Written for Soulmatch

Dating Q&A #15:

The Internet Dating Dilemma: How Do They Look Now?

I’ve met a few people on Yahoo! Personals that have ended up being very different than their photos. Their photos are from the 1980s or they’ve had extreme weight changes – usually from slim or average to very heavy, etc. What can I do to be sure that I am meeting a person who’s being on the level without seeming too suspicious? – Roger A., 41, Denver, Colo.

David Wygant answers: When someone emails you, feel free to ask them for a current photo. I would not mention weight changes specifically but you can have fun with how you ask (“I’d like to gaze at your picture when I’m writing to you.”). I feel that people need to stop wasting other’s time with pictures that are not current and don’t represent what they look like today. You won’t be able to convince someone to go out with you when you meet them in person. If you misrepresent who you are in photos, you’ll have to start over after each date. Feel good about who you are now! Thanks for the great email, and I hope people listen to this important advice.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. answers: Sadly, Roger, you can’t control other people or force them to be honest. They are probably thinking that if you just met them, you’d like them – but if you saw their photo, you wouldn’t give them a chance. All you can do is ask if it’s a current photo, and let them know that it’s important to you that they look like their photo.

The Insightful Dater answers: Having been out in the trenches myself, I’ve come across a few people who look different than their photos. But I’ve found them to be the exception rather than the rule. Try to meet someone after you both feel comfortable instead of waiting for a long time and getting your expectations high. Then, when you arrange to meet for coffee, just ask them to shoot you a very recent photo so you’re sure you’ll approach the right woman when you’re in the coffee shop. At that point, they’ll either say their profile photos are really recent, send you a new, more recent photo, or you’ll know when you meet them what the scoop is–and you can just get your caffeine fix, make a little small talk, and be on your way. Of course, if you decide to mention the fact that they’re different from their photos, be nice. You may not be interested in dating them, but you could be the little angel that tells them they shouldn’t be so worried about people’s judgements and should be proud of their smile.

Hair red today, blonde tomorrow

I know online dating tends to be about looks. I’m an attractive lady. However, I change my appearance frequently by cutting and coloring my hair. When meeting someone in person, I always anticipate a reaction when I’ve been corresponding with someone online. Is there anyway to make the transition easier? How should I approach letting them know? – Renee C., 35, Corpus Christi, Texas

David Wygant answers: Simply change your photo online every time you change your look. If you do this, you won’t be nervous when you meet the person, and you won’t waste time explaining yourself to someone. I feel that people need to be honest and upfront in their profiles. If you are, you’ll attract the right person and not waste time on the wrong people. You sound fun, and I’m sure you will meet someone great. Keep me posted.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. answers: If it’s just a haircut or color, it shouldn’t be too big a deal. Just say – “I know my picture shows me as a long-haired blonde, but expect to meet a short-haired redhead. I like to change my look frequently.” If that’s really all that’s changed, that’s all you have to say. If, however, you’re considerably older than your picture, or you’ve gained weight, it might really matter to the other person. If that’s the case, save yourself the hurt feelings, and let the person know beforehand.

The Insightful Dater answers: It sounds like the whole meeting in person thing has become a real ordeal, given your affinity for changes in hair cut and color. My best advice would be to have a digital camera handy for when you leave the beauty salon. Uploading a new photo to your profile is a snap, and it’ll help you avoid the trauma of reactions upon meeting. Going this route, you’ll avoid worrying altogether!

Too soon to know?

I’ve met someone I really like, and we have a lot in common. We’re both seeking a long-term relationship. We spent many hours on the phone getting to know each other, then finally decided to meet. The chemistry was definitely there. I have three children, he’s never been married nor does he have children. We call each other every day and both know we want to get to know each other in depth. Is it too soon to have strong feelings for someone I’ve just met? We’ve known each other for three weeks. – Rosemary E., 37, Round Rock, Texas

David Wygant answers: You can have strong feelings for someone immediately. The next step is to take the time and get to know each other. In my work, I suggest to everyone that you need to know someone for 4 seasons before you can make a lifetime decision. Over time you will learn everything about someone, and you will also be able to see how they react in all kinds of situations. Enjoy this process and cherish each moment. There is nothing better than getting to know someone and falling in love. Keep me posted.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. answers: Yes, too short. Please don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Slow down. Your feelings are not based on enough real knowledge of each other. You have children to consider, and you don’t want to set them up to dislike this person. You’ll find “Dating Guidelines for Single Parents” on my web site that will help you understand appropriate behavior with your date. Take your time, you have lots to learn about each other. Chemistry is not enough for a commitment. Character is much more important, especially when you’re responsible for the well-being of your children. I hope for your sake that this turns out to be everything you’ve always wanted, but remember that there are a lot of con artists in the world who will tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth. You both need to take the time to get to know each other. Talking on the phone won’t do it.

The Insightful Dater answers: There’s no doubt that you can build strong connections online. Just keep your wits about you. The truth is, you need to meet in person and get a real sense of his energy and your chemistry when you’re together. Set expectations, for yourself and for him, that you both need to build in time to get used to one another in person. There’s nothing wrong with strong feelings – they’re exciting. Just remember that everything has happened quickly, and no matter how much you feel pushed by the circumstances, there is always, always time to slow things down and take a deep breath. If he’s a good catch, he’ll be supportive of your effort to remain centered and grounded throughout this process. After all, you have three children who are affected by your choices, so it makes good sense to slow down and make sure you are making good ones.