Sometimes it’s not much fun being single in the holiday season. Your coupled friends disappear on overseas holidays and rent houses on the beach, and you’re left on your own watching lovers wandering hand-in-hand on warm summer evenings.
The post-Christmas blues is one of the peak reasons for people signing up to online dating. Our biggest site, the Fairfax-owned RSVP, normally averages more than 1000 sign-ons every day, but hits higher peaks towards New Year as many thousands decide to bite the bullet and do something about their single status. Other sites report similar highs, with more newcomers joining up and records being set in online messaging between members.
It’s also the New Year thing. Another year has gone by filled with Saturday nights watching re-runs of The Killing, or out with the girls for yet another fun but male-free evening. It inspires many to resolve that next year will be different, to sum up the courage to go looking.
But that can be a daunting prospect, particularly for mid-life divorcees whose last taste of dating was 20 years earlier and many kilos lighter.
The scary business of staring at that blank screen wondering how to write a fascinating online profile is enough to deter many.
I’ve been helping people with online dating for more than five years now, not just newcomers to the business but also many who tried and weren’t successful. I’m always meeting folk who tell me that online dating didn’t work for them. It usually turns out they went online, met a couple of prospects and didn’t connect with them so they gave up. How crazy is that?
It’s rather like trying to find a house to buy in a tough market like Sydney or Melbourne. You wouldn’t think of just going out on a Saturday morning, bidding on a couple of houses and giving up because you didn’t find one. You just need to keep looking and even then it won’t be easy.
What amazes me is how many people spend more time and effort looking for a new car or refrigerator than looking for a partner. Finding someone you click with is obviously much, much harder. Seeking mutual compatibility means you don’t need to just like the refrigerator, the fridge has to like you, too!
But it can happen, provided you go about things properly. You also need a lively profile which makes you stand out from the crowd, realistic expectations of who you can attract and a willingness to learn how the whole thing works, and just keep at it.
Most of my clients are older women. The numbers are stacked against them because there are many more single women than men in these age groups. Yet, instead of approaching things with an open mind and casting a wide net, it’s amazing how many have enormous shopping lists of what they want in a man and are very reluctant to compromise.
Take, for example, the very attractive 60s-something woman I’m working with who is only 162cms yet insists she really wants a man over 180cms. I’ve been trying to convince her how lucky she is to have choice among the large numbers of lovely shorter men who really struggle to find a match.
Women’s fixation on height is quite extraordinary. One of the first things I do now with a new male client is check out how tall he is – after being badly burnt trying to help a great guy from Brisbane. He came to me with an amazing story. He was newly divorced after having lost 37 kilos. He’d always been overweight, as was his wife, but his decision to tackle the problem led to the end of the marriage.
So here he was, running a thriving business, fighting fit and ready to find someone with whom to share his great new life. We put together an entertaining profile and took some flattering photos – I even helped him revamp his wardrobe and get a new youthful haircut.
He sent out more than 100 messages but received only four responses. It turned out he was 170cms and even women far shorter than him weren’t interested.
It’s not just that a woman really cuts down her options by being so fussy over height. By making such demanding preferences, she’s sending the message that she’s a princess, ready to judge men on an issue that is essentially very trivial.
The same applies to older men who state their desire for much younger women. Not only are they unlikely to attract them, but they’ll also put off women their own age who are likely to dismiss them as unrealistic narcissists.
There’s so much people need to learn about how the whole system works. If someone doesn’t put up their photo, it’s always tempting to ask for one during the very first contact, but then it’s rude to ignore them if you don’t like how they look.
I work hard to try to teach people to be kind to each other. The online dating business can be brutal, often because people don’t know how to handle difficult issues, such as what to do if someone has been emailing several people, and then one prospective date emerges. This leads to the man or woman abruptly disappearing from the online correspondence because they don’t know how to handle an uncomfortable ending.
I’ve put together some wonderful emails my clients have sent me showing how to write a graceful, kind note to ease themselves out of this situation – just the thing to help new clients learn the ropes.
And what if you have just met someone who suddenly announces they have taken their profile down and clearly expects you to do likewise? This type of unilateral decision announcing they are forsaking all others is really a kind of ambit claim which they hope will encourage you to come along for the ride. But that, too, isn’t easy to handle.
There’s a lot to be learnt when it comes to understanding the language and mores of this new social world. But it really pays off. This is the way most singles of all ages are now meeting new partners. For older folk, with a small social circle, the online dating world is a wonderful opportunity for opening up your social world. Just the thing to occupy you in the lazy, hazy days of summer.