Have you been on bad first dates? I’ve been on more than I care to tell you, but I’ve gotten light years better at narrowing the field. Now I only meet guys with a decent chance of becoming friends or partners. I’m living proof that proper screening can save you from terrible dates.
How do you rule a guy in or out? Criteria are personal, but here are a few hard-learned tips to help you set yours and stick to them. I hope the wisdom derived from my suffering will save you some pain.
1. Look for profiles where the guy put in some effort.
Incomplete profiles, super-short narratives, lots of “I’ll tell ya later” can be a red flag for someone who isn’t serious about finding a relationship. It’s also important that the profile actually says something meaningful. Lots of profiles look like they came from a template. The vast majority of profiles I read have the words “laid back” within the first two sentences. It’s pretty meaningless, especially given that 95% of men are apparently laid back. I’m also rankled by “I’m comfortable dressing up for a nice dinner or hanging out at home in jeans.” So what? Who isn’t? That tells me nothing more than that the person doesn’t seem to have an extreme aversion to clothing variety (and that he’s a bit lazy and unimaginative in his writing). Good profiles written by sincere, authentic men will tell you something real and unique about them.
* Bonus tip: you can copy a chunk of text from a profile and paste it into Google to see if the profile is plagiarized. I discovered this one day when I noticed two guys with the same narrative paragraph. When I pasted a chunk into Google, I found that men all over the internet were using it!
2. Create a list of automatic disqualifiers.
These are personal turn-offs that you will honor even if the guy is cute. They may be things like “no shirtless bathroom selfies,” “no motorcycles,” “no ‘I’ll treat you like a lady.’” I rule out men for saying they want their partner to be fashionable. Not that I have anything against fashion, it just strikes me as a really odd and somewhat meaningless criterion. To me, that signals a man who isn’t as thoughtful as I’d like.
One of my friends rules out any man who says he’s chivalrous because she sees that as shorthand for sexist. I’m not a big fan of listing disqualifiers on my profile, but if something is very important to you, you may want to say so in your profile. If your criteria are for men over six feet and you mention in your profile that you want to date tall men, then you will quickly know that any short guy who sends you a message either didn’t read your profile or doesn’t care about your preferences. I recently saw a profile that ended “Trump voters move along—go on now git!” Whatever your politics, if they’re important to you, you can say so, and certainly, create an automatic disqualifier for someone who lists beliefs that are contrary to yours.
3. Watch out for men who appear to be looking for perfection.
If they say, “My perfect date will be gorgeous as a model, smart like a rocket scientist, and sweet like candy,” you can expect to be held to unreasonable standards, or feel like you can’t live up. You want a realistic guy who’s open to getting to know you and finding out your unique and wonderful qualities, not trying to fit you into an unrealistic fantasy.
4. Hold out for a decent note.
Set guidelines for yourself on how you’ll determine if a guy is actually making a real effort to communicate with you. Does he write a note that makes it clear he’s read your profile? Does he write more than a sentence? I don’t respond to anyone who sends less than two sentences that clearly reference something in my profile. When I see “you’re wild and sweet like blackberries in summer,” I figure that’s gone out to dozens of women in the hope that one bites.
5. Trust your gut.
We process information on many levels. Just because you can’t intellectually identify what seems wrong with a profile or a communication, doesn’t mean everything’s fine. Save yourself the pain of dating the wrong person by honoring your instincts.
The overarching theme of a good screening is that you need to be very picky. Rule out guys in the “maybe” category and only pursue those that you are certain to meet your criteria. The “maybe’s” always turn out to be “no’s,” so save yourself the trouble.
Nobody wants to suffer through more bad first dates. Creating a set of guidelines for yourself, being discriminating about email communication, and trusting your intuition will go a long way toward saving you from painful mistakes. The screening will never be perfect, so when you do go on dates with poor matches, take time afterward to think about whether there are ways you can improve your screening criteria. Over time you’ll find that refining your screening process will make the online dating experience more enjoyable.
Good luck and happy dating!