potential pitfalls

1. general recommendations

2. constructing your profile

3. cliches you should probably avoid

4. the worst cliche of them all

5. logical blunders the polyamorous should avoid

6. HEADSHOTS (post one!)

7. be open to the "just friends" option

8. messaging / netiquette

9. what's next? when to meet her offline?

10. keeping yourself safe

11. potential pitfalls or "This confusing thing happened and . . . ???"s

12. Linsey gives some guest advice

"I saw a profile I really liked and I spent time messaging the author. I thought we had a LOT in common, but . . . she didn't message me back!"

First, we'd recommend reading and following our advice in the previous advice sections, especially the one on messaging. Then, after all of that positivity is underway -

Wait several days or a couple of weeks and send another message, but keep it short and sweet.

No accusations or guilt-mongering. It’s uncalled for in a relationship that hasn’t even happened yet, and almost always unattractive.

Acknowledge the previous message (so she doesn’t think you contact so very many new women per month that you've totally lost track), but be upbeat, reiterate interest in a casual way.

After that? And . . . nothing?

Maybe after a few more weeks perhaps one final message, then go with the Three Strikes Rule (described in more detail below).

We would probably advise you NOT to get your hopes up after a couple of messages went unanswered. We're just saying "after a few more weeks" in case something dramatic did happen to her that does explain the lack of response: left town for a lengthy time to someplace with limited internet, medical emergency and hospitalization, longer-term personal crisis, etc.

People differ on protocol with regard to replying to interest originating online. Our culture doesn't seem to have standardized much with regard to a lot of internet behavior. While there is a lot of advice handy for "IRL" etiquette, there's much less consensus around internet personals, so your individual results will likely vary.

Some women think if someone contacts them and sounds sincere, even if they're not interested, a brief reply indicating that is proper.

Others think doing that is a waste of time for everyone concerned, and it's nicer just to let people take the hint.

"I met a woman briefly, and we really seemed to hit if off. Then . . .

. . . I asked her out on more of a 'date' date and she said she was too busy. Is she really or is she just not interested? What should I do?"

Was she really too busy to meet you again in the near future, or is this her polite way of blowing you off entirely?

Sometimes it’s hard to know.

While many find persistence and sincere interest attractive, no one likes a stalker-esque type who doesn’t know how to hear “no” . . . even if that word wasn’t explicitly used. We think honesty mixed with kindness and an avoidance of Too Much Information (nothing needlessly critical, blatantly insensitive, or downright cruel) is best in communicating a lack of interest in a romantic relationship.

However, not everyone’s on that same page.

Some women were raised to believe that dodging any even slightly unpleasant truth is the most polite way to behave, even if their behavior leaves others feeling confused.

Other women may erroneously believe that honesty about a lack of interest would lead to a confrontation that might be upsetting for both of you, even if they communicate that lack really sweetly.

A popular recommendation to guide one through an interpersonally confusing situation is the Three Strikes Rule: Ask your new connection out for something not terribly time-consuming or formal or far away or expensive 3 times. The vast majority of moderately sane women who are still interested in having a (whatever was being discussed) with you will say yes by the third time or suggest another time and/or activity as an alternate.

If not, she's probably:

inexplicably flaky

not interested in you and/or not interested in (whatever was being discussed) with you

not quite who she pretended to be and too embarrassed to fess up now

freshly reunited with a probably previously unmentioned someone else who just came home

already too chronically overbooked to start a new relationship, much less sustain one

on the lam," as she had to unexpectedly Get the Hell Outta Dodge and didn't get a chance to properly convey her regrets before stealing away under cover of night

There are probably other possibilities, but at any rate, it ain't good. The forecast is looking less and less like she's your next squeeze. Time to move on and invest your valuable energies in more rewarding prospects.

If there’s still any doubt in your mind, for your final attempt (3rd or 4th, not 74th!) make sure your final communication politely and briefly conveys your continuing interest in getting together and your conclusion that the ball is now completely in HER court.

But don’t take your cue from the Drama Club here. (“This is the LAST YOU’LL HEAR FROM MEEEEEEE!!!" . . . with hair dramatically windswept from the high velocity breeze out on that ledge.)

Lighthearted is best.

Any final shot you might have will rely on her wondering if she made the wrong call by turning down your emotionally grounded and charming self, not a sense of relief she may have just sidestepped her next Psycho Ex.

"I've been talking with a woman and/or I've met her only once or twice and I'm getting a sneaking suspicion . . .

. . . she's not exactly who she says she is."

. . . she's not being totally honest about something important in her life."

. . . that she might not be 'right in the head.'"


. . . because I can't quite put my finger on it just yet, but something here is starting to feel wrong. Can you suggest some stuff to think about when trying to determine if someone really is on the level?"

(This topic integrates somewhat with our "keeping yourself safe" page, so check that out too.)

OK, well . . . there are entire books written on this subject. Many books. This is a HUGE topic, people.

But we'll offer some suggestions attempting to be more or less personals-specific. If other folks have things they think we should add here, feel free to write in. Meanwhile, while this list is far from anything we could call comprehensive, important considerations are below.

good, happy things

She's open and willing to reveal not necessarily her innermost secrets, but the significant details of her day-to-day life. She should also be equally as interested in yours, and seem more similar than not from one conversation to the next.

After establishing details and a friendly rapport, she's willing to share more, and more specific contact info.

Other than the hours she's working and/or attending school, she is able to make herself available at a variety of times to chat.

She's also willing to meet you in public and (again, other than her work and/or school schedule) isn't excessively concerned with and/or overly limited in terms of when and where.

suspicious things, proceed only with caution, eyes wide open

(and no, we don't mean be suspicious if ALL of these things happen, we mean if ANY of these things occur)

Even after getting to know her a while via messages and/or phone and after the relationship seems to be progressing happily, there still seems to be a "lack of integration."

Meaning, despite having asked pointed questions, you still have many large question marks where her life is supposed to be . . . where she works, did she attend school recently, did she live anywhere else before?

Similarly, you've been told little or nothing at all that would be verifiable about her present or past and/or she seems to have many years for which it is difficult to get her to account, even after many conversations.

It might eventually be suspicious if she's very reluctant to tell you where she lives, let you meet any of her friends, she can only spend time with you in very circumscribed ways (for example, only on weekday afternoons), unwillingness to be seen with you certain public places, unwillingness to let you come to her place . . . etc.

Some women have a need for more boundary than others, and won’t invite anyone new for certain things until they feel a bit more secure in the relationship. But if you’ve been out several times, the mutual interest continues, and everything else seems to be going well, no relaxing of any boundaries whatsoever could be a bad sign and/or a sign you're not getting The Whole Story.

Limited contact info - Even if you've been getting to know her a while in person, if she refuses to give you anything other than a cellphone number or any other contact info that would be less anonymous.

Inconsistency - If some of the details she's shared seem inconsistent with her online profile and/or the other conversations you've had with her.

No, we're not talking things that may have legitimately changed over time or something totally trivial, but some very-hard-to-explain-away inconsistency.

Like, did she say she'd earned a Masters Degree in a particular subject at a particular university in one of your conversations, yet seem not to remember mentioning that or totally change the details in another? That might be a problem.

Did her age change 5 years since you spoke to her last week? Not good.

Did she say she's totally single and lives alone, yet is never available for a phone chat between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. the following day . . . ever? Questionable.

Extreme emotional lability - Does she "love" you or seem really attached to you one minute . . . then hate you the next, even though the two of you barely know each other?

Pledges of undying love after a first meeting — or even after several conversations online. Lust at first sight is alive and well, but actual love is an acquired feeling.

Sudden rudeness out of the blue and/or unprovoked - If she is rude to you and doesn’t have a really good excuse, don’t make one for her.

Can only meet or talk to you at very odd hours - or only during very limited hours, and doesn't have a REALLY good explanation for why that is the case (nightshift job). This probably means folks at home from whom her adventures in the personals are being kept secret.

Has many hard luck stories that dramatically affect her circumstances but are difficult to corroborate.

Repeated victimization – Seems to repeatedly be the victim of other people, who "just didn't like her" or discriminated against her and she never did ANYTHING to cause it. She's often been fired for no good reason, other people hate her even though she did nothing legitimately irritating, etc.

Seems to disrespect all other significant relationships she's ever had. Everything with everyone always ended badly, but none of it was ever her fault.

Attempts to isolate you - any encouragement to avoid spending time with the folks you do normally for no valid reason you also feel.

Has told you a number of stories in which it became apparent she lied to other people. If you can see she lies easily, it's probably just a matter of time before she lies to you, if she hasn't already.

things that are not only bad, but you should cease all contact and report them directly to us immediately

Has said things that were REALLY inconsistent with what their profile said or what they told you directly in a previous conversation. Yes, we mentioned this above in the "suspicious things," but we're reiterating here and emphasizing that more than one of those and/or anything that is impossible to explain away is even worse.

If there are multiple inconsistencies, it could be a sign of a person telling so many lies they've literally lost track. Real people remember most of their real life details, if that's really what they are. Run like the wind!

If it becomes obvious, either through meeting in person or them providing more than one photo of themselves that:

They are using a photo of another human entirely and representing that as themselves in their profile.


They've provided you with more than one photo supposedly of themselves, and the two photos are CLEARLY different humans entirely.

(No, we don't mean if you think the photo is unjustly flattering and/or not recent enough. We're talking about a situation where someone is clearly representing a photo of another human entirely as being one of themselves.)

Any request for any financial information or a charitable contribution.

Has a hard luck story about how broke they are, how they just got laid off or scammed in some way. Yes, those are sad stories. But people who aren't trying to scam other people over the internet will turn to their family and friends for financial help. Anyone asking for financial help from strangers on a personals site IS a scammer.

Tries to send you to a pay-per-view site or asks you to call pay-per-minute phone numbers.

Attempts to sell you anything. Any form of solicitation is forbidden here, and if someone tries to sell you stuff via their profile or their initial interactions with you, report them to us.

Any message or other communication that is threatening in any way. Do not try to get the last word. Forward any problematic communication to us, we will delete the profile.

If we are ever presented with evidence that someone is behaving in any other seriously inappropriate way, we will also be happy to delete the profile. However, please remember that we are not responsible, legally or otherwise, for choices that you make around who to meet and what to do with those people, those are your own adult choices. If there's a serious problem, above and beyond telling us about it, you should contact the police. No personal ad site can be your legal enforcer, but hopefully the actual law could.

"I'm willing to date a bisexual woman who is ACTUALLY bisexual, not just SUPPOSEDLY bisexual or TEMPORARILY bisexual, but . . .

. . . lately, I've corresponded with a woman who says she is and wants to meet women for in-person relationships. But while it seemed things were going well at first, now it seems like . . .

she's really just playing around with me.

she's not really serious about meeting in person.

she stood me up, and I don't know if I should try to meet her again.

she can't really decide what she wants.

she seems to change her mind back and forth a whole lot with regard to dating me/dating women in general.

she's in a relationship with a man, which she did indicate previously, but I think she might have lied about how serious it was and/or whether or not he knows she wants to date women too.

she hasn't been distant or frequently unavailable in terms of exchanging messages, rather, quite enthusiastic about doing JUST that. However, she seems to be dragging her feet so much about meeting in person I'm not sure if it's EVER going to happen!"

HUGE DISCLAIMER: We do unfortunately agree that supposedly (or only temporarily or doing-this-just-to-titillate-my boyfriend) "bisexual" women do exist.

We also agree that women looking for other women to actually date IRL might want to avoid investing too much time or emotional energy in those women.

Looking to experiment in order to figure out your own self while admitting that's exactly what you're doing is fine. However, emotionally mature and well-intentioned grownups don't pretend to be something they're not, don't pretend to be looking for new "serious" relationships when they know they are NOT available for such, and they definitely don't drag other well-meaning adults into their own personal conflicts or relationship dramas intentionally or unnecessarily.

HOWEVER, we also want to remind everyone reading that there are a LOT of ACTUALLY bisexual women out there who aren't conflicted about their sexuality or their boyfriend/marital status. In addition, if these non-conflicted women have boyfriends or husbands, they're able to admit it and be honest with ALL involved parties about ALL their relationships.

Whether or not any particular woman out there wants to date a bisexual woman is a personal choice. But it should be made with the understanding that most ACTUALLY bisexual women can set up a date with another woman and get to the actual showing up for it part without sounding like they need their medication adjusted.

The following commentary is not meant to malign or insult any ACTUALLY bisexual woman, and definitely not meant to deny her existence in any way. We're exclusively talking here about women who are most likely NOT actually bisexual but who seem determined to lead other women on via the personals. Because those women exist too, and they are usually DIFFERENT people than the ACTUALLY bisexual women.

Alrighty? Great, cheers, thanks a lot. Onward!

We'd say there are some warning signs of a woman who's less than serious about pursuing whatever she said she was, and who very well may be in the "supposedly" category. No, none of these are failsafe, but I'd guess if you see any of these I'd consider your light to have gone from green to at least yellow:

1. Male spouses or live-in boyfriends "cropping up" after she failed to mention them initially.

2. Severe reticence or severe "unavailability" around meeting in person. "Severe" would mean avoidance of even meeting briefly for coffee in a public place, after many messages and phone calls and you're both satisifed y'all both seem to be more or less who you said you were, etc.

3. "Constantly horny" for women, but zero actual offline intimate experience with any actual woman.

No, NOT to knock the inexperienced PER SE.

However, when getting to know anyone who's entirely old enough to have had experiences, but still hasn't, one might want to wonder exactly WHY that is.

There could be a perfectly legitimate reason . . . but it also could be they're secretly married.

Or secretly way more ambivalent about even getting to a face-to-face meet with ANY potential date than they're letting on.

It could be something along the lines of dating non-hetero being a fantasy for them, but one they really don't have the chutzpah or feel they have the personal freedom (married with kids?) to make reality anytime soon.

Many people have fantasies they visit and revisit in their minds, but don't actually plan to go through with at all or anytime in the near future for whatever reason. There's nothing wrong with that; it's healthy and normal.

The rude part comes in when/if you insist on dragging otherwise well-meaning women looking on the internet for actual offline dates into your online-only-fantasy-scenario, which would would make you a Lying Manipulative Asshat.

4. Sending messages and/or pictures that are much more sexually explicit than most women would send to someone with whom they're not already involved.

If she seems to want to go XXX in your online communications way early in the game and before meeting in person, that might be because she's not intending to show up for an actual date.

The online communication IS the whole interaction (even though she may be the only one who knows that so far), so she's trying to make that as juicy as possible. You're trying to meet an actual person for a in-person relationship, she's just trying to get her jollies off from afar.

5. Any use of the phrase, "My boyfriend/husband might like to watch." (see note below)

Meaning, if she puts that out there upfront, it isn't that the boyfriend/husband MIGHT like to watch. It means not only does he want to watch, 98/100 times he'll want to participate, and this would be the reason the personals profile was created.

To clarify, most ACTUALLY bisexual women who have some experience and are unafraid of forming an actual sexual relationship with another woman (offline, that is) don't look for her with a primary upfront consideration and/or preexistent stipulation concerning who might be allowed to "watch."

An actually bisexual woman would be primarily concerned with HER relationship with that other woman, forming THAT new relationship HERSELF with that other woman, ALL BY HERSELF.

IF she hits it off with a new woman, IF she has a boyfriend too, IF the boyfriend hits it off with her as well, and IF (big IF) everyone is turned on by the thought of a threesome (note the large number of IFs there) . . . it's possible that somewhere on down the line everyone involved might decide to take that to a more collective level. Or, it's just as if not more likely they will NOT.

An ACTUALLY bisexual woman won't be concerned with including her boyfriend to such an extent she'll feel it necessary to work him into the dialogue somehow before even that first cup of coffee.

A NOT actually bisexual woman will, because most likely what she's after is a threesome with you and her male partner, no matter how coyly she might seem to be playing word games around that.

If you want the threesome, go for it. We're just clarifying the usual meaning of, "he might like to watch."

(note from above) This chunk of text was intended to cover, "My husband/boyfriend 'might like to watch'." If you're a poly couple who says upfront that the male not only wants to watch, but wants to participate as well, and you indicate that in the personals upfront, then clap clap clap for you. As long as you're honest about it, we didn't mean YOU, carry on.

"After exchanging many messages and texts and/or phone calls with a woman I met online over a period of more than several weeks, she still doesn't seem to want to meet up in person, even after I've suggested it repeatedly. I just can't get her to meet me!"

"Also, I know this isn't a situation where she's lost interest and I'm just not hearing the "no," because she's still messaging me all the time!"

(This advice ties in a bit with the above, in that this problem has usually been connected with the "supposedly bisexual." However, we imagine it's possible someone out there has had this problem with an actual lesbian, so we included it separately.)

She could be bizarrely insecure about meeting in person, quite possibly because she did not describe herself accurately.

More likely she's not actually available for the relationship she described wanting in her profile and/or not emotionally ready to actually take that step she suggested with another actual woman in face-to-face real time.

However, she has been fantasizing about it, and your communication with her has now become part of her fantasy life. But just because you are her current favorite fantasy doesn't necessarily mean she wants you to become her in-person reality.

While it's a compliment to you that she finds your ONLINE communications so enjoyable, you probably have a decision to make in the near future with regard to your own emotional well-being and future dating/sex life OFFLINE.

If you're still enjoying the conversation, and the serious possibility or even probability that you'll never meet her in person is acceptable to you, then continue enjoying your dialogue for whatever it's worth. However, you should do that with the knowledge that whatever that is worth is likely . . . IT, ALL you're getting, the whole kit and kaboodle.

If online-only forever and ever is not acceptable, express your frustration again, then give her an ultimatum regarding a near future date by which you’d like to meet in person in order to continue. And stick with it, no excuses, the expiration date IS the expiration date. If she flakes, then buh-bye.

The idea behind the ultimatum is to prevent you from being strung along more than you already have, and to keep her from "wasting" more of your time, if that's the way it feels for you. Also, to allow you to extricate yourself with dignity from an interaction that isn't progressing to an in-person meeting, if that's what you'd prefer.

But either way . . . you still know that you're still dealing with a fundamentally flaky person . . . right?

Even if she agrees to your ultimatum, know that she may still flake.

A woman given an ultimatum often doesn't follow through, even if she said she would. (Because if she was sincerely enthusiastic about meeting in person, she probably wouldn't have needed one in the first place.)

So, agree to meet her in public someplace you won't mind being anyway, like a nice coffeehouse to which you'll bring your laptop or a good book, or a bar or restaurant you'll enjoy with a good friend in tow.

Imagine that she might not show up ahead of time, arrange your situation so that will be minimally annoying or inconvenient, then try not to get too upset if that becomes the case.

"I want a REAL relationship, but I seem to be attracting only those who just want to (verb) my (noun) immediately and little else!"

"I'm somehow attracting the WRONG sort of people!! How do I fix that?"

(This one definitely ties in a good sized chunk of the advice regarding explicit profiles in the "constructing your profile" section, so we're not repeating all of that for this question.)

This is a revisitation of that enduring question, how sexy should I be upfront if I AM looking for a sexual relationship but one that will hopefully be a longer-lasting rather than exclusively short-term and totally casual variety?

And then also yet another situation where we are NOT telling you what to do, but hopefully encourage thinking about who you are and who/what you're looking for along these lines, so you can decide how to behave in the personals in a more self-aware and deliberate fashion.

Most women (and we're still not sayin' you gotta be part of the "most!") that are looking for longer-term sexual relationships will not post profiles that strictly or primarily focus on the sexual and physical stuff. That stuff may be INCLUDED, but it's not going to the the only focus.

Similarly, if you want your profile to attract those longer-term relationship seekers, you might want to behave similarly when posting yours and when responding to others.

Including stuff about what you look like, physical characteristics you find enjoyable in others, the sort of sexual relationship you're looking for . . . GREAT! But if that's the main focus of your profile and/or the main focus of the profiles you respond to and/or the main focus of any correspondence you share with them . . . then that may very well end up being the main focus of the relationship.

Because . . . that's all you were collectively discussing.

Again, that's fine if that's what you want. Otherwise, don't let this come as an emotionally upsetting surprise.

The personals are a great place to set the tone of what you are looking for, and then during those initial messages, create an expectation of what sort of relationship you're going for, "setting the stage" for that expectation to become reality. More so than randomly meeting someone in person, absolutely.

BUT, If you do want to be considered for a more "serious" / more than strictly sexual relationship, then your profile should reflect that.

Compare and contrast:

First, a profile that says little other than, "I get hot for women who are taller and somewhat more masculine than myself, especially those with wild hair or lovely eyes. I'll enjoy it if you compliment me on my appearance, I'll think it's sweet and completely charming if you open my doors, and I'll melt if you bite me on the backs of my shoulders. I'm revving up now just thinking about it! Message me if that sounds appealing!"


Second, a profile that expounds upon the author's love of French film divas, Siamese and Oriental Shorthair cats, existential psychology, progressive jazz and classic blues, Japanese cuisine, and offbeat indie documentaries. The author then goes on to talk about some of her home improvement projects and her desire to create a fluffy yet gluten-free souffle.

She also states she is also open to meeting new activity partners and friends as well as romantic hook-ups, and might like to get a lesbian Poker Night together. If you're not into poker, she's also interested in ironic science fiction, backyard grilling, other indie movies, and eating goat cheese puffs and/or shrimp cocktails with other pleasant queer-identified folk.

She would also like to encourage her rhododendron to grow while simultaneously DIScouraging her rampant effing dandelions, she would vastly prefer doing that organically and without carcinogenic pesticides, and if anyone can tell her how, she'd give them a hug, if they'd like that. Meanwhile . . . she is kinda partial to taller and/or somewhat more masculine women for sexy stuff. And, if they were interested in her shoulders . . . that might not hurt either.

Meanwhile, in case you hadn't noticed . . . that's the exact same woman in both the first and second examples. And meanwhile, both examples are actually pretty good.

(They just seem predisposed toward finding different things.)

Which profile do you think would attract a more considered, long-term relationship-seeker?

Which profile do you think would likely attract someone looking for a briefer, more casual encounter?

. . .

We debated about mentioning this next part, because . . . well . . . it kinda makes us sound a bit prudish, which we aren't. It also makes us sound like we might not enjoy looking at photos of women both with and without clothing. Except we definitely do.


A number of women have written in complaining about receiving what they felt were an inexplicably large number of disrespectfully explicit "come-on" type responses.

And then we looked at their photos, and they included some in which they were posed like a p-o-r-n star. (Dashes in that word there because we don't want that indexed by search engines, thinking that's what this site contains, because that would be inaccurate.)

Not that there's anything wrong with posing like that, nope, not at all. But if that's the first impression you make, it will probably frame the nature of the responses you receive.

We think with the "p-o-r-n-ification" of our culture, particularly in the United States, some women get "sucked in" to thinking those are always the sort of photos they should post because they most resemble magazine covers, many television ads, or even actual p-o-r-n.

And then because these sort of images have become so ubiquitous, they might not seem seem odd choices for even a "serious" personal profile.

Sadly, some women might even feel falsely obligated to post p-o-r-n-y photos of themselves, imagining that's what's expected. But see, women in advertisements for products are posed the way they are to sell something OTHER than themselves. There may very well be an economic agenda there.

Anyway, if you want responses that recognize your deeper qualities, more dignified and tasteful but still attractive headshots and/or pleasant-looking but fully clothed body shots are the best choices. Save the other stuff for sharing during the course of an actual relationship that is actually already in progress.

Or, if you do want people to think you're a stripper, then forget what we're saying here and go for the p-o-r-n-y gold.

Just don't post the parted lips come hither bikini shot or the still of yourself mid-twerk then get all flabbergasted when very specific comments on your anatomy start rolling in on your message tide.

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