Online dating for parents: 7 handy rules 

You're a parent. You're single. You fancy meeting someone new. Bit doubtful that you'll find them at the school gate? Online dating (OLD) could be just the ticket.

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Let's clear one thing up right away: there's nothing (zero, nada) wrong with being single if you're happy that way. Your married mates are pestering you to settle down? Tell them to take a hike, and return to your boxset (or surfboard, or part-time astrophysics degree, or whatever it is you like to do in your precious downtime). 

But if you ARE ready to mingle, online dating can be an excellent way to meet someone lovely. These days the stigma is pretty much gone, and the technology is smarter: if you simply must have a partner who's over six foot, loves sushi, and lives within 2.6 miles of you, there'll be a way to find them.

Unsure where to start? Thankfully many Mumsnet users have been where you are now and have drawn up a few helpful rules...

1. Develop a thick skin 

OLD can be like dating in sixth form, but without the social polish and emotional literacy. You might be rejected out of hand by someone whom you'd thought would like your style; you might be given brutally honest feedback; you might even get some unsavoury messages or pictures (block and report those suckers with extreme prejudice). 

In short: you need to be in a good place to do it, and ready to laugh off disappointments. If the thought of your ex still makes you a bit wobbly, you might want to give it a bit longer.  

"My experience is that 80% of contact is from younger men who want cyber sex, 10% are very sweet but completely hopeless, and 10% are genuinely interesting, but may have ishoos. I think it reflects real life actually."

2. Don't invest emotionally too soon 


He's the right age, he has all his own teeth and he laughed at your joke about Peppa Pig. He wonders if you’d like to have coffee. Do not, repeat DO NOT, start imagining how you'll introduce him to your kids. When it comes to OLD, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip (an old English phrase meaning 'a lot can happen between the coffee and the snogging at the bus stop'). 

"The ones who are full-on, early on are - generally speaking - the ones who fade away the fastest. Keep a good balance to start with; not too much involvement till you meet up in person."

3. It's all BS until it actually happens

Lots of people talk a good game online, but the clincher is what people do, not what they say. A vague agreement to have dinner is just that: vague. Don't take your account offline on the strength of it. Mumsnet OLD veterans recommend messaging and dating lots of people at the same time. This isn't 'cheating'; lots of OLD users do it. You should probably assume your date is.

"It's easy to get sucked in by messages - imaginations can go wild. Always assess the information you have in front of you, not what you want to see/hear."

4. Trust your gut instinct 

Someone might tick every box on paper, but make your skin crawl in person. You'll have plenty of dates from which you walk away feeling slightly disappointed, or simply bored. Don't arrange a second date because you think you 'owe' it to them; you don't. The phrase you're looking for is 'it was nice meeting you, but the spark just wasn't there'. Then gather up your marvellousness and move on.

5. People vanishing, lying and being generally weird is NOT your fault

Lots of people on OLD sites are genuine sorts. Others are flaky, or startle easily, or still in love with their exes. Still others have partners sitting at home and are up to no good whatsoever. Some are just - frankly - terrible human beings. Whatever - none of this is any reflection on you. You may have had what you thought was a lovely date, and then you never hear from them again. It's almost certainly for the best, although it can feel a bit harsh. Next! 

"Lots of people lie. I realised this when I spotted a neighbour on a dating site I was using. His profile said he has no kids. He has at least two."

6.  If it's not fun - stop 


There is absolutely nothing to be gained by getting upset over a bunch of thumbnail pictures on a website. Hide your profile, step away and do something that makes you happy instead. 

"I don't miss it in the slightest. Good dates always ended in disappointment when they either revealed a load of red flags, or didn't want to see me again; bad dates were just depressing and left me feeling flat."

7. You are the prize  

The man who runs you down, or talks about his beautiful exes, or implies you'd be very lucky to get another date - he's not for you. Keep an eye out for the ones who seem genuinely to like you, and let the self-absorbed ones move along.

"I stopped trying so hard to be liked by these men, and was just myself with an attitude of 'if you don't like me, you know where the door is'. I've now met someone totally awesome."

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Last updated: almost 3 years ago