Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Does success in online dating take luck, or work?

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

Everyone says, “Relationships take work,” which is true. But finding love also takes work, which many people don’t realize. I wish we were all so lucky to have that perfect-for-us person fall into our arms, but I don’t know anyone who has that kind of good fortune. Just like in our jobs, we have to make our own happiness. We have to do that in the dating arena, too.

So many people say to me on a daily basis, “I had no luck with online dating.” I, of course, follow up with, “What have you been doing to put yourself out there?” I ask which sites they are on, what they wrote in their profiles and what photos they are using. I then usually get the truer picture — that they halfheartedly joined an online dating site (or seven), barely wrote a profile, used whatever pictures they could find quickly and often forgot to log in to the site.

My response is always a bit of tough love. “Of course online dating isn’t working for you then. You have to put in the work to get the results.”

It’s similar to searching for a new job. You put together a resume, review it, do research on various companies, send in applications and go to interviews. If you slop together a resume, have spelling mistakes in your cover letter and generally don’t put your best foot forward, would you say, “I had no luck getting a job”? Maybe, but you would know the cause of the “bad luck” and do something about it.

The naysayers, of course, always have something to say about online dating:

— “I don’t know what to write about myself to stand out” is a common argument. No problem! Let’s chat for an hour and I’ll ask you some questions. Based on that, I’ll suggest ways to make you shine in your profile.


— “None of my pictures look good” is another one. You know there’s a good smile in there somewhere! Less is more when it comes to pictures. A nice close-up smile goes a long way. I recommend five photos (six on Hinge): a clear shot of your face, a full-body, one of you doing something interesting (“message bait”), and two others of you in your element.

— Another good one is, “But none of the people I like are writing to me.” That’s OK. You need to write to people also, which some people still somehow find to be a novel concept.

— “But what will I say?” Don’t worry about it. Just write something short and sweet, taking into account both your personality and something from the other person’s profile. And end with a question to get the conversation going. (Just not “hey,” “how are you?” or “how’s it going?”)

Online dating isn’t so black and white: luck vs. no luck, success vs. failure. There are incremental steps, all of which get you closer to your goals. If you go on two dates this month, which is two more than you’ve gone on in the last year, that is success. (Notice I didn’t call it luck.)

Yes, online dating takes work. But then again, so do most things in life that are worth the outcome. I’m here to lighten the load and guide you through the process.

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