Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Simple ways to expand your online dating search -- without compromising your must-haves

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Starting on a new dating app or website can feel like New Year’s Day (usually without the hangover), and there are a ton of possibilities ahead. You can’t help but be a little giddy with hope and excitement. You set up your profile, pick your best photos and start narrowing down your search criteria to find your ideal partner.

But like a new year, the sense of disappointment often sets in a few weeks later. Just like slipping back into old habits after making a resolution, you start to see the same potential matches over and over again... and you start to wonder why you thought this might work.

Online dating is definitely a roller-coaster of emotions. But at the end of the day, you’re in control of this ride — and although it seems daunting, you might need to expand your search criteria a bit.

When I am looking at matches for a client, I start by searching for their ideal partner, from their preferred height to proximity. But those specific and narrow parameters often yield just a handful of results. And unfortunately, you can’t custom order your life partner.

If the dating app or website you’re using is showing the same results, it’s time to start thinking about how you can cast a wider net. Think about what you can compromise a little on — maybe you don’t mind a man who is 5-foot-11 rather than 1 inch taller, or you can be a little flexible on age — and change your search criteria just a little bit at a time. You’d be surprised how these simple expansions can result in showing new profiles.


One thing I’d also recommend is expanding your location settings. If I told you the love of your life lives 35 miles away instead of 30, you’d happily drive the extra five minutes in the car, right? Or if you live in a mostly suburban or rural area, you might need to search in the nearest city for a lot more options. It feels like a first date isn’t worth a lot of traveling time, but if it results in the last first date, I promise the extra time on a train, bus or car is worthwhile.

But for each person, there are a few nonnegotiables. Maybe you would never date a smoker, but someone might be honest and mark that they smoke but are trying to quit, and you have to keep those things in mind when searching. Or perhaps you’d like someone who shares your religion, which is completely understandable. However, plenty of people convert to a new religion to match their spouse or don’t mind if their partner practices a religion that they are not a part of. You just never know until you’ve had a few conversations.

It’s easy to become frustrated with the seeming lack of options in the online dating world, but it’s not so hard to give someone who doesn’t tick every single box a chance to impress you. Keeping an open mind is essential. So widen those search boundaries, give those repeating profiles a second look, and realize that maybe even you don’t know exactly what you want.

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