Swipe right: Online dating in the military

Dating in the digital age means there are many websites and apps at your disposal to help match you with “the one”—or at least help you explore your options. Online dating is a popular way to meet other singles based on shared traits, preferences, and interests. For Service Members who might find themselves in new cities or countries with little free time, online dating apps can offer a convenient way to make local connections. With free and paid options available, finding a dating app or website that meets your needs can be relatively easy. And you can put as much or little time into online dating as you want.

Positives and pitfalls

For some, online dating can feel pretty fast-paced, which has its ups and downs. With some personal details available up-front, such as age, political affiliation, or sexual orientation, you can decide quickly whether you think you’re compatible with a potential partner. Online dating can help you truly express yourself and match with like-minded people.

Plus, meeting people through apps and websites means you can talk more frequently and intimately sooner than you might in traditional dating. Although some people think it’s harder to write than talk in real time, for many, chatting online can feel safer than chatting in person. Some people feel communicating with others online is more authentic and produces closer relationships, especially for those who struggle with social skills.

Still, if you move too quickly, things could backfire. The most successful online dater is someone who takes time to get to know the other person, before meeting up. Talking on the phone prior to meeting in person can lead to more committed relationships in the long run. And discussing your preferences for an ideal long-term partner up front leads to more second dates.

Online profile: Put your best self forward

Online dating is generally most successful when you show the real you. A good place to start is to think about how you show yourself in your profile, where you post pictures and basic information. It’s normal to feel some pressure to make the best possible first impression when you create and edit your profile. While it can be tempting to portray an ideal image of yourself, such as by posting an outdated photo where you think you looked better, you’ll get the best results if you’re honest about who you are and what you bring to the table.

Your dating profile is a place to showcase your interests and the character traits that describe you best. Spend some time thinking about what these are. Ask family or friends for feedback to confirm whether your vision of yourself aligns with what they think, as the people who know you best. Instead of focusing on what you think might attract matches, be honest; it will help you find more genuine connections.

Think about what you really want in a partner too, so you can quickly spot those traits in profiles. Are you looking for a great conversationalist? Do you want to meet someone who likes the outdoors? Which values would you want to see in a potential date’s profile? Maybe it’s a love of animals or a passion for volunteer work you want in your mate. Or maybe your ideal match is someone with a big support system or someone who loves to read. Although the idea of opposites attract can seem exciting, people often choose to spend time with those who are similar to themselves, so look for these commonalities.

Military-specific considerations

It’s also important to be mindful of how you represent your military service in your online dating profile. Service Members are held to the same standards for using dating apps and websites as they are for their Internet and social media usage. Be professional and avoid commenting or behaving inappropriately. Keep operational security in mind: Don’t post or share details of your training and don’t geotag your location.

How to spot a good match

As you start to explore possible connections, you might notice how quickly your matches respond, how much time they spend on the site or app, and the words they use to express themselves. Your perceptions of how often your matches communicate—and their communication style—can help you tell how attracted you are to them.

Online dating requires a balance of open-mindedness and critical thinking. It’s true some people misrepresent themselves or their intentions on dating apps. But there are ways to lower the risk of being misled.

  • Look for consistency in the information your matches share with you.
  • Ask open-ended questions with curiosity if someone’s story doesn’t align or keeps changing.
  • Once you start talking on the phone, look for signs of reliability. Do they call as promised? Do they show genuine interest in you by remembering things you’ve shared and respecting your boundaries?

When you feel ready to meet in person, try to find activities you both might like. Brainstorm together to see what you’d both be comfortable doing. Pick an activity that has a set beginning and end time—such as meeting for coffee or lunch—to help manage any concerns about how the date will end. Also, think about how different schedules or distance might make it hard for you to meet up. Decide on the level of effort you’re both willing to make—and see where the journey takes you.

To read more on dating, check out these HPRC resources:

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