12 Online Dating Tips from Real Women Who Met Their Spouses on ‘The Apps’

In a perfect world, your future husband would save you from getting hit by a UPS truck as you struggle to free your Gucci slingback from a sewer grate. You’d tumble into each other’s arms and then he, a surgeon (back from a Doctors Without Borders trip, naturally), would gaze into your eyes and fall deeply in love. But you’re not J.Lo, and Matthew McConaughey is married—sorry, ladies. This is real life, where finding a partner out in the wild is as rare as finding Gucci’s on sale. Instead, so many people are connecting via dating apps that they’re actually the number one way couples meet, according to a Stanford University study.

While this give us hope, we know that navigating the World Wide Web of dating sites can be overwhelming and frustrating to say the least. That’s why we reached out to 12 real women from all over the country who were able to do it successfully and asked them for their best online dating tips. Their wisdom, below.

1. Look for someone who makes it convenient for you 

“Wait for the one who goes out of the way for you. For instance, for our first date, Joey made sure to pick a place near my apartment and at a time that made it easy for me. I was living on the Upper East Side at the time, and he lived all the way down in Hell’s Kitchen (which is New York for far). It showed me that he was interested in me and my life—and it felt so different from the standard ‘Hey, let’s meet up’ mentality that you usually find on dating apps—which led to four and a half years of marriage and a 19-month-old son.” —Amy D., 35, Bronx, New York

2. Cut them off if they’re not texting you back 

“I’m divorced—after marrying pretty young—so it was mildly horrifying to try out dating apps for the first time in my late 20s. But I learned from that first marriage that I didn’t want to waste time on anyone who didn’t reach out often enough. I think going on dates is great, and you should go on dates if you’re interested in the person you’re messaging with, but if they don’t message you back in a timely way, just move on. Anyone who really wants to get to know you will make that obvious.” —Carra T., 29, Los Angeles

3. Kick your “type” to the curb

“I would tell single friends to keep an open mind and don’t go for a certain ‘type.’ When I met my now-husband, I was swiping right on all the ultra-masculine, body builder types because, physically, that’s what I was into at the moment. You might think you’re only attracted to blonde guys with hair like Thor or that anyone shorter than 5'6" is out of the question. But my husband’s smile in his profile picture seemed so genuine and kind and it totally drew me in, so I gave him a chance and I’m so glad I did! We just got married in November.” —Megan K., 40, Lexington, Kentucky

4. Pay for the site if it has the population you want to date

“When I was online dating, I went on a ton of Hinge dates, like maybe two first dates a week, that never amounted to much. Eventually I took the advice of my best guy friend, who told me that if I really wanted to meet a guy who was serious about a long-term relationship, I had to pay to be on a dating site—the now-defunct How About We. (But paid dating sites today include Match, eHarmony, JDate, etc.) I matched with a very attractive, 6'4" man who wanted to take me out for mac and cheese and wine—my soul mate, obvi. It’s been five and a half years since that date and I’ve never logged back in. We got married four months ago!” —Meredith G., 31, New York City

5. Put the apps down while you’re on a date with someone else

“In order to give a first date—or any date, really—a chance to blossom and grow into something real and meaningful, you need to turn off notifications on your dating apps so that you have no distractions while you’re with someone. You can’t be fully present on a date with one person while getting a new message from someone else.” —Amanda B., 37, Dallas

6. Go for the “normal” photo guy who matches his bio

“It’s so important to try to figure out who a person is instead of just focusing on someone because their picture would look great on the cover of GQ. My now-husband’s photos were very normal and not overdone like plenty others are. Instead of modeling headshots, he had regular pictures of him and his dogs (an apparent sign of trustworthiness) and a basic kitchen selfie. His bio was normal too; he doesn’t work out a crazy amount or go adventure hiking every single weekend. He eats pizza and drinks whiskey. I was sold!” —Lauren N., 31, Long Beach, California

7. Don’t shy away from cultural differences

“After four years of dating, three years or marriage and now with a baby on the way, I can say I’m glad I took a chance with online dating and with someone very different from myself. I went into it with an attitude of being open to and accepting of those differences, which weren’t small considering my family and I are from Rizal, a province just outside Manila in the Philippines, and Mike is from a big Italian family in New Jersey. But staying open to what made us different and teaching each other about our respective traditions and customs actually made us much closer than I anticipated.” —Dia M., 36, Somerset, New Jersey

8. Make a list of all the things you’re looking for in a relationship

“You should know the answer to the ‘What are you looking for?’ question. I would never be the one to ask it and actually always thought it was a stupid question, but when my now-husband asked me that on Bumble after we had already been talking for a little while, he seemed like a really honest and straightforward guy (he is!), so I did tell him the truth that I was looking for someone serious about the future. Turned out, that was the answer he was looking for! So don’t be afraid to be honest and weed out the guys who are not serious—if that’s what you want. We got engaged after nine months and then married nine months after that and have been married for a little over a year.” —Alex P., 29, Manchester, New Hampshire

9. Make sure your core values are clear up front

“I was a little reluctant to try app-based dating and didn’t jump on the bandwagon till later in the game because my faith is very important to me and I didn’t know how I was going to filter out men who didn’t share that core value. I met Franz after two weeks of being on Bumble, and we decided to meet up for tacos after only talking on the app for a few hours because we were both very up front about our faith being a huge part of our lives. The advice I would give my fellow online daters is to make sure you are clear and honest about your big deal breakers, and to never sacrifice your core values and beliefs for anyone. Franz and I dated for almost three years after that, then got married just last month! We now live together with our cats, Tuna and Wasabi.” —Alexandra V., 28, Sacramento, California

10. Save the interesting conversation points for real-life dates

“My biggest successes with actual dates that I met on apps came by moving things from my phone into real life as soon as possible. Exchange a few messages to be sure you feel safe and are interested, but then come up with a plan to get to know each other in person quickly. A few times I spent weeks messaging or texting with someone I hadn’t met, and then by the time we did meet up, it felt like we had done all the getting-to-know-you questions online, and it inevitably fell flat. Something that immediately attracted me to my fiancé was that, after a couple of messages, he asked me out right away with a specific place and time. His decisiveness and clear intentions were refreshing. People can be so one-dimensional on apps. Giving someone the benefit of seeing the full picture in person is the best way to set yourself up for success.” —Megan G., 27, New York City

11. Take a break

“Honestly, I think the number one thing is to keep trying but don’t be afraid to take breaks from online dating when you need it. I felt like I looked under every rock to find my husband and it was exhausting, so I had to step away for a week or so every now and then. The repetitiveness of all those first dates that were sometimes weird, uncomfortable or straight-up bad left me feeling jaded. I left quite a few bad dates! But I didn’t leave the date I went on with my future partner—we’ve been married a year now—because I gave myself time to regroup after the bad to appreciate the good.” —Jess A., 43, Baltimore

12. Talk to your friends about all your dating app highs and lows

“My advice for anyone who is wading, swimming or drowning in the online dating pool is that it’s more an ocean than a pool. Legit everyone’s doing it, and we should all be talking about it. Talk to your friends! Share your frustrations, your worries, your joys, the lows and ups, especially when it feels like a giant dead end because it’s hard to keep doing it when it gets discouraging. Talking about it is healthy—emotionally and mentally. Maybe someone you know is going through the same thing or has an ‘I can top that’ terrible date story that will make you laugh. The point is there’s a stigma around online dating that shouldn’t be there because this isn’t a novel concept anymore.” —Kailah B., 32, Albany, New York

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