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10 Online Dating Tips: The Dos and Don'ts According to the Pros

Online matchmaking websites have changed the way we find companionship and thus the rules of the entire dating game. We consulted with relationship experts for online dating tips that make it possible to find love through an online dating service.

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Like online banking, shopping and networking, online dating has its own set of dos and don'ts. But it can be hard to figure out those rules on your own. To help, we consulted international dating coach Laurel House and psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert. Whether you're just getting started dating online or you've been at it for a while, these online dating tips are sure to help your game.

Do: Get to know yourself
"Do some soul searching to figure out who you are at your core, what you stand for as a person, what you actually enjoy doing, what your dating purpose is and what you need as opposed to what you want," House says. If you don't know the answer to those questions, you won't know what to look for in a partner. And an online personality test only goes so far. So, spend some time learning about yourself. Confidence and self-awareness look good on everybody.

Do: Find the dating site that's right for you
The online dating world can be overwhelming. There are thousands of dating sites to choose from and hundreds of thousands of potential matches. Make sure you find the dating site that suits your needs. If you're looking to settle down in the next few years, OkCupid may not be your best bet; Tinder certainly isn't. Decide what you're looking for in an online dating experience, and find the site that is best equipped to give it to you.

Don't: Expect your first, second or even your third match to be "The One"
Finding a companion takes time. "A lot of people think they're going to find Mr. or Mrs. Perfect on their first try," Alpert says. "I would tell them to lower their expectations. Think of online dating as a marketplace." Be patient. Do a little shopping around. The perfect pair of shoes is rarely the first you try on.

Don't: Lie on your profile. Period.
Lying isn't a good way to start any relationship. If you're looking to settle down and start a family, say so. If you've already started a family, mention it. "Be honest about your age, height, weight and how much hair is on your head," Alpert says, "If you become serious with this person, they'll find out the truth anyway." If you can't be honest about what you want and who you are, how can you expect to find someone who likes you for you?

Do: Express yourself clearly, so you turn off the right people
Most of the people dating online won't work for you. House recommends using your profile as your first line of defense against those who aren't matches. "If you're witty, show it. If you pride yourself on your wisdom, say it. If your spirituality is a major component of who you are, ask for someone with similar interests. Or if you are a total movie geek and can quote every line in most '80s movies, let it be known," House says. "You're not here to please everyone. You're trying to please yourself first by weeding out the ones who might take issue with elements of who you are and what your expectations are."

Do: Be specific about what makes you unique
Come on. You can do better than "I'm a bubbly woman who loves laughing, traveling and spending time with my friends." Those are all great things, but who doesn't love to laugh, travel and spend time with friends? "If you like Italian food, share your favorite restaurant. Or if you like to travel, don't just say, 'I like to travel,'" Alpert says, "Talk about a trip you took or plan to take." Specifics will be what potential matches remember, especially if they identify with them.

Do: Include a number of flattering photos
A fun array of profile photos is essential to assembling a great online dating profile. Make sure to include pictures that are representative of who you are. Show yourself dressed up, dressed down, at rest and out on the town. You are a multidimensional person—your profile should represent that.

Do: Prequalify your potential matches
House says the most common mistake made in online dating is not prequalifying potential matches. She recommends taking the time to exchange a few substantive emails before rushing out to meet them. "It minimizes your bad first dates and helps you hone in on who is truly great for you," House says.

Don't: Get stuck in the messaging phase
On the other hand, don't waste too much time talking online before meeting in person. "People tend to get caught up in a never-ending exchange of messages. Then they develop an idea of that person based on the messages that is often inaccurate," Alpert says. What if you spend weeks messaging but have no chemistry when you finally get face-to-face? Not only will you both be disappointed, you won't get that time back.

Do: Schedule to meet in person sooner rather than later
Avoid getting trapped in the messaging cycle by going on a quick and casual date as soon as you sense potential. Alpert recommends going for a drink, coffee or a walk in a public area (safety first!) rather than a formal dinner. "That way," he says, "depending on the chemistry, the date can last 15 minutes or hours."

Check out our relationship panel's advice for creating the perfect online profile:

Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist and author of BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days who specializes in sex, dating and relationships.

Laurel House is an international dating coach and author of Screwing the Rules: The No-Games Guide to Love.

Rachel Weeks

I'm originally from the Chicagoland area, but I recently moved from beautiful Des Moines, IA to the equally beautiful Denver, CO. I spend my days reading, binge-watching TV shows, performing and listening to comedy and, of course, writing.

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