When you’re divorced, you get a lot of questions from newly single women — and women who are clearly contemplating leaving their partner. And one of the biggest questions, especially for those who haven’t been in the dating pool since before Tinder, is this: What’s it really like dating online? Here’s what I know as a heterosexual woman in her 40s without holding back.
First, the scary and exciting: You will be sent nude photos even if you are casually talking about the weather. You will get asked to do threesomes. You will find lots of men who are still married and going through a tumultuous divorce. You will hear stories of “crazy” exes from men who don’t realize they are the common denominator in their own stories. Men will ask you if you are into ass play (which seems to be trending) and everyone has gotten rid of their pubic hair. Keep yours if you want, though; I happen to like my landing strip.
Bumble is different than the other options out there because a man can’t message a woman until they’ve matched and she messages him first. I’m just going to say it: this makes for very lazy men and I’m not a fan.
Okay, if you’re still with me and ready for more after that info dump, go for it. But keep these things in mind. (Yes, of course there is more.)
The red flags: It may seem like there are a lot of options when you first start scrolling. It’s very easy to get caught up and excited. But your matches quickly get whittled down. One person lives too far away. Another isn’t looking for the same thing. One guy may give one-word answers and never ask you any questions. One may ask you for a nude picture after exchanging two messages. The guy you thought looked like the man of your dreams is actually a scammer who ends up asking you to join him in another third-party app. This is a no good, very big red flag.
Scammers, by the way, look like models from Paris. They are very well-dressed, all their pictures are perfect, and their English is broken; their messages make no sense or mimic yours a little too closely. Obviously don’t respond to any more messages and delete these men as a match if you get a strange feeling. But don’t let this break your spirit, either.
You will get ghosted. Get over it. Especially if you join a site like Tinder or Bumble, which are the two of the most used dating apps and tend to be the easiest to use, and where a lot of people start post-divorce because you can have pretty good luck without paying a monthly membership. Ghosting happens to everyone, and for so many reasons. I had one man ghost me only to come back after a month with a message telling me the cold snap threw him off. All you can do is shake it off and try again.
There are lots of requests for sexting and pictures. People are very comfortable hiding behind their phones and asking for pictures of you. If you aren’t comfortable, remember: just because it’s the norm you don’t have to do it. Also, keep in mind you don’t know if there’s a true connection until you meet so you can save sending pictures until you know there is chemistry.
I once sent a sexy picture to a man I thought for sure I’d be attracted to in person. But when we met up, we didn’t click, and I felt very vulnerable and exposed. Lesson learned.
The infamous profile pic: Men don’t put half as much time into their pictures as you will. Tinder is famous for men who seem to enjoy taking close-up car selfies at an unflattering angle. I’m not saying this to be mean; I’m telling you this because men don’t care as much as we do and I urge you to look past it. There will be men you have a connection with even if you don’t love their pictures. Talk to them, give them a chance, and meet them in person if you think there may be a spark there.
Every man I’ve dated or met up with has lied about their height. Every. Single. One. I’ve dated four people exclusively in the past six years and they have all exaggerated their height by at least two inches. I know this because I’ve measured them myself. Even the taller men lie by a few inches. If height is important to you, keep this in mind. This doesn’t mean they’re all liars. Some of them literally think they are six feet tall when they are 5’10”.
Relationships or just sex?: Apps also have lots of men looking for a discrete relationship or couples looking for a third to join them. Like, a whole lot. I was surprised at how many. On Tinder, it sometimes seemed like every fifth swipe was someone looking for just that. It surprised me at first, but now it seems so common it doesn’t even phase me, and my friends have had the same experience.
Yes, there are people on there who are just looking for something casual, which is great if that’s what you are looking for. I’ve found men are very honest and upfront about this right away. They will say it in their profile, tell you right away while messaging, or if you ask them what they are looking for — which I can’t recommend enough, by the way! — they will tell you. If you want to just get it on, go for it and be honest about that too. We’re all adults, and many divorced people have been in a passionless relationship for a long time. Do what feels right and true to you.
You’ll have to spend some time in the weeds, for sure, but it can be a whole lot of fun. And you just might find the one you’ve been waiting for.
Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.