a go, but if my words can help, so be it. I’m well aware that my online experience, as a whole, was an enjoyable one, but others don’t have as much luck.
If you’re new to my blog, go back and read the previous ones to give an overview.
So, roll back to April 2015. Single again. Ready to move on. My husband was 3 years older than me, the guy I dated in January was 4 years older than me. Choosing my preferences online was an eye opener. Having met the father of my son at just turned twenty, I can’t say I’d really had chance to make an opinion on who I would and wouldn’t date based on things such as age, height, job etc. So:- Age range. Well, I didn’t want to date anyone younger than myself. Can’t really justify why, but for some reason I didn’t, so I entered my own age as the start point. How much older would I want to date? Again, for no other reason than it being the age of my previous boyfriend, I entered four years older. Straight away that meant the site wouldn’t recommend anyone outside of that age range. It’s only now that I think to myself….. why does it matter? I’ll be 40 next year. No, I don’t think you heard me, I’ll be FORTY next year. Age is just a number right? RIGHT? 40 is the new 30, right? Why do we care about age? Why do people lie about their age? Does it matter? No. Age is maturity, and I’ll take that over childishness any day. I didn’t want younger. I wanted equal or older. I wanted to find someone with similar experiences and outlooks on life as me. I didn’t think I’d find that in a younger guy.

In a very strange online situation when single, this way of thinking proved kind of true. I found myself talking to a guy on Instagram. Now, most of you will know that Instagram is not a dating site, but a photo sharing site. I happened upon a beautiful photo of an owl, my favourite bird. I commented to the photographer how lovely I found the photo and we got chatting. We started talking about other stuff, and both started liking each others photos, esp the selfies we were both fond of posting! Our messages became quite regular and after a while we exchanged numbers as holding a conversation on Instagram was proving complicated. That’s when we really got to know each other. I discovered he was a few years younger than me, and that was fine because we were never going to have a relationship. He was actually quite local, very coincidental, so it became quite apparent we’d eventually meet up. His views on relationships were very different to mine but we had a lot in common. Turns out he was on the same dating site as me but we would never of been matched because I’d disregarded anyone younger than me. Plus, he didn’t want to be tied down in a relationship. He wanted fun days out with good company without the pressure of “when will I see you again” hanging over his head. At the time of meeting him this suited me too, but ultimately I did want just one guy to settle down with. Again though, a good friend had been made. Another wonderful outcome of 2015. He too, has recently started dating someone, one person he does actually see going somewhere. What a difference a year makes, eh?

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When going through the guys I’d been recommended to look at, I noticed at least two who had set up their profile saying they were older, but upon reading their profile it said they weren’t that age, they were in their twenties and just liked older women! Ha! This just baffled me. You get to set your preferences. If I’ve entered 30s-40s, whether you like an older woman or not, I’m not interested in you! Again, if you’ve read my posts, you’ll know that the very first person I spoke to online has become a good friend of mine. He didn’t lie on his profile… (oh ok, he told the tiniest lie.. he made himself a couple of inches taller, a lie he pointed out himself when he brought me a coffee into work), and he fell within my approved preferences. So, well done to the website concerned. Good match. He was 40, had kids, lived locally.

I started online dating at an age where I’d accepted any man I’d meet as a potential love interest would most likely have some “baggage”, purely down to the fact they’d be approaching, or in, their forties. Ex-wife and/or kids. So now we move onto whether we’d date “someone with children”. I have a son. My pride and joy who is with me four evenings a week. It’s very important to me that people know that he comes first. I put down that having kids was essential. In my inexperienced mind back then, I did not think that anyone would accept me or want to date me if I had a child and they didn’t. How would they understand? If they’d reached the age I was looking for and not had kids, they probably didn’t want to be around kids. Right? Is it easier for a guy with children to date a woman without children than for a woman with a child to date a man without? At the time I believed it was. General perception is that the child spends most time with its mother after a split. Thankfully in my case, we do try to split the week as equally as we can. However, I’m sure I’m not wrong in thinking that a guy with no children would see issues dating a woman with children purely down the fact they’d think the children would be around most of the time. I didn’t meet the guy I dated in January online, but the fact that he had kids that he saw regularly endeared him to me even more. After a month or so I started making suggestions that we should meet each others children. His guard went up. It was a bit strange. Like I said, in my mind, I didn’t think I could date someone without children, and that someone who had kids would be more accepting. I did eventually meet his boys, and got on well with them. He never met my son. In three months. Each time I suggested a kick about down the park with the kids, he’d make excuses. It was strange. Then, I dated the musician in May. He, again, fell within my preferred age range, distance etc and he had two kids. They were, however, grown up. 17 and 20. Still, my boy was 11, hardly a toddler! So, he’d been there done that and would be fine meeting my lad. Yet his texts constantly asked “do you have your boy tonight?” and I learnt pretty quickly that the answer “yes” to that question would mean I wouldn’t see him. I’m sorry…. I have a child. He comes first. I wouldn’t palm him off on someone else for an evening because you have issues about meeting him. Ironically, since we’ve split he’s met my son and they get on well… hmmm!
When deciding to write this post, I reached out to friends to hear their experiences of online dating. I’m interested to find out about other people’s situations, good and bad. Even I used the word “baggage” when referring to exes and kids, but they aren’t really baggage. They have helped make us the person we are and whoever we date should accept them as part of us. An old school friend of my sister had a lovely story to tell and a very interesting perspective on the whole “children” side of things. She said:-

“Met my other half in uniform dating, I was a student nurse and wanted someone in the medical profession. He works on emergency ambulances. Chatted for 2 weeks and played the game of questions and answers so got to know each other. I felt chilled as I’d dated this way before, no pressure on where it was going or anything. Met after 2 weeks, in daylight, went back to his and the rest they say is history. He told me he loved me after 5 weeks. Kids played a big part, although he loved me he always said if our girls didn’t get on we couldn’t be together. Very lucky for me that our girls get on like a house on fire. Been together 3.5 years and get married in October. He always said he didn’t want to get married, was with his ex for 20 years and never got married. He changed his mind saying I’m the one!”

So, after the two guys I dated not wanting to meet my son, I had started to think that meeting a man who would accept that I’m a parent would be tricky, even if they themselves were parents. The story above proves that guys are most certainly not scared off by a woman with children. This wonderful man put his daughter first too. Imagine if the guy I dated in January and I had stayed together, fell madly in love and then our boys eventually meet and hate each other? I couldn’t stay with him. We would’ve wasted our time and had our hearts broken. I often thought I’d pushed him away with my constant suggestions at getting the kids together, but I know in my heart, like the guy in the true life story above, it wouldn’t work if our kids hated each other. Going into the relationship with the musician was a little different due to his kids being older and living away, but it was still important to me for him to meet my son. The longer he put it off, the more difficult it would become. Feelings develop over time, and if my son really didn’t like him when they met, it would affect my outlook on the relationship. I have also been told of a relationship where a childless woman is dating a guy with a kid and she’s been known to say she doesn’t want kids of her own and that she’ll “tolerate” his. Personally, they’d be out the door if those words were said to me.
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One thing that was essential for me and the only thing I believed in putting a measure on was distance. I knew I wanted to be with a man I’d actually see. The guy I dated in January lived within walking distance to me. Personally, a long distance relationship wouldn’t work for me, especially as I’d always have to rely on the guy coming to me due to my not driving. However, a friend of mine in Barnsley got talking to a guy online in Derby. She also can’t drive but the online connection was so strong they made it work and a year on he now lives with her in Barnsley.

The one part of the online preferences I really did struggle with was the physical preference, how someone actually looked. Height wasn’t and isn’t an issue to me. I’m only short, I’m unlikely to find someone much shorter than me. So I entered my own height as a start point and 6ft 4″ as the tallest….. the musician was 6ft 2″. We looked funny! Body type…interesting one… the options ranged from average, to athletic, to a few extra pounds. Anyone who says looks don’t matter are not being entirely truthful, I believe. You have to find someone slightly attractive to want to talk to them and find out more. It’s true that looks aren’t everything but they do play a factor. I’m not a shallow person. I didn’t think I had a “type” but I was being asked to make a choice. I chose “average”. What if the man of my dreams had listed himself as “a few extra pounds”? I would never know. It even wanted me to choose preferred eye and hair colour. Thankfully, I think those options could be left as “any”. Like I said, I didn’t have a type. Or so I thought at the time. I have a type. I very definitely have a type!
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Thankfully, the dating site where I met my current boyfriend did not have such set criteria for entering preferences. Had it had the same questions, I would not of met the wonderfulness that is my other half. He’s older than I set my preferences for, he’s around an inch shorter than me, his frame is tiny, far from average, and, he has no kids. After meeting my son for the first time just before Christmas, they have become friends and get on really well. When we first started seeing each other he made a comment that it must be difficult for me to date with a child. Difficult, I agreed, but not impossible.
Due to the fact I work 9-5.30, he works shifts, he’s not originally from this city so doesn’t have a huge community of friends here, we would probably never of met or crossed paths in day to day life.
If I had used the same criteria the first dating site forced me to use, we would not of been matched.
My words of wisdom…?
Keep an open mind.
Age is just a number.
For me, there’s got to be an initial physical attraction and that only grows the more you get on, and can quickly disperse if you have no other common ground.
The right person will accept you for who you are.
Be honest, be yourself and there’s no need to compromise.
Online dating gives you guidelines to help you find a match.. but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to go a little outside those lines 😉

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