By Natalie Aldridge
Calmon30263 and redshoes wouldn’t be married if it weren’t for LDSmingle.com. Like bluebubblegum and john4truthLDS, nancy275 and tomdee, jpony and 536sig, and countless others fed up with meeting people traditional ways, the two singles joined the online dating service and fell in love.
These couples now join the steadily increasing group of those who have discovered that love, like most things online, may only be a few clicks away.
More than 40 million Americans visited online dating sites in August 2003, according to The Online Publishers Association. LDSmingle.com alone has 93,000 members, and approximately 4,000 new people join each month.
Online dating is gaining popularity due to the convenience and privacy it offers. Individuals can meet in the comfort of their own homes and know a lot about each other before ever meeting in person. Divorced, widowed or older singles who traditionally have a harder time meeting people are among the most frequent cruisers on the love information superhighway.
Despite the surge of online dating success stories and increasing numbers of Americans who surf through dating sites, most individuals have initial reservations about developing relationships online.
“There is a stigma attached with online dating because people aren’t familiar with it,” says Ben Peterson, president of MingleMatch, Inc., the Provo-based company that runs LDSmingle.com.“Fear exists regarding those who attempt to deceive. However, that stigma is quickly evaporated once people realize how safe and easy it is, and as the word gets around about success stories.”
LDSmingle.com offers its members a list of online dating do’s and don’ts. Here are five important guidelines to follow when participating in an online dating service.
Choose sites with moral controls
“When online dating started, many sites had a lack of moral controls that attracted seedy activities and created the stigma that people still hold on to,” Peterson says.
Choose a service that sets ground rules for members and monitors the site effectively. MingleMatch, Inc., operates over 20 niche dating sites under the company mantra of “clean, safe and friendly.” Vulgarity, obscenity, and pornography are strictly prohibited. Every photo in the LDSmingle.com photo gallery is reviewed before it is posted online. Employees monitor the site continually, and members are encouraged to report offensive or questionable content. With “clean” and “safe” taken care of through these guidelines, Peterson says “friendly” comes naturally.
“We have such good people on the site,” Peterson says.”We get positive feedback from people all the time who just love the community.”
Keep your anonymity
Take your time when meeting people, and ask questions. Don’t give out personal information immediately, including identifiable e-mail addresses. Use the services’ mail system or set up a free account through Hotmail or Yahoo. Don’t give out your last name, phone number or any other identifying information until you’re ready.
“We don’t want people to disclose personal information immediately,” Peterson says. “An advantage of online dating is the anonymity — you don’t have to respond to people you aren’t interested in, and you tell people who you are when you want to.”
Meet only when you’re ready
Excitement about a person can often make patience wane. However, an advantage of online dating is knowing many things about a person before meeting him or her. Take the right steps before meeting someone in person, starting with a photo. This will help verify a person’s profile information and give an idea of his or her appearance.
A phone call can tell you much about a person’s ability to communicate and help you get to know the person better. Keep your phone number anonymous at first by using a pay phone. Ask for a number for a co-worker, friend or family member you can call first. The more people you talk to, the more confidence you will have.
If you decide to meet in person, always take a friend. Use your own transportation and choose a safe, familiar environment. Keep the meeting short — there will be plenty of time to spend together later. Remember, there is never an obligation to meet someone.
Use common sense and be cautious
Don’t automatically believe everything you read or are told about a person. Watch out for someone who is too good to be true or exhibits odd behavior. Trust your gut feelings and question anything that may be inconsistent. Warning signs to watch for are demeaning or disrespectful comments, anger, physically inappropriate comments or behavior and attempts to pressure or control you.
Have fun and be yourself
Online dating sites are places where you can go to have a good time online.
Chatting with people, browsing profiles and participating in message board discussions can be used to make good friends, as well as to start a romantic relationship.
“These sites aren’t set up just to get people married,” Peterson says. “We measure success in different ways, not just if you get married. Meeting people and having fun is success.”
number of greeting cards exchanged on Valentine’s Day
percentage of Americans who celebrate Valentine’s Day
source: www. hallmark.com
number of places in the United States named Valentine —
number of marriages annually in the U.S. (approx. 6,400 per day)
source: www. census.gov/press-release/www/2003/cbo3ff02.html
$125.96 and $38.22
average amount that a man and woman, respectively, plan on spending this Valentine’s Day
percentage of men who plan on giving jewelry for Valentine’s Day
source: www. nrf.com
percentage of men who still open doors for women
source: www. datingfun.com/valentinesday.trivia.asp.com
percentage of Americans who rate their first kiss as the most memorable
number of billions of dollars generated from romance novels in 2002
Expected revenue for U.S. Dating Service Businesses
For those already in relationships — whether married, engaged or dating — advice on meeting people seems irrelevant. However, improving communication, rekindling romance, evaluating where a relationship is going, or simply celebrating a relationship are always good things, and performing each of these tasks may have just become easier, thanks to the Relationship Checkup.
The Relationship Checkup provides a “snapshot” of a relationship by leading couples through a comprehensive online questionnaire and later, a teleconference workshop with a foremost relationship authority. Developed by the Pursuit of Excellence Network, a Lindon-based company committed to “saving the world one couple at a time,” and experts at the Relate Institute at BYU’s School of Family Life, the questionnaire covers factors that research has found to be predictive of a successful relationship.
“There is no study in the world that can predict how a marriage will turn out,” says Joseph Allred, network coordinator for the Pursuit of Excellence Network. “But the Relationship Checkup does help open lines of communication in relationships by helping couples see the real individual in their partner and their strengths and weaknesses.”
Included in the report is a scale-by-scale comparison of a couple based in four areas: personality characteristics, values, family background and relationship experiences. Questions about research or results of an individual report may be answered once a month through the nationwide teleconference workshop.
Allred says that couples who participate in the checkup find it useful in identifying potential problems and showing their partner that they want the relationship to work.
“A relationship is like a garden,” Allred says. “You can’t leave it, not water it or weed it, and expect something beautiful to grow. You should be intentional about its care.”
For more information on the Relationship Checkup, contact the Pursuit of Excellence Network at (866) 428-3623 or visit www.esavetheworld.com
Give your relationship a mini-checkup. Decide whether you agree or disagree, then discuss your thoughts and feelings about your answers.
1. Being married is among the one or two most important things in life.
2. It would be an acceptable arrangement for the husband to stay home to care for young children while the wife earns the paycheck.
3. It is important to me that my family has the finer things in life.
4. Married couples do not need to share many of the same recreational interests or hobbies with each other.
5. One of the main reasons to get married is to have children.
6. Spirituality is an important part of my life.
7. I would like my marriage to be like my parents’ marriage.
8. I feel at peace about anything negative that happened to me in the family in which I grew up in.
9. When I talk to my partner I can say what I want in a clear manner.
10. When I get upset I can see glaring faults in my partner’s personality.
11. I don’t like it when my partner does things without me.
12. I keep problems in our relationship just between the two of us.