Let’s face it: dating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which is where online dating comes in. Movies and television shows make hooking up look fabulously glamorous, but in reality it’s becoming increasingly hard to find a good potential partner during a night out, a set-up from a friend, or running errands on the weekend. Maybe you’ve been through this already; perhaps you’ve been married before—or close to it—and you know what it is you’re looking for but don’t want to waste years of your life waiting for a magical “meet cute” to make it happen.

So now, imagine yourself shopping for your future partner, while sitting in your living room sipping a glass of wine. Sounds pretty amazing, right? This is the reality of finding love in the digital age, and it’s all thanks to online dating.

5 Key Rules to Follow for Successful Online DatingSure, you could meet the love of your life in the produce aisle of Whole Foods—but I wouldn’t bet your organic bananas on it. Why? Because the odds of meeting your future partner on fate alone are simply not in your favour. We live in a crazy busy society; our lives are chaotic, and our grocery store runs, or trips anywhere for that matter, are often purposeful and hurried.

Online dating is here to stay and has evolved into the most widely accepted and practical way to date throughout the world. But it isn’t magic. It is work, and it takes a lot of time and effort. You’re likely going to go on many dates before you’ve met your match. Or you could be one of the lucky few who get to experience potential love in the first week you’re dating. Who knows? Who cares? As long as you’re out there looking and making yourself actively available, you need to trust the process of finding love.

5 Key Rules to Follow for Successful Online DatingYou know you’re the catch of a lifetime. But how will your future partner know if you do not make your available self known to the world?

If you’re ready to log on and get started online dating, here are five ground rules:

5 Rules for Navigating Online Dating in the Digital Age

Online Dating Rule 1: You Have to Go Through It to Get Over It

You, my perfect peach, are not exempt from the agony, effort, and disappointment we all have to go through to find “The One.” You’re going to have bad dates. You’re going to get emails and winks from some creeps.

Do not focus on the bad dates or bad apples. Instead, focus on the potential matches who may just end up being your life partner.

Online Dating Rule 2: Be Realistic in Your Dating Quest

Dating will take time and effort on your part. You also need to be realistic instead of holding out for the next Channing Tatum. Look for those with a similar socioeconomic, educational, and life status. Date those whose lives seem like they could mesh with yours. Having unattainable expectations of your future partner is unrealistic and will only serve to limit your dating options to probable non-options.

Online Dating Rule 3: Respect the Dating Roles

Allow traditional roles to come to life during the initial dating process. Either of you can make the first move to make a connection. The initial online contact is highly encouraged from either side. However, once initial contact information and a first date have transpired, let tradition prevail.

Once someone has your number, they know how to get in touch with you. And if you get no answer, well, that’s your answer. Being too available and (gasp!) too needy is strictly forbidden.

Online Dating Rule 4: Share a Mutual Interest

Mutual interests keep you connected as a couple and allow you to explore life as a tag team. It’s like being married to your best friend, with the bonus of sex! If you spend months or years trying to convert your potential mate to have the same hobbies as you, that is precious time that could be spent with someone who instinctively shares your interests.

Online Dating Rule 5: Give It Time

Finally, make sure to avoid putting a timeline on finding love. There are no shortcuts or free passes to love. Keep your profile active, and maintain a positive dating attitude. Most importantly, never let a few bad dates detour you from finding the love you so richly deserve.

Finding love has never been easier, so charge your laptop, take your time, and venture into the world of online dating. What do you have to lose?

Michelle Afont is a longtime divorce attorney, life advisor, and author of the books The Dang Factor, The Dude Factor and The Profile Factor.

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