Dear Thelma: I’ve failed to find love via online dating

By Thelma
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Dear Thelma,

I am 31 years old, have an amazing job and decent looks and mannerisms, but have been struggling to find a partner through online dating. Throughout the past year, I have been able to land dates with women more than 20 times. But all of the dates have a common pattern – they usually start off well but fizzle out by the second date or third date. Upon post-mortem discussion with the women who rejected me, they often say the same thing: “You are an amazing person but I just don’t feel the spark with you.”

I am too tired to go out there and try again, as I am tired of getting hurt repeatedly. I realised my approach of genuinely trying to make efforts and plans with a woman or even initiating calls and texts are perceived as “coming on too strong” and this frustrates me as well. I’ve even minimised my texts, calls and efforts but to no avail as it subsequently prevents me from establishing an emotional connection with someone.

So, should I just give up the pursuit of finding love or a partner? I have resorted to many self-help books to tweak my approach with women. I have gotten some success from it but along the way I’ve realised I have lost a big part of me throughout the journey as it requires a lot of alterations to my personality and, frankly, it is really exhausting to pretend to be someone I am not.

I am not trying to victimise myself but having gone out with over 20 women and ending up getting rejected after a few weeks or months, what could possibly be wrong with me? I have gotten so used to rejection that I am numb to the outcome of dating and do not even look forward to the dates anymore.

So Thelma, please give me a suggestion to avoid this vicious cycle of repetition as I do want to find love and build a relationship with someone.


Dear AX,

You are so not alone with this issue! While your description is classic, I suggest the first move is to examine your perception.

You’ve had dates with 20 or so prospective partners you met online, and none of them has blossomed into a relationship.

You see this as striking out 20 times. I suggest that this is because of the way online dating works.

With online dating, you read profiles, connect online, text a bit, and then make plans, get dressed up, travel, and finally meet. That’s a lot of time and effort, so when it doesn’t lead anywhere, you feel let down.

Contrast it to meeting women at a party. There you’d talk for a few minutes, and you’d only ask for a date if you felt a spark. You’d likely ask just two or three, but it would be less effort and you’d have a better chance of a match.

While online dating can be useful, it takes an awful lot of extra work compared to meeting people in real life.

An additional problem with meeting online first is that many people have crafted an online persona that shows off their ideal selves. Some have an online persona that is completely different from their real selves. Therefore, you’ll have a lot of people who sound good on chat but who just won’t do it for you when you meet up.

Should you avoid online dating? No, it is useful. But I think you need to tweak a bit.

But first, my best advice is this: you’ve got 20 women out there with first-hand experience of going on a date with you. Ask them to set you up with single women they think you would get along with.

Also speak to your cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, colleagues, schoolmates, and everyone else you can think of. The people who know you, are much more likely to find you suitable partners than an algorithm.

And join activities and clubs where you can meet lots of people in a casual setting. Try hiking groups, running clubs, and dance classes. If you drink, go to pubs and clubs when they open again. If you’re religious, see what social activities your organisation offers.

Now, about tweaking those algorithms. Twenty women met you, so your chat is clearly excellent. You are also sensitive, empathetic and willing to learn, because you have adapted your texting style. Kudos to you!

I agree that being someone you’re not is exhausting. It is also not sensible; eventually, they will see the real you. So don’t try and change. Authentic is always awesome.

But ensure you’re making the most of your profile and online experience.

First, be on the right platform. There’s no point on being on a hook-up app when you’re looking for a match. Delete your profile on the apps that don’t suit your purpose. Then junk those apps.

Second, we tend to think of ourselves as buyers, and so our profile is often dedicated to what we’re looking for. However, your profile is really a sales page; you are the product.

Some 75% of your profile page should explain who you are. Only the last 25% should be about your target audience. It should all be personal and positive; don’t try and play mind games.

“I am a huge Marvel fan. When I’m not in the cinema catching a new release, I’m chilling with my cat Nelson and watching Smallville reruns. Since the pandemic hit, I’ve taken up jogging and I’m a reasonable cook. I’m 31 and although I loved dating in my 20s, I am now looking actively for a long-term relationship.”

It should include a close-up photo of your face, an action shot that matches your hobby, and a full-length portrait so people know exactly what to expect.

Third, be ruthless about investing your time. Swipe left on women who tell you they are not actively looking for anything serious.

That last bit may hurt because we tend to think that the more people we date, the more chance of meeting The One. However, you have a solid goal and there is no point in spending time with women who don’t share that.

Finally, we’re opening up again, so people will be keen to socialise. Take advantage of that joy in being free again and meet lots of people.

Remember, you’re thoughtful, outgoing and goal-oriented, and there are lots of great women out there looking for a partner. So good luck, and I expect you will meet someone in the next few months.

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