The Seven Must-Asks of Online Dating
These days, there are hundreds of dating websites and apps available for those seeking a partner. This array of opportunities certainly makes it easier for someone to find love, companionship, and fun. So why are there still so many who express having trouble finding “the one”? Knowing what to look for is easy for some, who have a list a mile long of what they would like in a significant other, while for others it may be harder to narrow down what is really important.
Because of this, many dating platforms offer suggestions on what to tell others about yourself, including smoker status, religion, and baggage (such as children or divorces). These yes-or-no criteria can become a barrier, however, rather than an aid, when you are looking for someone to spend your life with. The convenience of the digital age has clear benefits, but there are still areas that only a personal and intimate conversation can help with. There are seven questions in particular that are vital to navigating through databases of digital questionnaires.
So, which questions are most important to ask early in the game? To begin with, you need to know what you truly want. What are your goals, dreams, and ambitions? What makes you feel relaxed, happy, excited, alive, and involved? An understanding of who you are as an individual is important before trying to find someone you fit with.
Try evolving these questions into something a little different: what kind of person do you need, to help you achieve your goals, enjoy your pastimes, and feel even more engaged in life? What kind of person do you want to share your life’s most beautiful moments with? Maybe it will be another reader, another hiker, someone in the same career field, or maybe it just needs to be someone with an open mind and heart, who will love you wherever you go in life. It’s important to acknowledge that yes, you are looking for a lifetime companion, but in the end, you will always live with yourself first and foremost.
With this overarching concept in mind, it is time to get specific. One of the single most important questions you can ask someone is this: Is it okay to be with someone with different life goals? Ideally, you will share many of your favorite things with a partner, but equally important is someone who can give you time to enjoy your interests alone, and who is willing to take time for themselves. You two should help each other realize what you love about life, but there will be times when you might not agree, or will want to embark on a solo adventure. Make sure your special someone is as willing to explore different paths for a while as they are to travel by your side.
The second question is admittedly one that’s often included on dating website bios: Do you have or want to have children? The important difference here is in not ending the conversation with a simple yes or no. Talk about the why’s and how’s. What do they love about children? Would your potential sweetheart want to adopt or have biological children? Is waiting an option or is it a vital life goal? What if something goes wrong? These questions doesn’t need to all be answered in the first five minutes, of course. The critical thing is that when the topic does come up naturally, you both come away from it knowing more about whether or not you could be compatible as parents (or non-parents). Compromise is not an easy thing in this area, so it’s important to understand parenting needs early on.
Another important way to connect with someone in a real-life, personal way, despite the digital barrier, is by getting humorous. Laughter is a great way to bond, and sharing things that make you smile is sure to help you learn more about someone, while giving them an idea of what you’re all about. This can be as simple as asking what the absolute worst joke your prospective partner’s ever heard is, or sharing a funny story you read. You could try sharing a link to your favorite satirical website, or showing your companion a comic that made you smile. Ask them what they like to do when they need to unwind. Is there a cartoon or sitcom you could sync up and watch together?
Sharing joy is a little more involved than just asking what type of humor someone likes. Get personal, open up, and see what you can enjoy together. Laughter is an important part of life, and always best shared. As a bonus, when you leave behind the corny pick-up lines and share things you genuinely love, that passion shows, and smiling is a scientifically proven way to encourage affection.
A fourth topic to cover is one that many new couples, or couples-to-be, shy away from: politics. The key is that this does not need to be covered by potentially disastrous debates. Leave behind the questions that are so often veiled challenges, such as opinions on specific politicians, or hot topics in the media. Instead of charging right in with tricky topics like immigration, same-sex marriage, or the wage gap, try an open-ended question.
Invite your conversation partner to share what they are passionate about. Ask what they hope the next president can change, or if there’s anything they really dislike about the current government. Be sure to share your thoughts too. Try to find the balance between taking over the conversation, or staying too quiet, as this can make them feel vulnerable. Knowing whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican is often enough for someone to make a judgment call; try instead to remain open-minded and learn about what they believe in on individual fronts. Let them know what you care about too. This can save arguments in the future, and help you both to feel safe in continuing towards that future together.
On a less hairy subject, a fifth concept that’s often overlooked altogether by conventional dating platforms, or perhaps simply played down, is upbringing. Many sites offer questions on how someone might plan to bring up their own children, but it is less common to delve into how that person was raised. This doesn’t have to mean asking Freudian questions about their parents. It can be as simple as asking if there are any siblings, and sharing your own family history. Does your crush stay in contact with their parents? Did they enjoy school? What did they want to grow up to be as a child?
This can be a wonderful bonding experience of sharing childhood games in common, and happy memories. In contrast, it can also be important to know if there is anything about their childhood that is still causing a negative impact. If this is the case, be sure to show support, and consider together if there is anything that could cause trouble for the two of you in the future, such as: wanting children or not, wanting intimacy or not, or having certain fears or special needs. It is important here to emphasize give-and-take. Sharing someone’s life story can feel awkward, so try to be receptive, and share your own thoughts in turn. Sharing things like phobias which you may be self-conscious can be a great way to show someone that you feel safe with them.
Background like this can bring the conversation to another important topic. The timing for this one can be a little tricky, but it is vital: Are there any health concerns you are currently living with that might come into play in a romantic relationship? Likewise, you will want to know if this is the case for your potential partner. Of course, this doesn’t have to mean asking them to fill out a doctor’s office survey or interrogating them as if they are applying for insurance. It can be as simple as mentioning something you are dealing with, such as a pain in your knee, or a weak ankle, or even feelings of depression. You don’t have to be a downer to share your struggles, and it’s important that if your special someone has health issues they are dealing with, they can feel safe to be honest about them too.
Being atypical mentally does not mean you will be alone, but it could mean you will need to communicate with a partner about it. It’s important to open that door both ways, and early. The key is not in finding the mythical perfect person, but in finding someone whose traits are compatible with yours, and with whom you can feel safe to be yourself, or ask for help. Physical or mental health concerns do not need to be a deal-breaker; knowing about and being supportive of these life elements early on will go a long way in letting your relationship flourish.
With all of this to think about, there is one more thought that needs to be kept close. This is a question for yourself: Are you willing to stay true to yourself and let someone else in? It may seem like an obvious question to some, but many times the robotic elements of online dating can keep you from remembering why you are looking for love in the first place. It is not about whether someone smokes a cigarette or flunked out of college. What is it you are really looking for? If you are passionate and honest, and you want to share that with someone like you, you need to stay human. Digital platforms make it easy to leave out important details, or outright lie, but if you want someone to be genuine, you need to be too.
The checklists and quizzes some dating websites offer can help you narrow down your search, but from there it is up to you to open your heart and talk to the people you are interested in. Finding a lifelong match can never be simplified to a process of clicking yes or no, and any formula can be followed to the letter without success. Digital dating cannot promise love at first click, but it is a powerful tool for sharing the adventure of a lifetime. All you need to do is use it to the fullest.