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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Relationship Material | Online Dating Success

Quick Access:
Am I Relationship Material?

How to Succeed at Online Dating

How can I tell if I’m relationship material?


I heard a colleague say once that there are three kinds of people: Those who establish long-term connections, Those who jump from relationship to relationship and Those who never pursue any relationships at all. I guess I’ve seen these categories of people in action, so I can’t say that observation is entirely off base.

So, which group are you in? If you’re currently using online dating, I’d say you’re definitely not in the last group. A good way to tell if you’re the type of person who belongs in the long-term relationship category is by asking yourself the following questions:

- Do you tend to resent authority?
Are you easily irritated or annoyed?
- Do you distrust the motives of others?
- Are you self-reproaching?
- Do you get upset and stay upset longer than most people you know?
- Do you stuff your feelings?
- Do you have difficulty connecting or attaching with others?
- Do you candidly speak your mind more than most people you know?
- Do you challenge the ideas of others routinely?
- Do you consider your own wants more than considering the input of others?
- Is your General IQ lower than average or extremely high?
- Do you have anger issues?
- Are you unable to assert yourself?
- Do you feel in your heart that the rules don’t apply to you?

If you answered “YES” to most of these questions, then you’re the type of person who’s likely to experience relationship problems. That doesn’t mean you’re destined to be alone; it just means that you seem to have some personal growing to do in order to connect with another person on a sincere, trusting and open way. In other words, successful relationships involve people who are willing to “surrender” themselves to the needs of the other person and the relationship. This is easier said than done, as is attested to by the high divorce rate many societies have. But, if you’re able to surrender while still keeping your head, then you sure seem to be relationship material.

Why is it so hard to succeed with online dating?

Online Dating is not a contest, even though people often approach it like one. For example, the research firm Synovate recently found that 77% of consumers globally believe that most people lie in their online dating profile. That’s not exactly news – psychologists who study online dating and market researchers within the industry have long known that indeed people do lie in their profiles. Perhaps it’s not surprising that skeptical Americans are most convinced that people are dishonest in their online dating profiles (84% believe this according to the Synovate study). What happens, consequently, is that otherwise honest online daters start “inflating or hyping up” their profiles out of the perception that this is necessary in order to compete successfully with the liars in the online dating community. What a vicious and self-defeating circle!

The trick is to view online dating as a fun adventure, rather than a competition. Here are a few reasons why:

» Competition creates anxiety. Even when the tangible stakes (getting a wink or email back from a prospect) aren’t high, the prospect of winding up a loser is extremely distressing. The unique pressure produced by having to defeat others -- and risk being defeated -- tends to inhibit performance. And in online dating, you want to come across being your best, not worst.

» Competitors can’t exchange ideas or share skills. Rather than online daters helping each other, what I often see is trust and respect for each other being exchanged for jealousy and hostility. This is why social networks work so well – people act as a community as opposed to individuals out to beat everyone else to a prize.

» Competition distracts people from the task at hand. Although our society often confuses them, victory and excellence are actually two very different ideas. They’re even experienced differently. To focus on winning, on beating out someone, is often to divert attention from the goal itself. Optimal performance in dating depends on finding dating satisfying and rewarding in its own right -- not solely seeing dating as a means toward some external goal such as being the most popular person on a site or even getting married.

Every online dating site has people with different goals and agendas, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But for online dating to be successful for you, it’s important to have the right attitude – and the wrong attitude to have and the one that will often sabotage your efforts is thinking of online dating in terms of a stressful competition.

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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