When Gayle Crist left her husband in 1995, after 16 years of marriage, she was at a crossroads professionally and personally. She had her own business, Gayle Crist Editorial Services, but the deadlines were killing her. "I wanted to de-stress my life," says Crist, who lives in Doylestown and has two children, age 19 and 14. She went to a career counselor, who told her she would make a great life coach.

In 2002, after completing a four-month online basic coaching program with the Institute for Life Coach Training, Crist, who earned a bachelors in English from Northern Illinois University in 1975 and a masters in radio/TV/film in 1977 from Syracuse University, started Healthy Life Planning. She counsels individuals on achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle including diet and exercise, healthy relationships, and healthy transitions during life-changing times like layoffs and divorce. She also counsels people on how to succeed at online dating.

In the market herself for a healthy relationship Crist navigated the online dating world starting in 2003. After posting her profile on six or seven websites, she met, over the course of 14 months, about 50 different men, about 10 of whom she dated for more than a few times. In July, 2004, she joined www.yahoopersonals.com, not knowing at the time that cyberspace would produce her future husband, Jim Shisler, a systems administrator at IBM in Lansdale.

"I had designated age 45 to 50. Jim had just gotten online and seen my profile but he thought I wouldn’t interested because he was 43. Then I decided to expand my age range. I’ve always preferred younger men," says Crist, 51, who grew up in Park Ridge, a Chicago suburb, the daughter of a linotype operator and a housewife. "He liked the fact I had written about life coaching, that I like to help people. I liked that he was very family-oriented, has kids, and is an outdoors person." His children, aged 18 and 15, are just about the same age as Crist’s kids.

For their first date the two met at Peace Valley Park in Doylestown for a walk on a Saturday afternoon. "We hit it off so well, we had dinner, then ice cream. It turned out to be an eight-hour date," Crist says. That was July 31 of last year. On February 27, says Crist, "we mutually decided to get engaged. The two are planning a simple wedding on July 30, almost exactly a year after they met.

Crist had such a positive experience with online dating that she now coaches individuals in writing a strong profile and, with the help of the friend who turned her on to online dating, developed a seminar on the subject, "Find a Life Partner Online: Tips & Techniques for Success with Online Dating," which she has presented at singles groups, Parents Without Partners, counseling and coaching centers, and holistic centers. She presents the seminar on Friday, July 8, at Good Time Charley’s in Kingston. The event is sponsored by Professional and Business Singles Network.

Crist says the seminar offers everything from tips on safety and how to write your profile to what not to do on the first phone call and how to handle the first meeting. "It’s really a primer," Crist says. "It takes you into how to know whether you have a match or not." Some of her most important tips:

1. Look at the other profiles in your age group. Troll through "the competition" to make sure you have something unique. Crist cautions against profiles that are too generic and recommends including specific details, like the last book you read or why you decided to go to graduate school. She remembers one male client who wrote what his female friends think of him, that they think he is sensitive and a good listener. "This shows he knows how to relate to women," Crist says. "Talk about your character, not just your hobbies and interests, so you find people who have the same values. If honesty is important to you say it."

2. Update your profile often. By adding more or new details, changing your photo or headline, you make your profile look new and it will bump up to the top because of the date.

3. Treat online dating like a part-time job. Crist recommends against what she calls "dabbling" in online dating. "If you’re really looking for a long-term relationship you have to put the time in. Otherwise you might not meet any quality people. You’re just kind of playing around." Crist says that when she was doing online dating she was at it five days a week, sending 10 E-mails a day. "I made sure I was persistent with it."

What’s the most common mistake onliners make? "People rush too much when writing their profiles. That’s where a life coach can really help you think it through." Crist says she help peoples fine-tune every element of their profile, and she offers a free 30-minute phone or in-person consultation to everyone who attends the seminar.

Crist sums up the process with what she calls "the three P’s": positive attitude, persistent, and patient. "It’s not going to happen overnight. It took me 14 months, and I was really looking." The payoff is huge, says Crist, who is besotted with her fiance. "He is way more than my highest expectations, he is more than I ever dreamed of." She even brings Shisler along to her seminars, to tell his side of the story. "He’s shy and quiet. For him the Internet was a perfect tool."

"Find a Life Partner Online: Tips & Techniques for Success with Online Dating," presented by life coach Gayle Crist, Friday, July 8, 7 p.m., Good Time Charley’s, 4591 Route 27, Kingston, 800-537-3859. Followed by dance social. Sponsored by Professional & Business Singles Network. $25; dance only, $15.

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