Ethics in New-Age Dating?

1. Don’t lie or over embellish who you are: So, you knock a couple of years off your age, list yourself a little thinner, or add an inch or two to your height; heck, you might even give yourself a phantom salary raise. No big deal, right? You could at least capture someone’s attention, give yourself a better shot at setting up an initial meeting, and allow your sparkling personality to close the deal. Everybody understands this and just about everybody does it. But for the most part it won’t pay off if your picture is so old that you’re barely recognizable in person—one client told me he was shocked to find that a 42-year-old woman he drove over an hour to meet had put up her high school picture. He said he had to circle her several times to make sure she was his date before he approached her. Don’t grossly misrepresent your height or weight—a female client told me a prospective date offered a head shot and listed his height at 5’11. He turned out to be 4’11. Another woman complained that a man who touted himself as athletic came “rolling” into the bar they met at—in her estimation he was at least 100 pounds overweight. His excuse: “Well, I used to be an athlete.”

This is just some of the embellishing that takes place. Some people take this to a much higher level. How about this one? A woman obviously didn’t think an ordinary college education would suffice so she listed herself as having several graduate degrees. Here’s another example: A man who couldn’t afford to spring for lunch, had initially listed his annual income at well over $100,000—in reality, he was unemployed.

In my opinion it’s safest not to lie about or embellish anything. I empathize with a desire for minor embellishment but why take the chance. The odds are you’re going to get caught and it’s not a particularly good idea to start a relationship off on the wrong foot. It will only prompt a potential partner to wonder: What else has he/she lied about? Don’t you realize some of these people will try to verify your age by asking to see your driver’s license. Then what are you going to say?

2. Don’t look for a fight: Some clients have received mean responses from people they’ve politely solicited. There are some very angry people out there looking to avenge a bad experience; others may be anxious, cynical, and even a little paranoid. Treat everyone with respect and if you feel you’re being abused, I believe it’s better to disappear than to engage. In many cases the objective (conscious or unconscious) of one of these argument-starters is to “start a fight”—nothing more. Playing into their dynamic might only enable them to continue to come at you. Don’t start an altercation and don’t engage in one. Avoid being competitive, stay neutral, and move on if the experience is unpleasant.

3. Don’t solicit or accept a date from someone “you know” you’re not going to be interested in: It’s best to be honest with yourself about your interest in a person rather than lead him/her on. You may not be able to accurately assess whether you’ll end up with a particular individual until you’ve dated them for a period of time but if you’re relatively sure there’s virtually no chance of something working out, don’t get involved. One male client told me that he abhorred driving more than an hour for a date. He said that he was sure he’d only try it once or twice and eventually find a way to get out of the relationship. My response: Why build up someone’s expectations only to eventually let them down?

4. Don’t date too many people at one time: I didn’t list a specific number of dates because I know that people have different resources and energy levels. But you simply won’t do any relationship justice by spreading yourself too thin; you’ll probably end up being neglectful. A male client told me that he forgot to check in on one of the five women he was dating after her major surgery. Hurt and angry she broke up with him and a couple of months later he regretted it when, by process of illumination, he realized that this woman would’ve been the best match for him. Let’s also not forget what times we live in: sleeping with too many partners has its own consequences, for all those involved.

5. Take “no” for an answer—don’t personalize it—and don’t get depressed: If you’re rejected, don’t get down, and definitely don’t harass the person. What good is it if you cajole someone into dating you? No good! Here’s a different perspective: Not everyone who rejects you is doing so because there’s something wrong with you. Some people will reject you because you’re too good-looking, or too healthy. For all you know it could be that they unconsciously feel more comfortable with someone who’ll mistreat them. If someone says no to you, let it go and move on. An authentic response is always most valuable–learn to appreciate it.

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© Copyright 2013 Stephen J. Betchen, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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Dr. Stephen J. Betchen is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist, as well as a critically acclaimed author and regular contributor to the popular Ladies’ Home Journal column, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” He currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor at Thomas Jefferson University. For more than 25 years, Dr. Betchen has helped couples repair their relationships and reach new levels of happiness, whether they’re battling about in-laws, sex, parenting, infidelity, money, careers—or anything in between. (Case in point: He once treated folks who were at odds over the wife’s weight and the husband’s constant criticisms!) Dr. Betchen’s approach to couples therapy is refreshingly simple: He offers no gimmicks, slogans or quick fixes to nagging problems. Instead, Dr. Betchen believes that individuals change only when they discover what’s really driving their behavior—and that relationships change only when couples develop empathy for their partners and understand what really drew them together. (Turns out that physical attraction is just part of it.) Dr. Betchen provides in-depth analysis of couples’ attitudes and behavior, enabling them to see themselves and each other in a new light. And from there, he delivers real-world advice that teaches couples how to change themselves—and their relationship. Dr. Betchen is the author of numerous professional articles on relationships and makes frequent media appearances. His expert opinions often appear in national publications, including Family Circle and Men’s Health. In addition to Magnetic Partners, Dr. Betchen is the author of Intrusive Partners-Elusive Mates.