Sex and the Suburbs

Great Expectations: How to manage yours (and hers) online

It happens to all of us.

We join a dating site with high hopes. We’ve heard about so many people finding someone great online. We even have friends that have girlfriends or boyfriends they’ve met that way. It seems to be happening all around us…but not to us. We’ve sworn off it before, but now it’s time. We’ve had enough. So we join.

The first time looking at all the new faces, it feels like opportunity abounds. This is it. It’s going to happen this time. So, we send out a bunch of emails with high hopes. Some we’re really, super interested in, some sort-of interested in. Either way, we want to meet someone.

We wait.

After a day or so, some responses start to come in. To me, it feels like the girls I really want to hear back from, the ones I’m super interested in, don’t answer right away. I start to make allowances, excuses then I think, “Shouldn’t that be my barometer, my acid test…‘super interested?’” I mean, every time I’ve met someone in person that I’ve ended up having a relationship with, I felt that magic, the spark of chemistry, a sense of wow! Shouldn’t I feel the same online?

Then it happens. The girl I saw online and though, “If we ever meet, we’re going to fall in love” (you know exactly what I’m talking about), she answers. She sends an email, it’s short but she’s interested. I mean she answered, right?

If a girl answers your email, she’s definitely interested. She’s like a fish with a hook in her mouth. It could be in a little, or in deep, but if she responds, trust me it’s in there. It’s up to you to reel her in.

Things progress. After a couple of flirty emails you talk on the phone, twenty minutes in, you ask her out, you set a date. That’s when it starts. This is it, she’s “The One.” This is the girl that’s finally going to change your life forever!

Great expectations. You can’t help it.

As the day of your date comes closer, your excitement builds. You work out, get a tan, make sure your favorite shirt is clean. After all, you’re about to go out on your last, first date, right?

Whoa, big fella! Slow down. Time out.

I tell all of my clients that date online, (which is ALL of them) and I tell myself, take a deep breath and make a realistic assessment about where you are and the possibilities ahead. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be hopeful, you have to have hope. But online dating is made to create unrealistic expectations and you have to learn to manage yours.

Think about it. Every dating web site asks you (in one way or another) to describe your “perfect mate.” Seriously? Think for a moment about the girlfriends you’ve had in your life. Were any of them “your perfect mate?”

For me the answer is no way. Was I incredibly attracted to them (at first) and did we start our relationship with non-stop passion and did we both swear it was never going to end? Of course. But you have to understand that online dating puts the cart before the horse. It’s basically backwards dating.

I’ll give you an example from my own life that perfectly elicits this.

Right after I got divorced, I joined a popular online dating site, met a girl I thought was hot, we talked on the phone and agreed to meet. I was excited to go out, to meet someone, maybe get laid. As I got dressed and was grabbing my car keys, my phone rang. It was her. There was a problem. She didn’t know if we should meet.

My heart sank.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “I was re-reading your profile, and it doesn’t say you want to get married”.


Are you kidding me? I hadn’t even met this girl and she was already thinking about marrying me. At the time, I was new to online dating and didn’t know almost everyone online actually looks this far down the line.

The more experiences I had online, I learned. I started having the same crazy expectations myself. That’s when I realized it wasn’t my fault, it was the process that creates these impossible expectations. I was sure everyone felt the same and when I started coaching, my clients all confirmed it. They were embarrassed to admit it.

So, the first thing I teach all my clients is to learn to manage their expectations online. Understand the process is backwards and to take things slowly. If things work out for you and someone you meet online, great. If they don’t, just move on the next with high hopes but realistic expectations.

Did I end up meeting this girl? Yes. Was it a “love match?” No. We had a drink, chatted for about 45 minutes and went our separate ways. No harm, no foul. Just a date. I moved on, cautiously optimistic.