Does the thought of internet dating leave you cold Here's why it might not be such a bad idea – whatever age you are
22:46 GMT, 7 November 2012
22:46 GMT, 7 November 2012
Though she called me a nag, being a dating buddy to my friend Cathy turned out to be one of my best acts of friendship.
A year after a divorce she didn’t want, or expect, she was convinced she was beyond her sell-by date. But I coaxed the 54-year-old mother of two into going online. We spent hours surfing dating websites together, drinking wine, giggling, groaning and honing her profile.
On her first date, she was so nervous I had to sit in the car park outside the pub with my mobile phone, waiting for an SOS that never came.
Online dating: Honestly nowhere nearly as scary as many older people believe
After an hour, I texted her. 'Sooo sorry,' she buzzed back. 'I completely forgot you were out there.'
Later that night, she called me. 'Well, there’s no future,' she laughed. 'He’s being transferred to Warsaw next month. But at least I know I can do this.'
A year on and Cathy is what she sweetly calls 'going steady' with a deputy head in his late 50s whom she met online.
If you’re over 50, single and looking for love, the internet is an obvious place to start your search.
Women in this age group are the fastest-growing subscribers — perhaps no surprise given there are 2.4 million between the ages of 45 and 64 living alone, up a third in ten years.
Type the words 'dating over 50' into a search engine and scores of sites pop up. Two new ones are myLovelyParent.com, started by a young digital entrepreneur who wants to help single people like his 60-something mum find their match, and ffifty.com, the brainchild of 50-something Charlotte Cory.
She wrote a Radio 4 comedy drama based on her exploits of internet dating and it attracted such a huge reaction that she set up her own dating site.
Yet for every woman I know who signs
up to internet dating, at least three refuse to consider it and are
convinced it’s a jungle populated by toxic lotharios. Who’s right
Couples psychologist Susan Quilliam,
who has had two relationships that started on dating sites, says the
internet is a great matchmaker — if you go about it in the right way.
But the fears people have about it
are so great that she has developed a series of courses in online dating
to help dispel them.
Here, she addresses what she believes
are the five most common misconceptions. Overcome these and you might
just find the love of your life . . .
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FEAR: No one online is interested in dating women over 50.
REALITY: 'If you’re a woman over 50, you do have to work harder and be more patient,' says Quilliam. 'But I promise you one special man is out there and just as much in need of love as you.'
It’s a numbers game. In your everyday life you’re unlikely to meet as many available men as you did when you were 18 or 28, but the internet hugely increases your possibilities.
Anne Cummings, from Leeds, a retired project manager, was 55 when she met Peter, 56, online, about a year after she’d cautiously signed up to a site.
'I didn’t want to meet anyone who was interested only in what I looked like, so I took the unusual step of not attaching a photograph. It reduced the numbers who were interested in me, but I didn’t mind. Interestingly, Peter hadn’t attached a photo either.
'We have been married for four years. I would encourage any woman to have a go.'
FEAR: Everyone lies on their profile and doesn’t look anything like their picture.
REALITY: Research in the U.S. found that older people market themselves differently than younger people when it comes to online dating.
They tend to focus less on appearance and status, and more on honest self-representation and compatibility.
In any case, you have to look at lies on a spectrum. There are blatant lies (pretending he’s single when he’s not), fibs (shaving a couple of years off your age and posting a flattering photo taken a while ago) and presenting yourself in the best possible light.
As for fibs, Sally Panton, a London property developer, said she was 56 rather than 58 when she signed up to match.com five years after her divorce.
The third man she met, with whom she’s still with five years later, didn’t care she was two years older than she’d stated. She revealed her real age casually in conversation on their first date and he laughed.
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FEAR: They’re all washed-up rejects. If I sign up I’ll look like a loser, too.
REALITY: 'The reason you’re dating online is because you don’t meet enough available people in the course of everyday life,’ says Quilliam.
'That doesn’t make you or anyone else on a dating website a loser. The way to look at it is that people online are being pro-active about finding a partner. Good on you — and them — for getting out there.'
One friend, a widow who’s been internet dating for a year, says: 'At first, I was so embarrassed I thought any man I met would see me as a desperate failure for not meeting someone more naturally.
'But I quickly learned the guys are no better or worse than me and we’re all in this together. I’m 57, average looking, a bit plump, have a good job and laugh easily. Far from sapping my confidence, online dating has increased it. I’ve not met anyone special, but hope I will.'
FEAR: All the older men online are only in it for sex, desperate to prove they can still do it.
REALITY: Quilliam believes this is nonsense. 'If he says he’s looking for a long-term relationship, he probably is,' she says.
'But sex, just as it was when you were 18, is negotiable. Of course, it’s OK to say no if you are not completely comfortable. If he throws a wobbly, he’s not who you’re looking for.'
You shouldn’t forget that older men are often as nervous about their sexual prowess as older women, and may be secretly wondering if they’re going to get it together without a prescription for Viagra.
And if, as happened to a friend, your date’s opening gambit is: 'On the way here, I spoke to my daughter and she says it’s OK for us to have sex on the first date' then politely — or not so politely — make your excuses and leave.
FEAR: I’ve been signed up for three months, but still haven’t found anyone. I’m in my 50s and time’s running out.
REALITY: 'You have to be in contact with 100 men and meet at least ten to find one you might want to start a relationship with,' says Quilliam.
By the time you’re in your 50s, you should know what you’re looking for in a relationship. Refusing to compromise is a sign you’ve learned from past mistakes.
But neither should you be feeling like a failure because you have been rejected. Usually, it’s in the early stages and, given that the person doesn’t know you, it can’t be personal.
Plus, if you’ve been online for three months, you’ve probably done your share of rejecting, too. Just as you may find yourself saying no to men, you have to be prepared to get a similar response and move on.
For details of Getting Better At Online Dating courses and one-to-one coaching, contact [email protected]