Great Expectations – Rating the Dating Sites

As I was busy dating someone else, and flying to Florida to meet my very first grandchild, John was dealing with his own emotions about dating.

After just a week of dating Betty from the coast, John told her he didn’t want to be in an exclusive relationship with her. He had told me that the minute he said yes to being a “boyfriend” he felt like an elephant had stepped on his chest.

So, while I was off getting to know my granddaughter and helping my son and daughter in law move, John was busy “Rating the Dating Sites”. 

Great Expectations – Rating the Dating Sites

Well good morning Benicia, beautiful day isn’t it? The sun is shining, life is full of promise and you’re in a great mood – after all you just got out of a long relationship that was over, well, long before it was over.

Now the future is bright, and the world is full of promise – you’re single again and looking for love. Well, maybe you’re not Benicia, but Kaylee – who wrote in after last week’s column – is.

Kaylee wrote me a nice note that phrased some very important questions and concerns about internet dating. She is asking them because she’s new to the game and is not quite sure exactly how it’s played, or even where to start.

But let’s let her put the question in her own words – she wrote:

“Dear Coach John,

Your timing is perfect for me – thanks for sharing the wisdom you have acquired about online dating. After 20 years of marriage I am very new to it and have so many questions and things I’d like your opinion on:

First, your favorite sites and why – Late last year, about a year and a half after my husband and I split I was curious about eHarmony. Of course it was completely foreign to any concept of dating that I knew about but I have enjoyed my experience and communications through eHarmony. Quality people for the most part.

I do think the concept and process are valid and valuable. I had a few first dates with very nice men, no sparks which is fine because at this point I am enjoying the journey. “

Well Kaylee I’m glad you enjoyed eHarmony’s journey, but one of the reasons it didn’t lead anywhere is that their female subscribers outnumber the guys.

Another challenge I’ve heard about from many women (I never subscribed to eHarmony) is that it felt too controlled for them – that “foreign concept of dating” you alluded to includes a screening process that led you to choose from a pool of men preselected for you.

I know one woman who, because she lived in an area without many male subscribers, received no matches at all.

Then there’s the price (now we’re getting to why I never joined): Last time I checked a one month subscription cost more than what I spend on gas and groceries in a week. The price is lower per month if you buy a multi-month package, but be prepared to pay the entire subscription fee upfront.

Kaylee then asked:

“Then I guess it must have been getting a little slow for me because recently I checked out Plenty of Fish. And I literally have felt like I was a new piece of bait is the sea with all of the activity that came my way immediately.

And big difference, no getting to know you process; these men want to meet before there is much conversation. (What is your suggestion on how to handle the insta-date requests, from a man’s perspective?) Feels very rushed and more meat-market like to me…I like the courting process, even if it doesn’t end up going anywhere (I expect that is a very female thing…).”

Yes Plenty of Fish is, well, kind of like a meat market – but it’s a free meat market and that appeals to a lot of people; in this case ‘a lot of people’ is over 10 million. Granted those subscribers are not all here in the US, but if you’re looking for a date soon this is probably the site with the best odds.

And speaking of dates soon the ‘insta-date’ requests you refer to do come fast and furious on this site, but more on that in a minute.

I’ve been on Plenty of Fish myself for a while now and I hear you about the female desire for the courting process. I have to say that I’ve often thought PoF was definitely created by men for men – but that being said, it can still be a lot of fun. And while I’ve heard many women express reservations about it I’ve also talked to many who liked the attention they received on it.

Kaylee finished up:

“So I’m thinking it would be nice if there were a dating site between the two…more to choose from (vs. being sent a few at a time), yet some automated selection process in place too.”

Kaylee, had you asked this question a few years back I would probably have suggested – it’s a good, well-structured site with plenty of subscribers, but it’s also what I consider a little pricey, especially when compared to some quality sites out there that seem to do much of what Match does, but with less impact on the pocketbook.

One such site is

I have to admit that I only recently joined this one, but I already like it better than others I’ve tried. The members seem, for the most part, to be serious and earnest in their search and the site is easy to negotiate and is laid out well.

And it’s (mostly) free. calls OKCupid “The best free dating site” – I agree, and in my experience I’d say it’s the best dating site I’ve used up to now.

Oh, and let me address that “insta-date” concern of yours, the one you attach to Plenty of Fish: The truth is you can get that on most any of these sites. It might happen with more regularity on PoF, but remember that a lot of the people on that site will be on Match, OKCupid, and others as well.

There was a time when I would have said go slow, exchange emails and texts – have a few phone conversations and get to know one another before finally going out. After all that seems prudent, doesn’t it? But I no longer think that’s the right way – I now agree with the insta-date.

Look at it this way Kaylee:

That guy’s profile that you read was written by him, not an impartial third-party. Those emails he sends you are carefully composed (as well as he is able to do so) to impress and/or charm you, and in the phone conversations he will be on his very best behavior.

In short, it’s all ‘make-believe’ – and make believe can quickly become “He’s Mr. Right!” in your head before you ever meet – then comes the evening you find yourself sitting across from a man who bears little resemblance to prince of a guy you’ve made him into.

So do this: If you feel he really has potential (and be honesty with yourself here, have a list of make or break criteria and then apply it to the guy) then meet him as soon as possible. Do have a phone conversation first in order to listen for ‘red flags’ – and if you sense one by all means trust your instincts and move on – but meet the guy and see if there’s any spark.

The truth is Kaylee that it all starts when you’re face to face – before that it’s all just make believe.

Oh, and one last word: you’re wise to ask which sites I prefer but remember this: the key to success and enjoyment on these site has less to do with them than it does with you – after all, what’s the one common denominator with every dating site you’ve ever been on?


So set your expectations at the right level – to have fun and not expect too much – and then go enjoy yourself. Have your criteria set, listen to your instincts, and go meet some guys.

John P. Gavin

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