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Advice for those discouraged by online dating

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Dear Abby: My husband and I read the letter you ran on Dec. 21 from "Dateless in Dayton." We have a few thoughts on the matter we'd like to share with him and anyone else who is having bad luck getting responses on dating websites.

We are middle-aged and have been together for two years. Even though we deactivated our memberships in the dating sites we were part of, we still get emails daily that "'So-and-So' sent you a message." It appears these sites still show our profiles as active, allowing people to try to contact us. So it's entirely possible that the women "Dateless" has contacted were inactive or expired members who were never able to see his messages.

We would like to reassure "Dateless" that the problem may not be him. We would also like to encourage him not to give up on finding a mate. He needs to get out there and do the things he loves because he may end up meeting someone that way. If he covers all his bases and is himself, he'll do OK. – Hoping To Be Helpful, Huntsville, Ala.

Dear Helpful: Many readers wrote to point out that the problem "Dateless" is experiencing could be more about the idiosyncratic subscription rules on some dating websites than about the writer or the women he is contacting. Other experienced users shared their stories:

Dear Abby: I can tell "Dateless" why he's not getting "thanks, but no thanks" notes from the women he contacts on the online dating service: Those women are most likely overwhelmed with responses.

Before I met my husband 10 years ago, I signed up on a dating site, then left the house to run some errands. When I came back a couple of hours later, I had 75 responses! I tried to answer all of them, but I kept getting more and more, so I finally gave up. I can only imagine how many responses women get today with online dating even more popular than it was then. – Settled Down in Illinois

Dear Abby: How long does one have to wait before determining the person isn't interested or just hasn't had the chance to respond? Many sites offer a simple button push that sends a message saying you are not interested. It appears people are simply taking the easy way out without any concern for others. And unfortunately, this doesn't happen only in online dating. – David in St. Louis

Dear Abby: I'd like to suggest that "Dateless" consider that many people don't check their dating site often – or ever. I signed up on a site in August and stopped looking at it in October. Then I forgot my password and could never look again. – Over It in Tampa

Dear Abby: Sadly for "Dateless," many of us women who are also attempting online dating have learned the hard way that any response can quickly encourage a stalker who emails us or sends instant messages relentlessly.

I consider myself to be a courteous person with Midwestern values, and I tried (initially) to politely respond to everyone one way or the other. It became exhausting because many of the men I sent a polite "no, thank you" to began demanding explanations, taking my reply as a "maybe" or insulting me for being stuck-up (and the communication quickly grew uglier from there).

So please tell "Dateless" that it's nothing personal – we're just trying to avoid drama. – Pam in Phoenix

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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