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She then revises my profile, noting that I love cooking vegetables I grow in my garden, that Dave Chappelle has my kind of humor, that “meeting new people excites me: I could spend half an hour talking to the cashiers at Trader Joe’s.” Three-quarters of the profile should be about me, and the other quarter about what I want in a mate, says Hoffman, who tells me to be specific here, too: The goal isn’t to attract everyone, it’s to find The One. "In psychology research, we call this a 'variable reinforcement schedule,'" Lehmiller says.

We come up with “My ideal match is someone who loves family, has an opinion on current events, and can hold his own at a cocktail party on a Friday night, then chill with me on a lazy Saturday.” The final touch is a headline that sums up my approach to life, like a personal slogan. "It's like a slot machine—the majority of the time, you pull the lever and nothing happens, but every once in a while, there's a payoff." A deflating solution from one online dater: "Draw a face on it and send it back to him."Hoffman looks at my photos and nixes the corporate headshot and mirror selfie. Mirror selfies often give off an air of vanity.” She says the best profile shots feature the three Cs: color (vibrant shades, especially red, grab attention), context (pics that involve your hobbies, like travel or, say, clog dancing), and character (something quirky or funny, “like you in your Halloween costume”).

For the main photo, we do a close headshot where I’m smiling into the camera.

For the others, we do one of me outside in a green dress, one where I’m wearing something sparkly, and another where I’m standing on an escalator.

I probably would’ve gone out with Dex, but the guy took too long! Finally, one day, he said that if I wanted to see the new movie we’d been discussing (, it turns out), he’d love to tag along.

I was pregnant (on purpose) with our oldest son three months after that.

You don’t have to stand in a bar and wait for the right one to come along,” says Fisher.

“And we’ve found that people looking for a sweetheart on the internet are more likely to have full-time employment and higher education, and to be seeking a long-term partner.

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Then he disappeared into the entry alcove of the bar, curled over his cell phone for ten minutes. I thought maybe I liked him, but he made me a little uncomfortable, too. He looked at me until finally, under some weird pressure, I gave it to him. A note explained that he’d seen this poster and thought of me, because of my favorite old movie. I scanned my memory for days, trying to remember whom I’d discussed this with in the last six months… I had to say no to Dex’s request to finally meet in person. – Ivan: Another guy I met in the store I worked at, Ivan is the guy I married.

If they're older/paunchier/have more neck bolts than he does in the photos, choose compassion, says New York dating coach Connell Barrett.

“He probably lied because it’s a sore spot.” Just have one polite drink. You may wind up charmed—and it’s the human thing to do.

I avoided picking up the phone for any local number I didn’t recognize. He said I knew him as a customer (I worked in a men’s shop), but he didn’t want to reveal who he was. A few months later, I received a mailing tube with a bow on it at the store where I worked. I opened the tube, and it was the original movie poster for starring Katharine Hepburn. His voice seemed a little familiar, but by that time, I was already in a relationship with my husband – one that had started out fast and grown like wildfire.

His approach creeped me out and I hated that I felt pressured to give him my digits. One day I received a note saying I had captured his attention during a conversation we’d recently had. He finally called me at the store a few months later, if I can remember correctly. He just kept coming back to the store and hanging out for a few minutes, chatting with me and the women I worked with. Online dating is the way to go—you just have to learn to work the system.” So take heart: Whether you’re a first-time player or a seasoned contestant who wants to up her game, our troubleshooting guide is here to help, with advice from both experts and survivors on how to search strategically, handle setbacks gracefully, maintain sanity, and enjoy the ride—with minimal agony and maximum ecstasy. Seven years ago, I signed up for Match.com, but I never took it seriously.