Online dating can be so annoying and difficult and hard, but it's also a great way to do some personal development. After all, it's about a million times easier to find your person after you improve your relationship skills—so if you let them, the tools you learn through online dating can make you happier in all your relationships.
As an online dating coach who has worked with hundreds of clients, I have found that you can spend a sizeable part of your day scrolling through profiles, messaging, listening to dating gurus, and Googling "How to Write An Online Dating Profile," but if the foundation of your strategy is broken, the results aren't going to change.
However, you can take actionable steps to rectify your problems, and if you practice each skill for 90 days, you can start to see real change (and find love!). Breaking patterns that no longer serve you is key—here's how:
1. Peace Out on People-Pleasing
Online dating provides ample opportunities for you to pause, consider your needs, and say "No, thank you" without fear.
One of my clients, Maya, had to learn this particular skill. Maya is a homebody who likes museums, picnics, and lectures—and she is not at all a partier. But when she was first online dating, Maya found herself schlepping across New York at all hours of the evening to meet guys who weren't even interesting to her, just to watch them pound drinks while she sat there, knowing she had to get up early and work the next day.
Clearly, Maya wasn't going to meet the love of her life doing activities that she did not like with guys who weren't a good match.
So she had to stop and slow down. Maya decided to write a sticky note that read, "Does this date with this person work for you?" and she made sure she referred to it when she was asked out. Each online date became a chance for her to stop automatically saying "sure" and make certain she even liked the guy and the proposed activities so she would feel good investing her free time.
To get to this thoughtful place, she did have to go through a few months wasting her time on guys who weren't a good fit, but then she got the chance to practice being less accommodating in her relationships—a good skill for all of life.
2. Order Something New From the Menu
My client Ana had been online dating for more than 14 years and consistently attracted emotionally unavailable guys. She picked these dudes for their looks, charisma, and charm, but when she wanted to build a relationship, they would run for the hills or refuse to commit. She realized she was to attracted these guys on autopilot and needed to fundamentally change her "type."
Ana's first step was to commit to dating someone who actually lived in her city and to change her mindset that there weren't any eligible men near her.
Next, she had to slow her roll and resist getting infatuated with her dates and her fantasies of the future. Dating several men at once became her strategy, which gave her the opportunity to slow down, compare them, and intentionally spend more time with the man who showed he was kind, caring, and consistent—and let go of the others (the kind of guys who would ask her out last minute or leave her texts unresponded to for days at a time).
Prior to this work, Ana's comfort level was with distant, unavailable men, and she had to warm up to a man that wanted to truly get to know her and spend quality time with her. Online dating allowed her the practice she needed to intentionally say "bye" to the old type and "hello" to her new type—which is both "attractive" and "relationship ready."
With her new awareness and a checklist of what an available, relationship-ready man is really like—communicative, proactive, available for adult discussions—Ana dove back into online dating and met her boyfriend (who's all of the above).
3. Stick With the 6 Ps
Growing up, the phrase "Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance" was drilled into my head by my fighter jet-flying uncle—and it also relates to Liz's love story. She was dating blindly, swiping away without intention or focus on what she was truly looking for.
So Liz had to determine what she was looking for in a partner, but in a different way than just looking for funny, intelligent men. After talking with Liz, she shared that what made her heart fuzzy was a man that would pay attention to what she liked to drink and would be able to order it for her when they were out—a quality that's indicative of a greater sense of thoughtfulness.
So for our next step, Liz checked out profiles for guys who seemed like they would take care of people in a way that Liz could get excited about.
Maybe they weren't ordering drinks for people at bars in their pics, but if they were having dinner parties for their friends, there was a good chance they might be more of a caretaker! Once she had clarity about what she was really looking for, Liz quickly learned to spot it on profiles or on dates, and her online dating process became systematic, confident and FUN—and she found her guy within four dates.
Online dating can retrain your brain and heart one step at a time so you can find love—just like the gym or yoga studio retrains your muscles to make you strong and healthy (and have a great butt). Take your biggest frustration with online dating and ask yourself what you can do about you to shift that pattern and change your results to find great love.
Andi Forness is an online dating coach who helps single, high-achieving women use online dating as a personal development program so they can finally find their soulmate and feel fulfilled in all areas of their life. Grab her free guide, Dating Profiles That Attract Your Ideal Dates: 5 Must Haves.