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Specific issues

The shopping-list dater

Everyone has their idea of the ideal man or woman, and each of us attaches particular importance to certain aspects of a potential partner. But what happens when you come across someone who treats dating like a visit to the supermarket?

The shopping-list dater

“I’d hardly told him anything about myself,” recalls Andrea (36), a pharmacist, “but he’d already asked for a photo of me. He said he was a visual person and wanted to have an idea of what I looked like.” To tell the truth, he was pushing things a little too quickly for Andrea, but she released her photo to him - and he responded with his eventually - but that was she last she heard of him. He was taking a shopping-list approach - working on the assumption that a prospective partner had to tick his boxes. As PARSHIP’s psychologist, Sabine Wery von Limont explains: “This kind of approach can be rather insulting - but it’s something you do come across online.”

The woman’s ideal

48-year-old Barbara also had a negative experience. “I’d gone up to London specially to meet him. When I’d arrived at the place we had arranged to meet, he called me on my mobile and then hung up straight away. And that was it! He’d taken a look at me and had decided I wasn’t for him.” But it’s not just men who are prone to knee-jerk reactions. Women also push to see a picture - even asking questions like: “Is there something you’ve got to hide?” True, many women put the emphasis on finding a caring man who’s in touch with his feelings rather than going on looks. What they often do is sound out a prospect in the course of an email correspondence. A man can find it insulting when he gets the brush-off after giving a woman glimpses into his emotional life. Josh (34) had exchanged emails with one woman over the course of several weeks, telling her about his hopes and dreams. He thought things were going well … “And then she wrote to me to say she didn’t think I was the right man for her. I didn’t hear from her again. I have no idea what I did wrong!”

It’s your call

When looking for a long-term relationship, it is only natural to have certain ideas about the person you are looking for, and to make decisions on that basis. You probably do that yourself, so you have to be ready to accept that you might not match someone’s preconceptions. But if you are turning someone down, a little sensitivity is in order. Sabine Wery von Limont says: “If you simply break off contact, that is much tougher on the other person than a polite explanation. If someone gives you feedback, than you can benefit from a learning process.” Julia (33) came into contact with a man who took a production-line approach. “To be honest, his first email read like some kind of circular he sent out to everyone. When I wrote back to him, he simply responded by asking for my phone number and suggesting we met up soon. When his next email began with the words “Hello, Cathy” Julia decided that was that and broke off contact with him.

Take charge of the situation

“The secret is to make sure what you really want,” advises Sabine Wery von Limont. “It’s very important to take responsibility in the process of finding someone online.” If you show someone your photo before you feel you’re ready, then you are putting the choice in the other person’s hand. If that’s the last you hear from them, then they have taken an irresponsible approach, leaving you feeling disappointed and undervalued. “Bear in mind that different people apply different criteria. It can be hard, but don’t take it personally,” recommends Sabine Wery von Limont. You might still come across the occasional person who seems to treat the whole dating process like a visit to the supermarket, but you mustn’t let them knock you off balance.

“Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, advises Wery von Limont. “Don’t feel obliged to give into pressure to supply your photo, and don’t answer any questions you feel uncomfortable with. Do things at your own speed, even if that brings things to an end with some of your matches, and let other people know if you don’t feel good about any aspect of your contact. You are not going to be able to keep everyone happy.

Andrea, fortunately, learned from her experiences, and didn’t let herself be rushed into releasing her photo again. Happily, Robert (41) felt that she was definitely worth the wait!

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