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Making contact

Avoiding a sense of routine

Curiosity, surprises, a racing heart … online dating can be exciting stuff. But what happens if a sense of romance gives way to a sense of routine as each new encounter seems to run a familiar course? Is it Groundhog Day all over again?

Avoiding a sense of routine

To start with, Anna (32) was fascinated by it all, catching her breath as she opened the first message in her inbox, sometimes almost sensing the presence of the person who had written to her. She came across a number of interesting people, but after several weeks of pretty intense activity online, still didn’t seem any closer to finding Mr Right. By this time her feelings, rather than frustration or resignation, were of a growing sense of routine.

Efficient – but not necessarily effective
Anna, who is a Web designer, kept on sending contact requests, and she also continued email correspondences with at least two prospects at a time; she fixed dates, sized men up and got sized up herself, and kept a list of them all so as to avoid any confusion between one and another. But it all started to become a little too much of a good thing and Anna became the victim of her own talents for project management. Once the initial excitement had passed, she started to organise her online dating activities like her job or her housework. If she got an approach, she would respond with a standard wording, and in her second mail she listed her basic expectations and criteria. Throughout, her focus would be on exchanging as many facts and as much personal history as possible, but without a great deal of effort. This was all pretty efficient, but it also became rather perfunctory and monotonous.

What do I want?
Parship’s Singles Coach, Nicole Schiller, acknowledges that routine can set in, but she advises very strongly against any thoughts of giving up and deleting your profile. Once again her keyword is ‘self-knowledge’. She maintains that many people who go online to find a partner simply don’t know just what they are looking for, and so take a scattergun approach. Wanting to be open to every option, they send out blanket emails and then wonder why it’s all getting a bit much for them. Schiller suggests that in this situation you should “give yourself a break and think about what you’re really looking for.” Instead of seeing online dating as some kind of business project which simply has to succeed, or which at the very least must give you a return on your investment, you should see it as just one route for getting to know new people.

Stay curious
Of course there’s no guaranteed recipe for maintaining the spark when you’re online dating, but it’s worth sticking to a few basic rules. According to Parship’s Nicole Schiller, this has a lot to do with the structure you put around your dating activities. If you squeeze in your dating correspondence between two work meetings, only leaving time to type a couple of quick lines, it’s maybe not surprising that your activities aren’t leading anywhere.

It can actually help to establish a little ritual - which isn’t the same as routine. Make some regular space in your schedule for dealing with your messages, perhaps with a cup of tea or a glass of wine by your side. It’s nice just to enjoy the process of reading and answering your mails without any sense of pressure. Of course, you need to bring some variety to the mails themselves too, not just follow some kind of standard template. You need to be flexible, to follow your instincts and to retain your sense of curiosity.

Make it personal
Admittedly, it’s hard to find something new and imaginative to say when you’re describing yourself for the twentieth time, but there is always an alternative way of doing things. Of course you will find yourself using standard phrases, says Nicole Schiller, but it’s also important to respond specifically to the other person’s mode of communication; it’s in your interests to do so.

Think of it this way: if someone goes to the same bar or a regular basis and always uses the same line when they approach somebody (“Haven’t we seen each other somewhere before?), it doesn’t convey an awful lot of real interest - and it just gets plain boring. That’s one of the reasons why Schiller suggests a selective approach to choosing someone to communicate with online. “Go for people who stand out to you for some reason, who seem interesting; it will give you something to work on later.” This is the key to developing an inspiring online exchange.

Try something new
If you are in contact with someone who seems to like a little creativity, there are lots of opportunities for finding ways of keeping things fresh and stimulating. This could be a matter of little games like asking: “What kind of animal would you like to be,” or it could be something as ambitious as organising a blind date in a karaoke bar and using a song as an aid to recognition. What’s important is that meeting new people should always be fun - there is so much to discover.

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