According to recent stats there will be nine million Brits online dating as you read this, with nearly half of adults in the UK having tried finding love through the internet. Indeed, one in five heterosexual relationships in Britain today are thanks to the 1,500+ UK-based dating sites and apps out there, and this number increases greatly with same sex couples.
For many, online dating is a great and positive way of meeting people in today's fast paced, digital age, but we should be very mindful that a significant minority of online daters are likely to be damaging to you, as they are either emotionally sapping to you or, more harmfully, psychopathic.
Whilst that sounds a little frightening, it doesn't need to be, as long as you're mindful of this. In fact, there are simple checks and measures you can adopt to best protect yourself from online daters who will be harmful to your happiness.
Firstly, we need to understand why online dating is so attractive to emotionally needy people and psychopaths.
Emotionally needy people are very quick to become dependant upon their partner, and often move from one relationship to the next seeking their next rock to cling to. Whilst this doesn't mean they are deliberately destructive to their partner, they are seeking someone to 'save' them, which creates an impossible balance of power and expectation from the start. These kind of people are often referred to as 'Love Addicts', and they tend to suffer from very low self esteem.
Meanwhile, psychopathic people, who are far more common than you think with an estimated one in 100 people meeting the criteria, are often seeking partners for selfish and predatory reasons. This can be sexual or emotional, and they are usually seeking a relationship very much based on their needs only. They often tend to see the people they meet as 'victims', who they can get what they want from.
It is possible to form long term relationships with both of these personality types, but in the vast majority of cases any relationship formed will be negative to both parties, and will exacerbate these traits.
Confident people, however, are far more patient in their love lives, as they are content in themselves, and do not need someone else. This means that they don't rush into situations, and will usually end up in more healthy long term relationships. This confidence is demonstrated by the kind of person who would approach a potential partner in a social environment, rather than message through the relative safety of an app.
However, that is not to say you cannot meet the man or woman of your dreams online. If you follow these tips, you can best ensure the person at the other end of Tinder is going to be right for you:
Love Addicts in particular have little true independence in their own lives. They rely on others, and lack individuality in their life. Ask the person to describe what they would do if they had an entire day to themselves. You should be able to detect from their answer if they have a true sense of their own identity.
Two Way Communication
A healthy relationship is built on equal levels of trust and respect. This can only be achieved if both parties are equally interested in the other. If you find you're the only one asking questions then the other person is demonstrating the classic sign of a person with no empathy; absolute self-centred behaviour.
Patience Is A Virtue
Needy dependent people rush into almost every relationship they encounter in their lives, from personal to professional. They need you, but you do not need them. Take things slow, and build from a position of strength in both parties. If they want to hurry to meet you, they are displaying clear Love Addict signals.
You're Your Own Boss
Psychopaths love to control others, often because their actual self esteem is so low. Sometimes it can be nice for the other person to have a plan of where to go and what to do, but state your own preferences and be politely firm on this. If the other person won't adapt to meet you halfway then they may be the psychopath you do not want in your life.
Dating sites and apps are a prime prowling ground for the copy and paste psychopath, who will send the same 'fishing' message to many, and see who replies. If the other person doesn't reference your profile in any specific way, from commenting on a photo to your personal interests, then be very wary. These psychopathic people are often looking for sexual gratification with as many people as possible.
Look out for subtle ways that the individual might be trying to manipulate you in their communication. For example gaslighting is a common strategy used by psychopaths when they are communicating with their prey online. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse in which the psychopath spins, twists or presents false information with the aim of making victims doubt their own memory, point of view or sanity. This kind of communication can chip away at a person's confidence and self esteem fast causing a downward spiral, and can lead some people to see the psychopath as knowing best and being superior.
Dr Becky Spelman is a TV psychologist with a Harley Street practice at www.theprivatetherapyclinic.co.ukSuggest a correction