Hi everyone! I’m Krista Harper, Smart Talk’s therapist for Georgia and Hawaii, and I am really excited to bring you this information on online dating. I had the chance to interview my friend and former colleague, Christie Tcharkoutian, who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a professional matchmaker. Christie specializes in compatibility and the psychology of relationships, and she has been a featured dating expert on NBC News, Yahoo News, Business Insider, The LA Times, The Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and more. Christie shared her top tricks and tricks for online dating, the lessons she has learned working in this field, and how to stay safe when connecting with people online. Whether you are considering online dating and wanting to learn more or you are an online dating veteran looking for some more tips, this article is for you. I hope you enjoy and learn something new!
Krista Harper: Hi Christie! Thanks so much for chatting with me, I am so excited to pick your brain. How about you start off by telling us a little bit about your experience in working in the online dating and matchmaking world.
Christie Tcharkoutian: Hi! Thank you so much for thinking of me for this! So, I originally worked with EHarmony, and now my company, Three Day Rule, is a partner with Match.com as a matchmaking service. In both situations, I have worked as a professional matchmaker. When I was working with EHarmony, I learned a lot about the algorithms of the dating apps and what makes people match, and as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I worked with a lot of different people but had a specialty in working with younger women as well as couples. What we are finding these days is that online dating has become a more socially acceptable and normal thing that people use to meet a potential match, and then also people are experiencing what they’re calling “dating app fatigue,” in which they are getting tired of using dating apps and feeling jaded.
Krista: Interesting. So is that when you’re finding that people are contacting you for professional matchmaking services, when they are like, “I’ve done the dating apps, and I’m over it”?
Christie: Yes, exactly, that is who our target market is and who we are hoping to help, people who are jaded from online dating and need some extra support finding a great match.
Krista: What is something you didn’t realize about online dating before you worked as a matchmaker that you now know?
Christie: I think that one of the biggest things that I’ve learned is that the whole process is really what you make of it. I think that a lot of times, online dating gets a bad reputation with stories of people having negative experiences, but at the end of the day, it’s really about what the person is looking for and how they make use of the tool. I have really come to view it as a tool that can be used in a negative way or that can be used in order to find someone who meets what you are looking for. As is the case with everything, there are positives and negatives to keep in mind, but I think looking at it as a tool is a really beneficial way to approach the process when trying out online dating.
Krista: Going along with that, what are your top tips for making the best use of online dating as a tool for finding a good match?
Christie: I think that if you know what you are looking for, that’s a great start. I always say to literally write out a list of what you are looking for in a potential partner, and make sure you consider things beyond physical qualities. If you do have a big deal breaker, like maybe you are religious and want a partner who also has a strong faith, make that one of the main things that guides you in figuring out what you are looking for. I also always say that if you have a deal breaker, that’s fine, but don’t have 85 because then you’re not going to be open to saying yes to anybody. So, let’s say you do want someone with the same religious background, you’re going to have to be more open if maybe they don’t look exactly how you want them to in their photo, for example. I might say, “Okay, look for something in their profile that makes you feel like their faith is a really important part of their life, and then if you find someone you like, don’t look at the possible “problems” you might see with them.” Our tendency is to have a negative bias, where it’s easy for us to always pay attention to the negative. So, you might find someone really great, but your mind goes right to the fact that they took a selfie in the third picture or whatever it is. I really encourage my clients to keep a good balance between viewing their matches through the lens of what is really important to them and also having an open mind.
Krista: In that case, if you are crafting your online dating profile, do you recommend making it clear in your profile that you are looking for these certain things in a match?
Christie: I always say instead of putting an ad out about what you are looking for, use your online dating profile to tell people about you. So, if you have a strong faith, talk about how that is very important to you, and then I always find that people want someone who is similar to them. If faith is also important to them, they are going to connect with that in your profile.
Krista: What apps or websites do you recommend? Are there any to avoid?
Christie: It definitely depends on what you are looking for, and every app is more about the fit. Sometimes, people are feeling like they don’t have a lot of social exposure in their lives, and in that case, certain apps that only give you one match a day are not going to feel very rewarding or successful. Other people feel bombarded and overwhelmed and would really appreciate a slower pace, and then an app like Coffee Meets Bagel or one that gives you just a few matches like EHarmony may feel like a better pace. It’s more about what you are looking for rather than if certain apps or websites are good or bad. I’ve heard of married couples who met on Tinder which most people think of as a “hook up” app, but people find their soulmate on there. So rather than rule out certain apps, I think it’s better to clarify what you are looking for and your personality. Are you the type of person who is really overwhelmed with even the thought on online dating? Maybe Bumble or Tinder isn’t the place to start. If you do feel like you have gotten the hang of online dating and you want more matches, then maybe a swipe app is a good fit. I really encourage people to use what they are looking for as a way to guide them in which apps and websites they try.
Krista: It sounds like is a theme is clarifying what you really want and are looking for in a partner first by doing some of your own internal work before just jumping on to a dating app and expecting it to do the work for you.
Christie: Exactly, yes.
Krista: How about your tips for staying safe while online dating?
Christie: This is a really good question. Number one, I think it is so important to make sure that you don’t put identifying information on your profile, such as where you work. If you work for a huge company like Verizon with thousands of employees, then that may be okay to list, but if you work for a small company with a sole office where someone could come and find you through your work, don’t put that anywhere on a dating profile. Really any identifying information is good to not include. Secondly, I think a huge issue with safety when online dating is scams. A big factor in preventing this is making sure you are being smart and safe. So, if you are going on a date with somebody, don’t go too late at night and make sure a friend knows when you are going and where you are. Make sure that you talk to the person on the phone before meeting them in person so that you are able to make a connection and feel them out. A lot of times, people who scam for money won’t talk to you on the phone or connect on a personal level, so as you are talking to people, be aware of those who avoid anything that makes them seem humanized. Also, keep an eye out for people who use a lot of stock photos, unclear photos, or no photos, because they may be fake profiles. Ultimately, I think the whole process of going to therapy and learning about yourself allows you to listen more closely and deeply to your own intuition and helps you stay safe. If you have a bad feeling about somebody, even if you are already on a date with them, leave. Find a way to say “Hey, I need to go,” and never feel like you need to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing. The great thing about the digital age is that it connects us more than we ever have been, but it also has created all these potential ways for people who don’t have good intentions to harm others, so you really need to be an advocate for yourself when deciphering what kind of people you want to connect with and what kind of people you want to avoid. If you feel like you are unsure, you can even message the website and say “I think this might be a fake profile,” and they can go do further research. EHarmony had a whole department of checks and safety who looked into that, and I think that is really important to know because they are there to help protect you.
Krista: These are such great and important points, especially about tuning into and honoring your own intuitive voice when something feels off with someone. So, let’s say you feel you might have found a potential match on a dating app. How long should you chat through an app or website, when should you bring it to the phone, and when should you meet in person? What is a good guideline for this process?
Christie: I always tell my clients to try to get off the app within several back-and-forths. Let’s say you see someone’s profile you like, you’ve chatted back and forth, you’ve looked them up on LinkedIn and Facebook and everything is consistent, and this person seems like a safe bet, then I encourage people to then get off the app. The way that I coach my male clients is to try to find something you have in common to connect about that can take you off the app. Let’s say you see that they went on vacation to Bali recently and you have also been to Bali, you might say “I’d love to chat more about your trip with you. Would you mind if I get your phone number?” You really want to use the app to facilitate connection but for that not to be the primary place for connection in order to avoid these “pen pal” situations because ultimately you are there to find a person who is a great match for you. The most recent stat is that it actually takes eight hours of online dating to get on one date, which is so much time invested without even going out and meeting people in person. If you are the woman in this situation, a lot of times people feed into this traditional idea that the woman shouldn’t be making the first move, but I think you can say “Hey, I really enjoyed chatting with you, but I’m trying to use less screen time. Would you be open to calling me or giving me your phone number?” The guy can still ask you out, it can still be traditional, but it’s giving that signal that you’re looking to engage in more significant ways.
Krista: What would you say to a friend who is thinking about trying online dating but may be hesitant to take the leap?
Christie: First, I think it is important for them to identify what their fears are. Maybe there is some legitimate fear around safety, so finding ways to stay safe can help with that. I would also say a large percentage of people who I have worked with or met have some fear about the idea of connecting with strangers. At the end of the day, it can help to approach online dating as an experience for growth. We are the personal development generation, and we’re always looking for the new podcast, the new self-help book, the new thing that can help us become better, and this is a real-life, experiential opportunity to do that. If you look at online dating as an opportunity for growth and a new way for connection, it can shift your expectations and hesitations. Just going on a few dates in the beginning can help you learn about yourself and say “Okay, maybe this person didn’t turn out to be the love of my life, but I met someone new and interesting for a drink, I faced some of my fears of awkwardness, and I feel more empowered.” Plus, you may get some new funny stories to share at your next wine night with your girlfriends. I really find that the less pressure you put on yourself, the more fun you can have with it, and you also could meet someone really great.
Krista: I love that perspective. How can people follow along with you, and, how could they contact you if they are interested in your matchmaking services?
My Instagram is @matchedbychristie, and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. We are in 11 different cities, and we work with people locally, so if you are not in my city then I can connect you with someone who is.
Thank you so much to Christie for taking the time to chat with me about the online dating world. You can really sense her wisdom and warmth in helping people navigate this process, and I love her tips and guidance on how to get the most out of online dating while having fun, growing on a personal level, and staying safe. Also, huge congratulations to Christie as she walks in her graduation ceremony tomorrow to receive her Doctorate in Education!
Written By Krista Harper, LMFT
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