Life Relationships

Opinion: How to prevent heartbreak when dating online

After reading one journalist’s story of heartbreak, women are asking how to prevent heart break when dating online.

I applaud SMH writer Stephanie Wood who has written a gut wrenching personal tell-all memoir about a man she met on an on-line dating site who turned out not to be who she thought he was.

It is a heartbreaking read.

Single women everywhere are talking about this story – I have had it sent to me five times this morning. You can read about it here:

These dating stories are far more common than you may think. I have heard of three others this year so far. On-line dating, technology, and global travel have made it so much easier for both men and women to live multiple lives and create webs of deceit.

Men – and women – front up to a new mate found online and sweep them off their feet during the dating process. They pretend they are available and pretend a whole lot of things, such as financial status, job history, family history, lifestyle and so on, and in some cases, not a word of it is true. And some of these people have become very good at it.

But the real question is how to prevent this very thing happening and how to protect ourselves. I am not suggesting for a second that Stephanie put a foot wrong or that she could have done anything differently. Love is such a personal journey, but I am suggesting there are things we can all do to try and prevent such heart break when dating:

1) Self- Esteem – No matter how you are dating (on-line, in real life, being set up by friends) a lot of dating is actually about you. And your self-esteem is critical.

The old saying you need to love yourself before you can love someone else is so true. I recommend the brilliant UK psychologist Marisa Peer who articulately preaches we must recognise we are enough, we are loveable and we create our own beliefs.

You can find her here:

Here in Australia, relationship expert John Aiken who features on the Channel Nine TV show Married At First Sight has a practise in the Eastern suburbs and is a brilliant dating expert. You can find him here.

2) Take it slow & don’t commit too soon – Any guy who is putting the pressure on for sex or commitment too soon should set off your alarm bells. What is the rush? If the guy is genuine about you, he will be looking at the big picture, and know you will become physically involved and have a lifetime of sex together, so why does it have to start quickly?

Moving in when you don’t know someone is an absolute no-no. There is never any excuse for living with a man you do not know.

A great technique a lot of dating coaches recommend is multiple dating – in other words dating a lot of people at once in the beginning. The key is not getting physically involved with any of them to really work out what you want from a partner. This is great for your self-esteem too. The theory is that when the right one comes along, it will be obvious and you let the others know you have met someone else and then commit to that person.

3) Direct Communication – Many women are afraid to speak up for fear of losing the man or sounding desperate, but you need values, and you should spell them out early. It will smoke him out. If you want to get married one day, or travel the world, say so, if you want children, let him know. If you’re after a fling, that’s ok too but be up front.

“One of the basic rules of psychology is to predict future behaviour, look at past behaviour. Yes, people can and do change, but it’s rare.”

This has two advantages – one is that if you are on the same page, you will get what you want because he knows. If you’re not, he will withdraw, but either way you will know if he is or isn’t worth investing more time in.

4) Trust your gut – This really is the most important thing of all. When dating, a woman knows when something is not right. When you get that feeling, stop and reflect on why you could be feeling uneasy.

The internet and google searches are not fool-proof. A true charlatan can contact google and force them to remove any mention of him on the internet – I have known men who have done this.  So you cannot trust it.

Your gut is far more reliable. Trust and believe in yourself.

Dating and being single is a lot of fun & there are millions of decent guys out there.

5) Introduce him to friends early – Your true friends love you, and will have your best interests at heart. Watch how your new date behaves in front of your friends, and listen to what he reveals about himself. And listen again when your friends tell you later what they think of him.

6) Listen carefully to his past relationship behaviour – One of the basic rules of psychology is to predict future behaviour, look at past behaviour. Yes, people can and do change, but it’s rare.

If he has cheated in the past or taken drugs for example, ask him direct questions such as “What did you learn from that experience?”,  “What was the reason that drove you to it” and so on. If he is willing to talk, this is a great start.

If he has seen a psychologist or demonstrates he has worked on himself (taken up yoga, men’s retreats, looked into spirituality) he may be one of the few who is capable of reform.

7) Contact the ex:

If you’re in a full blown relationship and you need answers, his ex-girlfriends have them. Contact one. 

Many women are terrified to do this, but most ex-girlfriends will be willing to talk if approached the right way. This is not appropriate unless you are in a fully committed long term relationship. But there are times when we all need answers, and the ex-girlfriends have them all.

8) Don’t give up hope.

There are millions of wonderful, loving men out there. The percentage out there who actively live a double life is minute, some 1% or less. Invest time with couples you know who are happy, to remind yourself not only is it possible, but it happens all the time. And keep dating. Dating is a lot of fun, even if you haven’t yet found the one.

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