Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Do YOU Think of Free Online Dating Sites?

When I was dating online a few years ago, there were only 1 or 2 free sites available. Nowadays, there are plenty more, with new ones popping up quite often. You've probably heard of Plenty of Fish (POF)--one of the fastest-growing free sites. And you may know about OKCupid.com and Supertova.com (for Jewish people). Many of my clients have tried POF, with mixed results. Most of the women who come to me for coaching have a story to tell about POF, and many are not good.

What I'm hearing is that the quality of the men on the site isn't that great and the incidence of scamming is increasing. And I tend to wonder whether that's because "you get what you pay for." If something is free, anyone and everyone will try it out, so--by the law of averages--the site is bound to attract more than its share of less-desirable people too.

So what do you think? Is there any difference between the type of people likely to join a free site vs. the ones who are willing to pay an average of $30/month to join a site? I'd love to hear back from you if you've tried 1 or more free sites and 2 or more paid sites, so you have a good basis of comparison. What have you noticed about the selection of prospects, the rate of replies you get back, and the number of actual meetings you set up when you compare free and paid sites side by side?

And then there's the issue of married people frequenting dating sites. Do you think the free sites are more likely to have more married people on them than the paid sites because there's no chance that a spouse will just happen to see a credit card statement with a fee for an online dating site on it and catch them in the act? Again, I'd love to hear your opinion.

To be fair, I should say that I hear complaints about lesser-quality and married people as well as scammers in reference to more than just a few online dating sites out there today, not just the free ones. Unfortunately, these problems are widespread and hard to police and control.

Drop me a note. Tell me your story. Let me know what your experience has been. In general, I don't recommend free sites to my clients because most of them are seeking long-term relationships, not just casual dating. And I tend to believe that a person who pays a monthly fee to become a member of a site is more serious about finding someone for an actual phone call, date, and relationship (rather than just some e-mail flirting, texting, and/or IM'ing) than someone who pays nothing.

In my opinion, it's more tempting, convenient, and effortless for people--married or unmarried--to dabble casually in checking out photos and contacting members of the opposite sex online if they don't have to pay. And, as a result, a large percentage of these folks have no intention of going any further...or of putting forth the effort to pick up the phone or to set up and show up for a meeting.

I'm anxious to hear your thoughts...and those of your single friends. Post a comment if you're so inclined. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


In the middle of my morning swim last week, I had a brainstorm: why am I only focusing on single people with the dating tips I offer? Long-term committed couples and even those who are married need to continue dating too...that is, if they want their relationships to be long and happy. So today I want to talk to both single AND married men and women because I'm sure everyone can relate to this.

When people are first dating, they usually do a lot of fun things together. Both people come up with creative ideas for enjoying each other’s company, sharing adventures, and learning new things about each other. But it’s rare that singles continue that more than 6 months or so. And it's even rarer for those in a long-term relationship (LTR) or a marriage to do it much at all because there are often baby-sitters to hire, other priorities, or 101 reasons they lack the energy or motivation to make time for themselves as a couple (except maybe on anniversaries or Valentine’s Day).

It's easy for today's couples to let weeks go by without spending any quality time together. The good news: it’s never too late to reignite the anticipation and excitement couples had when they first met. In fact, I believe you can keep the romance and connection alive and make your relationship feel as fresh as it did when you were first dating. And the best way to do that is (at the risk of stating the obvious): CONTINUE “DATING”!

You’ve probably heard a million times that you don’t have to stop dating just because you’re committed. The happiest couples in the longest marriages say that’s their secret—they continue to carve out time for just the two of them on a regular basis. And, as a result, they’re still discovering new things about each other, which keeps their relationship vital and exciting. Many of us make this promise to ourselves over and over…and then forget about it. Well, NOW is the time to stop promising and start delivering! And I’ve got a fun suggestion for how to begin. Do what my husband Jim and I do: START GOING ON “MYSTERY DATES”!

A few years ago, a married friend told me she and her husband were doing this once a month. They’d take turns planning a surprise date for their spouse—something they knew he or she would love. It was an evening or weekend afternoon (or even a weekend getaway) JUST for him or her. The giver didn’t necessarily have to like the date idea—it was all about the other person. So I planned a Mystery Date for Jim in January. Because he loves pinball, I found a “Pinball Parlor” with dozens of old pinball machines in a nearby suburb, asked him to be ready to go at 6:45 on a Friday night and to dress casually, and drove him to the location.

About a mile before our destination, he figured out where we were going. But it didn’t matter—one of the coolest things about this is trying to guess (or laughing about the guesses the other person makes!) I can’t tell you how much fun it was for me planning the date, anticipating his reaction, and enjoying how pleased he was when we pulled up in front of the place! And it turns out he’d never been there but had always wanted to try it. So I felt doubly pleased.

Plus—as a bonus I didn’t expect—even though I’ve never been a big fan of pinball, I discovered that night how much I like it. So Jim and I now have a new hobby we can share! I highly recommend trying the Mystery Date idea in your relationship. It injects a lot of extra fun for very little effort. And it could pay off in creating an interesting new pastime you could enjoy together from now on.

Side note: If your partner is more of a homebody (like mine is) and doesn’t like to go out much, he and you could plan surprise dates at home. Some ideas we’ve tried:
- A picnic on the living room floor
- “Mutual Massage Night”
- Sitting out on the patio with a fire in the chimnea, a glass of wine, and our favorite music playing

It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It just has to be something you each plan as a surprise for the other during a time you’ve set aside exclusively for the two of you. It helps to ask for the date at least a week in advance so you can both enjoy anticipating and looking forward to your special time together. I know, for me, that’s at least half the fun of Mystery Dates!

Another side note: Prior to this, Jim never felt comfortable planning dates, not even when we were first dating. He’s more of a spontaneous person not used to putting things on his calendar days or weeks in advance. But now, after doing this for a couple months, he tells me he has lots of ideas for the next date he’ll take me on (which is music to my ears after five years of urging him to suggest some outings). I think the commitment we made to do this for each other in a particular time frame—with each person planning something just 6 times a year—has made it easier for him AND injected an element of intrigue that he likes.

Whatever the reason, I’m having a GREAT time choosing (and being treated to) Mystery Dates, and I think you will too!
P.S. If you have trouble getting the process started, let me know. I’m happy to brainstorm with and cheer-lead you as you get back into dating!