Online Dating Advice from the Trenches

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By Ronni Burns

If you are thinking of on-line dating or you are currently dating on line, you’ve probably been told at least some of these things by well-meaning friends or family. Here are my thoughts and experience on these so-called adages.


  1. You will have to kiss a lot of frogs! What a totally unappealing thought! Either frogs need a better marketing department or we need to find a better image. Frogs are ugly, slimy, have bulging eyes, move very quickly and do not inspire taking a shower or putting on make-up and heels just to go kiss another frog. Perhaps we should call them teachers, since we do get a lot of lessons before we find our prince. Lesson learned. Next. Next. Next. Class dismissed.
  2. 30% of marriages today are between people who meet on line. Is this supposed to give us hope? I’d like to see the demographics on this as I am sure it skews towards younger people. Read what behavioral economists have to say about how we make decisions and how we use data, and then decide if 30% is a good or a bad percentage. Does that also mean 15% of the online marriages end in divorce? How did the 70% meet?
  3. Don’t go out with someone who has never been married. Maybe they are the smart ones. Just, don’t get tempted to think they have been waiting all these years for you.  Of course, you want someone who has been in committed, monogamous relationships. If they never got married it doesn’t have to mean they are a mama’s boy or a playboy. Consider that they don’t have alimony payments or child support. They just have different baggage to unpack.
  4. You need to see a full body shot not just a head shot. People get quite creative when describing their body type. Words are so subjective. Whereas women are generally over-critical in how they view themselves, (“Do you really think I’m slender at 105 lbs.?”), men seem to give new meaning to fit and trim. I think most men actually do believe they are Adonis revisited.
  5. Everybody lies. Okay. Suffice it to say, the conventional wisdom is if everyone lies, you should too. That way we are all playing the game on a level playing field. You start of taking the high road, telling yourself, I’m not a liar and I wouldn’t want to date a liar” and low and behold, you only attract men 10-15 years older than you. So, next time out, why, you are magically 3-5 years younger. (I fess up right away if I plan to see them a second time). People use really old pictures. I don’t get that. You meet them and go, “Yikes”. I think a better strategy is to slightly under promise and then over-deliver. I haven’t met anyone who lied (at least to the best of my knowledge) about their employment or marital status but I have heard the horror stories. I have found, however, many men have suddenly shrunk from the height they stated.
  6. Go off of the site for a while and when you come back you will be on top of the list. (Your position refreshes, they call it). This may be a good strategy. Personally, I want to get this over with as soon as possible. When my membership expires, I’m walking the streets, hitting the bars or declaring celibacy. Counting the days.
  7. Go on several sites at once. If you’ve built up the stamina for on line dating, perhaps it makes sense to go wide. Warning: You may need an excel spread sheet to keep the responses straight. You may also find out that the guys you reach out to aren’t usually the ones that reach out to you. Get ready for increased traffic from men you wouldn’t want to sit next to on the subway, and double the “no response” from men you’ve sent messages to. Also, if you go on several sites at once, you will often find the same guys are on multiple sites. And, just to keep the spreadsheet accurate, one guy was Larry on one site and George on another. You can’t make this stuff up.
  8. Put your income/Don’t put your income. This one is a stumper. Some men state that it’s okay if your income is zero, others may be looking for more of a partner…dare I say a match. I’m pretty private so I don’t put my income. However, in the spirit of candor, I do care what they put down.
  9. Just have fun with it. Yes, if you do stand-up comedy you will have plenty of material. Even if you are just a moderately good story teller, you can easily amuse your friends who are happily or unhappily married. One guy sent me a text with a photo of his country house. He wrote, “This is where you could be this weekend with me cooking your dinner. Too bad you didn’t like me.”
  • Men want a nurse, a purse or a skirt. Yes, some men expect you will love cooking for them and taking their shirts to the dry cleaners. Some want to know you are working. The skirt part is where the most juice is. Take a look at the guys age, and then the age range they want women. I started to reply to a gentleman until I saw he said he wanted women 20 years younger. I actually sent him an email, asking him, since he had grown kids, if he really want to go to more soccer games and piano recitals. He kindly answered and then asked me out. His answer to why he wanted younger women can be summed up two-fold. His simple answer. Because we can. His more thoughtful answer was, “I think for some men there may be an unconscious feeling when they are with a younger woman that they are still young, vibrant and alive.” High marks for his honesty. No chemistry, though. Hey, I feel younger with a younger guy too. We should be grateful to France’s new President Macron. This could be ushering in the era of the cougar.
  • Just meet for coffee or a drink. Who wants to sit through a dinner if you don’t like them? Guys have told me that some women just want a free dinner and they have their antennae up. If I know I don’t like the guy, I’ll offer to split the check. If it’s been more than a few dinners and I’m not sure if there is a connection, I will offer to pick up the check. If you have spoken on the phone and there is a connection, sure, go for a dinner. However, conversational chemistry doesn’t imply physical chemistry. You learn this the hard way when you can’t wait to meet someone you’ve clicked with on the phone and then, the reveal. You see them and your heart sinks. Several dinners would have been much better if there was no food and we only had drinks.
  • Give out your phone number/Don’t give out your phone number. Initially, I would not give out my ‘phone number and preferred to stay on the site to communicate. It seems the convention is to give out your phone number to talk, weed out, and save time. If there is no chemistry on the call, you don’t need to meet for a drink. I am shocked at how many people don’t realize that when you give out your number, they google you and can find out almost everything JUST with a phone number. I had one guy go to my website, buy my book, read every blog post I wrote and knew more about me than I remembered about myself. I’ve not heard of any stalkers or dangerous situations; however, it still feels very, very creepy. And yes, I google them, too.

Ronni Burns is a Communications Professor, Consultant and Coach. Her website is She acknowledges that it takes a while to understand the rules of the game and wishes they were written down and followed. She wants to live happily ever after and suggests that Prince Charming get a less pretentious handle. She knows laughter is the best medicine.

Photo by Jan Goldstoff

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4 Responses

  1. Oh Ronni I thoroughly enjoyed your article and your sense of humor about dating. As a dating coach I think your advice was very helpful and you definitely made many great points. I believe both men and women who are using online dating will definitely relate to your thoughts especially wishing the rules for dating were written down. What I’ve found in my 8 years of coaching is there are quite a few general rules that apply to everyone and then there are the ones that need to be customized for each individual to ensure their success.

  2. Thank you, Christine. Yes. General rules and customized makes a lot of sense.

  3. Hi Ronni – Nice to meet you yesterday at the Tennessee Williams Event. Your article is one of the best I have read on topic. Really well stated. While I am not in the dating circle, I found your advice spot on, objective, and real. Also like your photo by Jan Goldstoff. Brava!
    Anne Akers, Founder/Editor in Chief, GLOW Beauty, Health & Wellness Magazine and
    Author Consultant (Getting Your Manscript into the Marketplace)

  4. Susan E McKnight says:

    are there any better sites than others that are safe and profitable? I have done this online thing and only seem to meet unathletic, low energy, boring guys. EXCEPT the ones that are not tell me there is ‘no chemistry’.. WTH I take care of myself, I look good for 68.

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