A few years ago, Internet dating seemed like a gift from the matchmaking gods. Where else could a single chick gain access to a gazillion eligible bachelors? Fast-forward to 2006: With so many men misrepresenting themselves online ("Oh, did I say 5 feet 11? I meant 5 feet 6"), women are burning out on the Internet mating game. In fact, the number of people browsing dating sites has fallen by one-third since 2003, according to business research firm JupiterResearch.
Now, more and more women are adhering to the "everything old is new again" adage and relying more on being set up. Though blind dates can yield blissful results, there's also the potential for a real bust. "Often, friends or family will just fix up two people because they're both young and single, without really taking into account whether they're compatible," says psychologist Edward A. Dreyfus, PhD, author of Someone Right for You. "In order to be successfully matched up on a blind date, you have to take steps that will ensure you're only going out with people who actually have potential." Cribbing these tips will help:
- Be Clear About Your Specific Criteria
"You have to guide matchmakers when they're trying to come up with someone you might like," says Dreyfus. And citing qualities such as cute, intelligent, and nice won't cut it. You need to be as detailed as possible about what you're looking for...and what you're not. For example, if you love to jog and work out at the gym, don't just say you want someone who's athletic—it's not specific enough. Or if you're an unhappy voter, be adamant that you're not at all open to meeting an administration supporter.
If you're having a hard time nailing down the specifics, "reflect on the qualities you've loved in past boyfriends," suggests Dreyfus. "You can even think about your friends' boyfriends' admirable traits." And corny as it sounds, if you need help getting all of your thoughts organized, write it all down on a list for yourself.
Don't worry about being too superficial either. While it's unlikely you'll find someone who meets all of your requirements, you do need someone who passes your must-haves. So if things like tall, successful, and great dresser really matter to you, put 'em on your list. "It doesn't make you shallow—it means you're realistic about who will actually pique your interest," says dating agent David Wygant, author of Always Talk to Strangers.
- Pick The Right Matchmaker
Blind dating is a numbers game. The more options you have, the better your chances of scoring a great guy are. So you have to put the word out that you're available and looking. "A lot of women are afraid that if they ask to be introduced to single guys, they'll come across as desperate, but it couldn't be further from the truth," says dating coach Patti Feinstein. "By asking to be set up, you're sending the message that you want to date smartly and see men who come recommended, not just settle for any random guy you happen to meet in a bar."
Okay, here's where it gets a little tricky. Yes, you want to network, but you still want to be picky about who's fixing you up. Obviously, your core group of friends knows your situation so you're not likely to meet someone new through them. The solution: Cast a wider net...though still be selective.
"If your hairstylist comes across as really cool and you feel like you and your trainer are on the same page, hit them up for dating help," suggests Wygant. "Not only are they people you feel a connection to, but they're in professions where clients tend to get personal with them, so they get a sense of someone's character and dating status." On the other hand, you probably don't want to mention your quest to your matronic dental hygienist. Her definition of a "great guy" might not be in sync with yours.
Once you've narrowed down your potential matchmakers, you still have to suss out their setup skills. To do so, simply give them a test. "Find out the kind of guy they think you would be attracted to," says Dreyfus. Ask them to give you specific qualities that they think you're looking for in a boyfriend. You're not only checking out their taste in men, you're also ascertaining how well they've read what you've told them. "If their criteria seem to be in line with yours, you can likely trust their judgment in who they'll set you up with."
- Get The Dirt On The Dude
Once all the pieces are in place, potential suitors should start popping up. Just keep in mind that you're not obligated to go out with every single, available prospect. So screen out any no-gos by posing a few questions about the guy to your matchmaker.
First off, is he actually looking to pursue a relationship or is he into playing the field? "You don't want to waste your time with a man who just went through a breakup or is looking only for a fling, because it likely won't go anywhere," warns Wygant.
Another way to get pertinent info on a guy without giving the matchmaker the third degree: Find out what he does on the weekends. "His downtime activities usually reveal a lot about a guy's personality and lifestyle, which can help you determine if the two of you might actually hit it off," says Dreyfus. For example, a man who gets his barkada together every Saturday night for dinner or downtime beer bonding sessions is clearly very social and into company and entertaining.
If you decide that a dude isn't dateable, it's okay to turn down the offer. Just do it delicately. Instead of saying "Nah, not for me," which may insult your matchmaker and put an end to any future setups, say something like "He sounds amazing, but I'm not sure I'm right for someone who just got out of a relationship/studies molecular biology/doesn't exercise at all. But keep me in mind if you think of someone else who might be more my type." That way, it'll be clear that you're weighing potential compatibility and not just slamming the guy.