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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.

This Week:
Single Parent Asking About Online Dating

I’m a single parent trying online dating. Do you have any advice for me?


First, online dating can be a really smart move for a single parent getting back in the dating scene. You may not know it, but online dating has several distinct advantages over traditional offline dating:

» Efficiency
Online dating expands your social circle in a way virtually impossible to duplicate offline. Further, you can quickly filter or screen for the type of people that seem to be your type. It’s a process that’s more streamlined and efficient than traditional dating.

» Safety
The computer is a natural barrier between you and romantic prospects. This eliminates having to meet people under awkward or even threatening situations. It also offers anonymity. This allows you more control to pace your contact with others as well as the level of self-disclosure. The result is relationships are more likely to move at a pace that’s comfortable to you.. These two factors work together to help protect you physically and psychologically.

» Convenience
Unlike offline dating for a busy single and parent that tends to make you rush around to make the date or induce headaches over finding a babysitter, online dating is done according to your schedule. It fits in with the lifestyles of today’s busy singles, and it can be done in the privacy and comfort of your own home.

» Cost Effectiveness
The traditional date is dinner and a movie costs around $100 in most major metropolitan areas. Getting to know 100 people that way would take months and cost in the neighborhood of $5,000 going “Dutch.” Online dating offers a much more economical way to meet and get to know other eligible singles in your area and across the country and the world.

» Fun
Ah, remember the days when dating was supposed to be fun rather than yet another chore or scheduling conflict? Well, online dating brings back the fun, because you’re in the driver’s seat and can carefully decide in advance who you want to contact. Getting to know others is not as awkward, because you can read a person’s profile to get a sense about them, scrutinize their photos as often as you want, and even estimate how compatible you might be with them through compatibility testing. In other words, online dating allows you to “gape” at another person and size them up in a socially acceptable and safe way. Try that at Starbucks and see if you get a phone number in return or a restraining order ;)

So, my advice to you is to relax and enjoy the process of online dating. But, keep in mind there are predators and nasty people out that try to take advantage of others. Here are four rules for single parents using online dating:

1) Don’t include pics of yourself or descriptions of your children in your online profile. Pedophiles look for such cues when trying to select potential victims. Furthermore, in the online dating world the aim is to sell yourself. Save those kinds of details for a later – when you feel comfortable self –disclosing to someone that you’ve communicated with for a while.

2) Be wary of someone who doesn’t share a pic of him or herself. Many people choose not to post a photo in their profile and that’s fine. But most of these same individuals will share a photo with someone that they trust. My advice is – if a person simply won’t share a photo, then you should simply walk away.

3) Be wary of pushy, aggressive or overly suggestive individuals. You know you’re dealing with this kind of person because they try to move the relationship along at a pace much faster than you’re comfortable with. If you feel out of control, then walk away from them.

4) Be wary of anyone that expects a lot of self-disclosure and identifying information from you too soon in the relationship, such as home address and phone number, your place of employment, and where your children go to school. Also, walk away if a person expects this type of disclosure from you, but isn’t willing to reciprocate that disclosure.

Finally, one of the parts of online dating that I hear single parents have the most difficulty with is writing the personal profile. Here’s a tip – have your child help you if they’re old enough to do so. I don’t mean have them sit with you and share in your online dating adventures. No, what I mean is that your children have perspectives and insights into your personality and lifestyle habits that are invaluable in helping you describe and ultimately sell yourself to romantic prospects. It can be a fun and short conversation with your child… something that starts with a simple, “Hey, Rebecca, why would a pretty lady want to go to dinner with your dear old dad?” or “Michael, what kind of man do you think would be a great date for your busy mom?”

> - The best approach to find the one. <

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