Must Love Ping-Pong

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An obvious benefit of online dating is the ability to easily find people with common interests. Depending on the dating service and the profile, it's not that difficult to find someone who shares the same religion, favorite music, niche hobbies, or even counterculture lifestyle.

Here's the problem, though: once they become aware of the limitless possibilities of an Internet search, some people become much pickier about who they even contact, waiting for that “perfect person” whose personality, looks and interests are exactly what they're looking for.

And as specialized dating sites spring up with the speed of multiplying bacteria, they reinforce the notion that a person with different interests is ultimately incompatible. Strangely enough, the Internet – a place notorious for being blind to first impressions, for finding one's “soul mate” - can be more restrictive than a singles' night chaperoned by nuns, in the wrong hands.

Don't get me wrong – common interests are essential in a long-term relationship. When the adrenaline and hormones wane, when sex is less of a top priority, hopefully a couple has something to talk about, or the situation will go downhill fast.

However, another component essential in a long-term relationship is independence. Many lasting close relationships – whether it be romantic or platonic – eventually become identified by their differences instead of their similarities. Think of a set of twins – sure, they might like to do 90% of their activities together, but they also want their own identities, so Tommy becomes known as “the one who plays soccer” and Timmy is “the one who plays baseball.” Though it's great to have common interests with the one you love, it's really not necessary to have every single interest match up – for many, the lack of time apart becomes suffocating.

Most people don't really want a clone of themselves – they want respect and validation. That is why the niche dating websites can be so helpful; a person from a religious website might understand why your activities are limited on certain days without judgment. Someone from a science fiction site might not like your favorite fantasy series, but they probably won't make fun of you either. It is the understanding, not the agreement, that we all really crave.

So remember, as you're perusing an online dating site, that you're looking for a type of person, a person who will respect and appreciate you - not just a specific set of interests.