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Internet DatingA male reader recently wrote me to ask: When is the right time to quit online dating? Using my Sherlock Holmes powers of deduction, I can assume he hasn’t met the woman of his dreams. If he were questioning whether to continue online dating even after meeting his wife, we’d have bigger fish to fry. No, this reader — like so many of us, including myself — is simply frustrated with not finding that special someone, and is questioning whether to keep up an online dating subscription. Valid question. Notebooks open, pencils sharpened… let’s dive in.

As you know, I’m a big proponent of online dating. I’ve tried it, I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve been matched with some great men. On the other hand, I’ve tried it, I’ve hated it, I’ve been matched with some real freakazoids. But, come on, that’s the nature of dating in general, not just online dating. It has its ups and downs. We all know this going into it.

The challenge with online dating, however, is twofold.

1.) Money doesn’t grow on trees. Online dating ain’t free! Yeah, eHarmony has those “free communication weekends,” but any experienced online dater has learned that’s just the slimy worm on the hook tied to the fishing line that leads to signing up for a full membership in order to enjoy the full capabilities of the site. Why, you little tricksters! In all seriousness, that’s fine. We’ve all got businesses to run and money to make. I don’t blame the dating sites. But how long is too long to pay $20-50 per month to not meet the man or woman of your dreams? What’s the cap? $500? $1,000? $2,000? A Kia Optima? A downpayment on a house?

2.) Time doesn’t grow on clocks. Translation: Online dating is what classy people call a “time suck.” If you’ve done it, you know. It is work! Filling out the profile alone takes hours and hours. Those 29 dimensions of compatibility are apparently buried underneath mounds of super secret data that must be uncovered meticulously by Neil Clark Warren’s matchmaker hands. (Why do I keep picking on that poor old man? I love him!) Then after you sign up, the work continues. Checking your matches, reaching out, messaging, emailing, asking the same get-to-know-you questions over and over and over… I’m getting exhausted just writing about it.

So in the spirit of the American capitalism that serves as the foundation of this great nation, we the consumers must make some tough decisions. How long do we continue using our service providers even after our service providers aren’t providing the service they claim to provide? (Tongue twister!)

But, Ruth… we’re talking about love here. You can’t manufacture love. It’s not a product to be sold. It’s more complicated than that!

Fine. I see your point. Nonetheless, online dating is expensive and time consuming. I should be getting something for that investment, right?

Frustrated with Online DatingYou may remember that at the end of last year I decided to give online dating a break for a while. I was receiving nearly zero matches, and even those were quite pathetic (the compatibility level, not the men). I felt burnt-out, fried and just plain tired of it all. And that right there is precisely when you know it’s time to take a break. Light bulb moment!

      • When you are so frustrated by the system that you can’t appreciate its good qualities, it’s time to take a break.
      • When all you do is complain about online dating instead of excitedly checking your matches each night, it’s time to cancel the subscription.
      • When you haven’t checked your matches in three weeks and you don’t have any motivation to even log in, it’s time to call it quits.

Because no program will work if you’re not into it. This goes for programs at work, in sports, in weight loss. There’s the participation factor. eHarmomy or Match.com don’t claim to do all the work for you. They set up the matches, but you have to reach out and engage.

So if you’ve been doing the online thing for a year or two or five, and you find yourself getting bored or frustrated with the whole thing, ask yourself if you’re — as Randy the Dog Jackson says — “in it to win it.” Because if you’re not, it might be time to take a break.

And that is okay.

But I’m warning you based on my recent experience: Once you click on that unsubscribe button, you will suddenly be solely responsible for your dating life. So may the force be with you, may you suddenly run into very cute potential mates in random public places, and may you instantly grow the courage to walk up and talk to them. It ain’t easy, but no one ever said it would be.

Still hopeful!