Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks made meeting online seem sweet—romantic even. Yet, somewhere between 1998’s You’ve Got Mail and today, online dating has gotten a bad rep. Consider a recent study: Researchers from Cornell University and the University of Indianapolis found that where a couple meets oftentimes determines how supportive their family and friends will be of the relationship. If the couple met in a traditional setting, say in a college class or at work, their network tends to be more supportive than if the couple met online. [Tweet this stat!]
But according to a recent Pew study, one in 10 Americans has used an online dating app or site, and that number is on the rise. But if you sometimes feel outshined by your friends who've been dating since grade school, or your pal who met Mr. Wonderful on a chairlift, a Bahamian beach, or in Central Park (you get the point), it's time to flip your mindset. “The bottom line is that meeting online is nothing to be ashamed of,” says Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt Expert and author of Love at First Click. “But if you approach it from a place of shame, then people aren’t going to be as excited for you.”
Here’s how to answer the inevitable question, “how did you two meet?” to ensure your meeting story rivals a rom-com.
1. Ditch the Cover Story
Crafting a go-to cover story—saying you met when you both reached for The Goldfinch at the same time—could come back to bite you. “It's not going to come off as authentic,” Davis says. “And that’s likely why people won’t be as excited for you, because the joy of the relationship just isn't coming across.”
2. Set the Tone
“When you're explaining how you met someone, no matter where you met, it's all about the tone that you use,” Davis says. “It's more about relationship confidence in general rather than where you met.” Instead of sheepishly admitting to creating your online dating profile after your last bad breakup, set your story up by saying how excited you were to open a new chapter of your life and try something different—only to meet him weeks later. “If you view your meeting from a positive lens versus negative, that will make all the difference in the world,” says Karen Ruskin, psychotherapist, and relationship expert. Chances are, your family and friends will mirror the emotions your display, so show them excitement, not shame.
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3. Feel Empowered
By dating online, you’re actively taking control of your romantic life—and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. “You’re utilizing the advances in technology in order to meet somebody,” says Ruskin. While telling your story you could highlight the advantages of meeting online—like how you could vet out men who may have been toxic for you or ones who didn’t share your values. Say something like, “I knew I wanted a man who was really close to his family,” and explain how his profile grabbed your attention and pulled you in right away.
4. Focus on the Story
Even if Match.com introduced you to your significant other, at some point, the two of you got offline, met in person, and went on a real first date. Focus on that. “Everyone has a story,” Davis says. The story might have started in the first funny message that he sent, but what happened on your first date and the topics that you really connected over are part of that story too, she says. Tell them about all of the weird connections you realized you had right off the bat or how you managed to spill ketchup on your dress 10 minutes into dinner. Re-telling your first date allows people to see beyond the virtual beginnings.