If you’ve been dating recently, you probably know this all-too-common situation: You chat with someone on a dating platform for days, then they just disappear.
Or you go out with someone for a few dates, then they flake and without much warning.
Maybe you don’t even get that far: You talk with a bunch of people, but it never leads anywhere. Or on the first date you discover that the other person is phoning it in and not really trying.
You’ve probably experienced one or all of these situations because flakiness is arguably at an all time high in the dating scene. With so many choices, and another person only one swipe away, there’s lots of ghosting, players and casual dating going on right now. And none of this bodes well for those looking for a real relationship.
There are serious singles out there, of course. After all, you’re on the dating platforms. But casual daters abound. How to tell the difference between those casual and serious singles?
Effort matters. It may be annoying and a little-time consuming to set up a profile on sites like Match.com because there are bios to write and questions to answer, but ultimately this is in your best interest.
That’s because long-form dating platforms take work, so casual daters are less likely to use them. You can set up a Tinder or Bumble profile almost immediately, which is good for saving you time. But that works against you if you’re looking for people who are serious about finding a relationship because the barrier to entry is much lower for others, too. Which means more casual daters will be on those quick-start platforms.
So when you’re looking for a serious partner, choose dating platforms that require work. And when browsing for singles on those platforms, pay attention to incomplete or hastily-created profiles. You want people who spent real time on their online dating profile, not those who merely entered their email address and had the system grab photos for them from Facebook.
I recently talked with San Francisco-based matchmaker Sasha Silberberg about what it takes to avoid the flaky folks. One of the first things she told me: Find people on the dating platforms, but get off those platforms as soon as possible.
The reason is simple: People get real when they give you their phone number, email address or WhatsApp/FB Messenger/Line/Kik/WeChat account. If someone is chatting on a dating platform, they’re still somewhat anonymous. Easy to start, easy to stop, no repercussions or realness required. But when you take it off the platform, all that changes.
That doesn’t mean you must immediately ask for a phone number and call the person you meet online. That actually could be a little creepy. But don’t linger on the platform too long; after eight to 10 messages, take it off the platform so you can see if people get real.
Phone calls represent a particularly strong reality check because you can hear the person’s voice and relatively quickly get a baseline for their intentions. If you’re comfortable talking on the phone, this is one of the fastest ways to weed out the casual people from those who are serious.
“A lot of people actually are not explicit about what they are looking for,” Sasha also told me when we talked. “They just kind of go into it, and they don’t ask beforehand.”
That’s a recipe for entering into the wrong kind of relationships, however. If you’re connecting with people and it isn’t going anywhere, try being clear about your goals.
Hey, I’m looking for a serious relationship. I just want you to know that before we move any further.
Telling the people you date what you are looking for is an easy way to make sure you’re not wasting your time with those looking for a casual relationship.
At the same time, you’re not jumping to marriage or pressing the relationship, so it won’t push people away who are serious but also wanting to take it slow. Being clear about your intentions just helps establish the expectations and ground rules.
Not every casual dater will admit they are casual, however. Many of my female clients in Bangkok face this challenge; the men they meet talk like they are serious, but really they just want sex.
I often advise my Bangkok clients to dig a little deeper early in the relationship to help uncover unspoken intentionality. Anyone can say they are serious, but actions speak louder than words and you can learn a lot about a person’s intentions and orientation just by knowing their past.
So if you’re looking for a serious relationship, learn the person’s history. Find out their back story. Hear about past relationships. Dive deep about what drive’s them as a person.
The beautiful thing is that most people love talking about themselves, so you can understand a person’s past relatively easily if you’re not too heavy-handed about it. Yes, grilling your dates about their history might be a mistake, but a persistent interest in their life won’t raise any red flags or stunt the date. In fact, it will help build the connection with the other person.
And if your date doesn’t want to talk about their past and avoids going deep, pay attention. This could be a signal that they are avoiding something, or perhaps that they’re not ready for a deep relationship. So the absence of history also gives you important data when assessing if a person is seriously looking for romance.
If someone doesn’t return your text messages after three or four days, that’s a bad sign. If they return your texts immediately and with great gusto, that’s also a bad sign. Both point to something being wrong.
Now many good and serious single people get busy or have poor communication skills; not responding fast isn’t necessarily a sign something is wrong.
Likewise, someone who comes on strong might be very serious about dating—they might just not know how to play the game.
So neither too fast nor too slow should be an instant disqualification. But it does signal something. Is that something a lack of real interest or intention–or that they are just looking for something casual–or is it a bad habit or a sign of a busy week? Pay attention, because the answer to this question matters when determining if someone is seriously looking or just dipping a toe in the dating pool.
These five tips are just some of the things we’ll be covering in our new dating program, The Joy Love Club.
Each week, dating experts like Sasha will join us live to talk about important areas of dating and what it takes to get that lasting relationship. These private online talks will be streamed live so you can ask questions and interact directly and anonymously with the experts about your actual needs. Replays will be available for attendees who missed a live session.
If you found this article useful, I encourage you to join us at The Joy Love Club.
To get more information about The Joy Love Club, enter your name and email address below.
Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.