You pick up your phone and, without thinking, your fingers instinctively navigate to your online dating app to check for any alerts, new potential mates, and responses from the string of people you've been half-heartedly chatting with over the last month or so. You thumb through your inbox, roll your eyes at a few messages, screenshot a few to send to your BFF, respond inquisitively to some, and then robotically swipe for a good 10 to 15 before closing out and tending to more pressing, real-world obligations.
You've been playing the online dating app game for months, maybe even years. Still, your greatest success was probably the two-month stint that yielded lots of great sex, but hardly a lasting connection. You ponder whether all of this is even worth the effort of a haphazard swipe.
Here's the thing. Despite the frustrations it can bring, online dating does work, and it works pretty consistently. More than that, it's undeniably empowering for both sexes, and arguably more so for women.
“In terms of women, they don't have to get all dressed up and dolled up, and go stand at the bar and spend a lot of money. They can use online dating apps at home in their pajamas and with their girlfriends around," said Dr. Helen Fisher, a biologist-anthropologist, relationship expert, and the chief scientific advisor for Match.com.
She added that online dating is also safer for women — permitting you follow the basic rules — that it's cost-effective, and that it can yield real, meaningful relationships.
“Women are marrying a lot later now, and they're not marrying the boy that they hung around with in high school or guys that they dated in college or even in their early twenties," noted Dr. Fisher. “For thousands of years, when we were living on the farm and women weren't very educated and were without access to their own money, the only way they could find stability was to marry well. These days, they can get their own career, educate themselves, and marry much later, and online dating is helping to do that."
In that sense, online dating has relieved some of the pressures associated with women feeling like they must get married very early in life. It gives them an opportunity to expand their dating pool beyond their current social circle, a circle which becomes increasingly stagnant as you get older. And yes, while there was always that option to step outside of that circle, online dating makes doing so much easier, and thereby enables us to more easily find a partner at any time in our lives. It also puts a real screening process into place, which can help narrow your focus and prevent time-wasting dating tangents.
How to Make Online Dating Work For You
All that said, the online dating hustle can be downright exhausting. The key is to approach these dating apps strategically with a full understanding of what you want, and what the potential pitfalls are.
Think of Reasons to Say Yes“You know so little about a human being at the beginning, and you [can over-emphasize] the things that you don't like about them. The brain is built to say no; it's called positive delusion," explained Dr. Fisher. “You've got to overlook the things you don't like and focus on what you do like and get to know the person better. Unless there's something completely and obviously off, think of reasons to say yes to people who are semi in the ball park and get to know them better."
“Saying yes" begins the second you begin filling out your profile, too.
“Apps allow us to filter for everything right down to hair color, but let's be honest — when was the last time a relationship failed or succeeded due to the shade on your noggin?" asked Whitney Linscott, who founded the online dating app, Bracket. “Setting the age too tight? Mr. Right might have just had his birthday and aged out of your range. I assure you there are great guys outside the tight parameters you have set.
Prevent Cognitive Overload
Having options is one of the best things about online dating, but it can also be your downfall.
“So many women get caught up in swiping and searching they rarely make it on an actual date, convinced that their future husband is just one more swipe away," said Linscott.
Dr. Fisher agreed, and explained that there's a sweet spot in the brain between five and nine choices.
“One thing I say to women is, after you've communicated with nine people online, stop and go out with at least one and get to know this person better," she said. "We can introduce you to all kinds of people who are the right size, shape, background, and education — and that's great — but you've got to go out and check out these people yourself. The only real algorithm is your own brain."
If you're dating online with the goal of meeting someone, falling in love, and settling down, get to the important questions. Do you want to get married? What does this timeline look like? Do you want kids? How many? What's your family like? What kinds of relationships do you have with your friends, family, and co-workers? Where do you want to live? What are your career goals?
Another topic to discuss, said Dr. Fisher, is credit score.
“A good credit score indicates if you're responsible, reliable, trustworthy, and smart," Dr. Fisher explained. “It actually ups your mate value because it's an honest signal of how you handle money. You can be driving a fancy car, but it really doesn't say what you were like 10 years ago, and it doesn't say anything about what you're going to be like 10 years from now. That car is a courtship signal for right now, whereas a good credit score is a genuine one. It's been earned."
Match.com just conducted a study on this very topic, and found that financial responsibility ranked higher than a sense of humor, attractiveness, ambition, courage, and modesty in terms of traits people look for in a mate. Also, 69% of those surveyed said that a credit score was an important measure of responsibility or an extremely important quality they look for, and over 50% admitted that finances put a major strain on a previous relationship, with 20% saying this strain ultimately lead to a breakup.
Stop Wasting Time With The Wrong Person
Another topic to discuss, said Dr. Fisher, is credit score.
It's anyone's prerogative to date around, but if you're looking to settle down, don't waste your time on someone who's clearly not the person you want to spend the foreseeable future with. The “grass is greener" syndrome is real in online dating because a new mate is literally within a fingertip's reach. As someone who's extensively studied brain circuitry of those in love and therefore has a profound understanding of the way humans act when they're deeply committed, Dr. Fisher was straightforward about this one.
“Once you fall in love, all those others have no meaning for you at all, so if you're dating someone for a month and you're still thinking, 'Maybe there's something better,' you have not fallen in love yet."
Falling in love doesn't always happen quickly, but if you're looking for greener grass months into the relationship, either this person's not the right one for you, or you're not ready for a relationship. And if you're the one who's all in with little to no commitment from the other person, it's time to have a serious talk.
Ultimately, online dating is empowering for both sexes and, when approached with authenticity and an open mind, can absolutely work.
New parents re-entering the workforce are often juggling the tangible realities of daycare logistics, sleep deprivation, and a cascade of overwhelming work. No matter how parents build their family, they often struggle with the guilt of being split between home and work and not feeling exceptionally successful in either place.
Women building their families often face a set of challenges different from men. Those who have had children biologically may be navigating the world of pumping at work. Others might feel pulled in multiple directions when bringing a child into their home after adoption. Some women are trying to learn how to care for a newborn for the first time. New parents need all the help they can get with their transition.
Women returning to work after kids sometimes have to address comments such as:
"I didn't think you'd come back."
"You must feel so guilty."
"You missed a lot while you were out."
To counteract this difficult situation, women are finding mentors and making targeting connections. Parent mentors can help new moms address integrating their new life realities with work, finding resources within the organization and local community, and create connections with peers.
There's also an important role for parent mentors to play in discussing career trajectory. Traditionally, men who have families see more promotions compared to women with children. Knowing that having kids may represent a career setback for women, they may work with their mentors to create an action plan to "back on track" or to get recognized for their contributions as quickly as possible after returning to work.
Previously, in a bid to accommodate mothers transitioning back to work, corporate managers would make a show at lessoning the workload for newly returned mothers. This approach actually did more harm than good, as the mother's skills and ambitions were marginalized by these alleged "family friendly" policies, ultimately defining her for the workplace as a mother, rather than a person focused on career.
Today, this is changing. Some larger organizations, such as JP Morgan Chase, have structured mentorship programs that specifically target these issues and provide mentors for new parents. These programs match new parents navigating a transition back to work with volunteer mentors who are interested in helping and sponsoring moms. Mentors in the programs do not need to be moms, or even parents, themselves, but are passionate about making sure the opportunities are available.
It's just one other valuable way corporations are evolving when it comes to building quality relationships with their employees – and successfully retaining them, empowering women who face their own set of special barriers to career growth and leadership success.
Mentoring will always be a two way street. In ideal situations, both parties will benefit from the relationship. It's no different when women mentor working mothers getting back on track on the job. But there a few factors to consider when embracing this new form of mentorship
How to be a good Momtor?
Listen: For those mentoring a new parent, one of the best strategies to take is active listening. Be present and aware while the mentee shares their thoughts, repeat back what you hear in your own words, and acknowledge emotions. The returning mother is facing a range of emotions and potentially complicated situations, and the last thing she wants to hear is advice about how she should be feeling about the transition. Instead, be a sounding board for her feelings and issues with returning to work. Validate her concerns and provide a space where she can express herself without fear of retribution or bull-pen politics. This will allow the mentee a safe space to sort through her feelings and focus on her real challenges as a mother returning to work.
Share: Assure the mentee that they aren't alone, that other parents just like them are navigating the transition back to work. Provide a list of ways you've coped with the transition yourself, as well as your best parenting tips. Don't be afraid to discuss mothering skills as well as career skills. Work on creative solutions to the particular issues your mentee is facing in striking her new work/life balance.
Update Work Goals: A career-minded woman often faces a new reality once a new child enters the picture. Previous career goals may appear out of reach now that she has family responsibilities at home. Each mentee is affected by this differently, but good momtors help parents update her work goals and strategies for realizing them, explaining, where applicable, where the company is in a position to help them with their dreams either through continuing education support or specific training initiatives.
Being a role model for a working mother provides a support system, at work, that they can rely on just like the one they rely on at home with family and friends. Knowing they have someone in the office, who has knowledge about both being a mom and a career woman, will go a long way towards helping them make the transition successfully themselves.