As a forty something with kids who has reentered the dating scene I have had as many chats with people about life in general, as I have had with them about how the whole internet dating world happens.
It seems that people are often on different pages as to where they are at in a potential relationship where one party thinks that they are at exclusive dating stage and the other thinks they’re still free to date and see other people.
What I have found is that with no guidelines or structure around how internet dating works, people can get hurt as they have different expectations of their current arrangement…that is no guidelines…until now.
From my experiences so far, here are Pat’s Guidelines to Internet Dating. Feel free to use them and forever more there will be no more mixed messages, unspoken expectations…or hurt feelings (well I can’t guarantee that last one…but this might help a little)
Internet dating happens in three stages…
1. The ‘Profiles Up’ Stage
This is the first stage of internet dating. You’re meeting people and enjoying their company, you might be dating/seeing/coffee-ing several people at once and then you may come across a particular person who you think ‘crumbs they’re alright…I wonder if this could go somewhere?‘ However at this stage you leave your dating profiles up and you are free to see other people and are not committed to this new ‘potential’ partner. You are dating, but not exclusively one person. You are free to see whom you want, when you want and there is no commitment to any one individual. If you state you are in the ‘Profiles Up‘ stage with anyone person, they know that you are not exclusively committed to dating them and that gives them the information they need to decide how that means they respond.
If you have school age children or younger, they are not included in this stage. The are kept at a safe distance so as to not allow them to become collateral damage to a misfired relationship…i.e. one that starts with a hiss and a roar…but fizzles quickly.
2. The ‘Profiles Down’ Stage
The ‘Profiles Down’ Stage is in two parts…the second part is relevant if you have children who live with you and who would be a part of a new relationship.
Part One – You agree with one particular person that there could be something here so you agree to investigate if there is. At this point you are exclusively dating that one person but you haven’t committed to them as your life partner. You are saying ‘man I like you…I really think this could be something…we should really investigate it properly.” You don’t publicise this to the world…you don’t consider yourself a ‘couple’ yet, but you are definitely interested in seeing where this will go so you remove the distraction of any other potential partners by agreeing to exclusively date.
If you have children at the start of the ‘Profiles Down’ stage you do not include them, but they may be more informed about what is going on as compared to ‘Profiles Up’. The children might know that you are spending more time with your newly exclusive person, they may know them by name, they may know you like them…but in the initial stages of ‘Profiles Down’ they are not included.
Part Two – If you have children, at some stage during ‘Profiles Down’ they are to be included, but this is done casually…maybe even to the point of being surreptitious. If you reach this part what you are saying is that you have moved beyond the investigative part of this stage…you’re actively saying ‘this is pretty cool, I like you a lot, I think there’s something good here but I need to know the kids are on board before we move forward.’ Maybe a trip to the park, or an age appropriate casual setting, for the children to meet your new interest…and maybe their children…for the first time. If it’s comfortable and works well then a more ‘formal’ setting like dinner at one person’s house after than and thoughts and conversations about how this could work with the children included.
3. The ‘We’re Official’ Stage
Congratulations you are a couple, you are out and about as an item, you are going to each other’s work functions and you change your Facebook status. People who know you now see you as a unit and you are ‘officially’ in a relationship.
This post does not define that relationship…but to the world outside you and your bae are known to be together.
What I can’t and won’t commit to in this post is timeframe. For some people going through the three stages may be quick…for others slow. For some people maybe stage one and three are quick…but stage two takes a long time to progress…maybe because of concerns around the children and making the transition as safe for them as possible.
Whatever and however you travel this journey though, if you follow these three easy stages with potential partners and you are open, and honest, and clear about where you are at…then the chance of miscommunication and negative fallout are greatly, greatly reduced.
Good luck out there