A long time ago, marriages commonly occurred when two people grew up together in a small town and got to know each other over time.

Of course, in many cultures, match-makers had (and still have) the responsibility of seeing that “suitable” marriages were arranged. The families of the bride and groom were the decision-makers.

Then came the 1970s, and publications like the Singles Register appeared in newspaper racks. They enabled people to post, and respond to, ads for potential relationships. Remember the song, “Escape” (The Pina Colada Song)? It captured, in a humorous way, one man’s venture into personal ads, and a surprise outcome.

Of the hundreds of online dating sites available, there are a number of more prominent ones specifically targeting the over-50 demographic. The strategies are the same as for those featuring younger singles. You post your profile and picture and pay your quarterly or yearly fee. There are some completely free sites. You wait for responses, weed out the “crazies”— and wait for happiness.

DatingSitesReviews.com stated, “5% of Americans who are in a marriage or committed relationship say they met their partner online.” So, depending upon your goal, the odds can be pretty daunting.

While you are waiting for “the right person,” you can either feel like your life’s on hold, or be pro-active about your happiness. Here are some ideas for how to rethink online dating.

Take Stock of Who You Are

I’ve often told people who are “between relationships” to sit down with a piece of paper, and draft a short, simple biography. What are your short and long-term goals? What are your core values? Are they shaped by your upbringing, culture, any religious or spiritual influences? Are there conscious choices about things like career, living arrangement, or political views for example?

After you’ve made this self-assessment, make a pro-con list of being single versus being in a relationship of any kind. This is a very personal process. It can be based on some of the things you come up with in drafting your biography. There’s no right or wrong answers, except for the ones that are true for you.

Then, make a list of your expectations of a potential date or mate. The list can take the form of “acceptable” traits or habits, followed by “unacceptable” traits and “negotiable” traits.

For example, you may decide that smoking is unacceptable, but that social drinking is acceptable. Or you may prefer being with someone of a certain minimum level of education. Then take a look at this third list, and consider what makes your ranking important to you.

Don’t Limit Your Socializing While Trying Dating Over 60

Sometimes people see the ads for major dating sites and latch onto the “success stories” as certain predictors of what’s in store for them. Because of that, they will forego opportunities to be with real-life friends. They may stop participating in activities that might actually lead to “the one.”

Maintaining real-time, off-line connections with coworkers, neighbors and friends is important. You can pursue hobbies or attend community events. You can volunteer opportunities or visit houses of worship. These connections remind you that you are a whole person, independent of your relationship status.

The Only Outcome of a Dating Scenario You Can Predict is Your Response

When you hear of “dating nightmares,” it’s usually the result of going on a date with too many dreamy hopes and not enough clear reality. People are only as truthful as they want to be when posting an online profile.

So, pay attention to the site’s “safe dating” tips. Also listen to your gut reactions or any “red flags” you notice about a potential date. If someone comes on too strong or too fast, be cautious. If, after several promising evenings, your new friend suddenly vanishes (it’s also called “ghosting dating”) – be kind to yourself. Consider this a reflection on that person’s character, not your own worth.

There is no guarantee, unfortunately, that someone posting an intriguing profile feels any kind of responsibility for being truthful or kind.

There is a lot to be said for the convenience of online dating, given the pace of our modern lives. And yet, let’s not totally forget about the possibilities of human social interaction. After years of being in the online dating scene, I have decided to take my life and activities into my own hands. I often allow my accounts to lapse at their expiration date, as stated in my blog post entitled “More Changes.”

Do you have experience with online dating over 60? If so, how has it compared with any efforts to meet and date people through real-life encounters, or introductions through other people? Please join the conversation below.

Valarie CascaddenDr. Valarie Cascadden is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist living and working in the Littleton, Colorado area. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She works with individuals, couples and families on relationship issues. Visit her blog at Valarie Cascadden and also follow her adventures here.

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