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Get in It to Win It

Dr. Gian Gonzaga, a senior research scientist with eHarmony, says a key component to online dating is patience. "Imagine you're walking into a bar with 100 people in it. Services like eHarmony show you 10 people who you could go out with," he says. "But that doesn't mean they're perfect, just that they share important characteristics that are the basis for a good relationship. People spend years searching for a relationship. You can't give up because you go on a couple of dates that don't work out."

Casey agrees. "People put a lot of pressure on themselves when they date online, especially if people have exchanged a few great e-mails. Practice makes perfect. You have practice at dating."

In fact, both experts say that one of the hidden benefits of dating online is that it allows people to critically examine what they want out of life, not just out of a potential mate, in a way they hadn't done before. "It's supposed to be fun," Gonzaga says. "We love to hear the stories about people who end up married, but the life experience you gain, and knowing that people are going out and enjoying their lives, that makes us happy too."

Happily Ever After

In June 2007, Allison set a reminder for herself on her computer to cancel her online dating membership at eHarmony. The demands of her job had taken a bite out of her social schedule, and she hadn't found anyone promising in months. The money, she said, was going to waste.

"And then I got busy at work, ignored the reminder and forgot until I saw the deduction in my checking account," Allison said. "I was so mad at myself because I got tired of spending the money."

The very next day, she received this e-mail: "We'd like to introduce you to Jeff from Chicago." Nine months later, Jeff from Chicago asked Allison to marry him. In May 2009, they were married.

Casey says stories like Allison's aren't uncommon, but people should simply look at online dating as a means to an end. "You have to take every opportunity available to you," she says. "It doesn't mean you can't still meet people in real life; it just means you're enhancing your options."

Have you used an online dating service? Have you had any luck? Share your stories and thoughts!

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