Not everyone is married, nor does everyone want to be. But many people would like to be, or at least they'd like to be in a long-term committed relationship. So how do you go about finding that someone special? It used to be that you went to singles events or bars, or you might have been paired up by family, friends, or coworkers. It was a crapshoot with lousy odds, considering the amount of time, energy, and effort expended compared with the number of people with whom you came into contact.

Enter the internet. There are now dating sites for Christians, Catholics, Jews, seniors, single parents, even the "casual" dater, and certainly more to come. If you are single and just entering the world of internet dating, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Jettison any Cinderella or Prince Charming Visions. Internet profiles are most often designed to present someone in a favorable, airbrushed light. Isn’t that what you tried to do when you created yours? Keep a tight grip on reality as you read through profiles, remembering the time-tested advice that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. Honesty is the Best Policy. Don't try to hide who you are. Deception is a terrible foundation upon which to build a relationship. Be honest and open. Use current, up-to-date pictures, not the snapshot that wedding five years ago that miraculously made you look 3 inches taller and 10 pounds thinner.
  3. Do Your Homework. Thoroughly check out the sites you're considering. Look at the overall presentation, the graphics, images and general tone. If you already feel uncomfortable just viewing the homepage, it's not for you; try another site.
  4. Don't Compromise Your Principles. Choose a dating site that reflects your values and then stick to them throughout the process, from signing up to creating your profile to evaluating the profiles of others and entering relationships.
  5. Don't Panic. Relax. You're not buying a used car. Relationships take time to recognize, initiate, and cultivate. Take your time.
  6. Follow Your Intuition. Be aware of your gut reactions and feelings as you go through the process. It's incredible how much communication is subliminal. Call it wisdom, intuition, a sixth sense, or your conscience—but pay attention to your feelings and senses.
  7. Do Your Own Work First. If you're not comfortable with yourself, how can you expect anyone else to be? Relationships with other people should not be used merely as a distraction from your relationship with yourself. Learn to love, appreciate, live with, and value yourself first, and you’ll be better equipped to extend those blessings to someone else.
  8. Check Yourself for Ulterior Motives. What are you honestly looking for? Is it all about putting yourself out there to find that special someone, or is this an internally-focused voyeuristic excuse to mine the photos, intimate details, and lives of other people? The ultimate point of a dating site should be to meet real people, not spend all your free time scanning online profiles.

Finally, dating sites are not panaceas; they are just another way to connect with other people. Go online, sure, but remember to bring your honesty, integrity, values, and principles with you. Connecting a search for love, romance, and intimacy with the internet needs to be done alertly, maturely, and cautiously.

Gregory L. Jantz, PhD is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and an internationally recognized best selling author of over 26 books related to mental wellness and holistic recovery treatment. This article features excerpts from Dr. Jantz's book Hooked.

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