Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I'm a woman in my mid-40s, divorced and ready to date again. I feel completely lost about how to go about it. There's no way I would date someone at work; we are a small, close-knit office, and there really isn't anyone I'd be interested in anyway. I've thought about the ways people often meet their partners and they don't really apply to me. For example, people say they meet people at the gym, but I like to go for solo walks. Others are introduced at church; I'm not religious.
A girlfriend convinced me to try online dating and set up a profile for me on Tinder, and when I've been brave enough to swipe and have matched with someone, they instantly just started talking about sex. One guy begged me to let him text me naked pics of himself. I was mortified; I hadn't even talked to this guy on the phone and he was already going there!
I don't know what to do. But I do know I need to do something because I'm not getting any younger and it's been well over a year since my divorce was finalized. The last time I was single, I was practically a teenager.
Here are a few universal truths about dating that haven't changed since your teenage years: it's confusing, it's time-consuming, it's sometimes painful, but it's worth it when you find someone who makes you happy.
Now, here are some things that have changed since you last tried dating: people communicate faster, things move super fast and thanks to the shields offered by today's technology, people often move fast, too. The good part there is it's usually pretty easy to figure out who's trolling for a hook-up and who's sincerely hoping to hook a long-term partner. The bad news is you may have to deal with some creepers. Especially on Tinder.
Overall, online dating is not a bad way to go, but you need to understand its parameters, and yours. Many adults engage in online interactions seemingly for the accompanying flirtation or ego boost, not necessarily for a long-term outcome. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that one-third of people with online dating profiles have never actually gone on a date with someone they met online. But, on the bright side, Pew found 5 percent of Americans in long-term relationships or marriages met online, and other sources put that figure much higher, especially for newer relationships.
The key to finding online dating success is this: your return will depend on what you invest, from both a time and money standpoint. Considering you get what you pay for, investigate pay-to-play sites like Match to find more serious suitors. And make time for your online conversations and interactions. Online dating may use metrics and analytics to expose you to people that appear to be your type, but finding that special someone isn't something you can fast-track.
Here's the secret to dating: no one has it figured out! You can spend every spare second immersed in online dating … and then you'll randomly meet someone cool in line at a coffee house. You can exhaust every co-worker, gym hottie, and friend of a friend dating option … and then totally be surprised that someone on the periphery of your professional or social circle has a crush on you. It's unpredictable, which makes it so fantastic and so frustrating.
Like most great successes in life, finding a special someone often takes lots of work, good timing, and a little luck. But only one of those factors are under your control, so the sooner you accept that the easier the process will be emotionally.
You can force the issue, but you'll probably end up frustrated. You can wait for something to amazing happen, but you'll probably end up lonely. You can accept easy possibilities, but you'll probably end up disappointed.
Try, but not too hard. Focus, but don't lose sight of other prospects. Get out of your comfort zone, but always be yourself.
Really, there are no easy answers. The best you can do is the best you can do. So enjoy the life you have, keep putting yourself out there, have a smile on your face as often as possible and stay open to opportunities. Remaining positive might not tilt the odds in your favor, but it will help you stay sane through the ups and downs until you do find someone.
Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.