Beth, 44, is a witty, educated single woman who lives in northwest Charlotte and works in finance. In April 2010, she had a second date with a man she met online.
He called to say he was running late because he was fighting with his ex-wife. After his late arrival, he announced, “I hope you have money. I don’t have my wallet.”
Then, he continued to badmouth his ex-wife.
Beth suggested he find neutral ground with the ex since they share kids. He said, “Oh, I’m not the one who causes the drama; she is!”
Beth tried a number of sites.
“I think Match is a meat market,” she says. “eHarmony would go months and not send a single match. They claim to go through rigorous computer matching, but during my last subscription, they matched me with a woman.”
Beth is straight.
She had a good experience on Plenty of Fish, though. She’s engaged to a man she met on the site.
Sheryl Spangler, 60, met her husband online, too. They married last July. She’s a Charlotte-based certified matchmaker (Did you know there was such a thing?) and relationship coach. Spangler helps clients define what they’re looking for and make the most of the time they devote to online dating. She also hosts events, including a singles Meetup called Dating after 40.
Spangler says the 50-and-up set is the fastest-growing online dating demographic. So if you’re single, looking and of a certain age, the numbers are on your side. There’s even a website, Our Time, devoted to the demographic.
Can’t hurry love
Online dating takes time. Beth says it can feel like a full-time job.
You have to be disciplined to manage it. Spangler suggests online daters commit 30 minutes a day to the search.
Dave, a boyishly handsome 48-year-old Charlotte lawyer, tried eHarmony last year. He spent a couple of hours completing eHarmony’s extensive questionnaire and self-assessment. He didn’t meet the future Mrs. Dave on the site, but he found the experience worthwhile and says he got to know a lot about himself during the process.
“It’s a numbers game,” he says. “When you first get on a site, you’re going to find your greatest number of potential partners.”
He had several intriguing matches, including a “whirlwind e-romance” that ended abruptly – when the would-be match blocked him without explanation. That’s one of the pitfalls of online dating, although that can happen IRL (in real life), too.
Dave was matched with one woman whose greatest passion in life was drinking lots of water. He decided not to pursue her. (He has nothing against water; he just has different passions.)
He suspects that if you’re on the site every day and for long enough, you’ll eventually be matched with everyone who’s in your age range and has a pulse. “If you stay off the site for a while and come back, the cream sort of rises to the top.”
A love match
A decade ago, Sharon Lachow-Blumberg, now 58, was a Citigroup executive in Manhattan who traveled for work and had little time for dating. Through a few dating sites and even a Jewish matchmaker, she met a lot of men who couldn’t stop talking about their ex-wives.
A friend encouraged her to try JDate.com, an online community for Jewish singles. Soon after, she met Mark Blumberg. They met 10 years ago on a date that lasted 10 hours and included the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a walk in Central Park, ice cream and dinner.
“He made me laugh then, and he still does,” says the psychological coach and facilitator. “It felt effortless.” The couple knew soon after meeting that this was something that felt permanent. They dated for two years before getting engaged. They have been married since 2006.
Both were in their late 40s, had never been married and didn’t have children. When Lachow-Blumberg was 32, her mother died, and that changed her. “I’ve always been independent,” she says. “But my mother’s death was the most horrific event I’ve ever been through. My desire shifted. I began to see how important it is to have someone to share life’s experiences with.”
When she met her future husband, she didn’t show up with expectations. “I wasn’t projecting that burden of, ‘Are you the one?’”
And a friend had given her what she terms the best-ever dating advice: “Don’t pay attention to his shirt or shoes.”
Mark Blumberg was casually dressed that day at the Met, and his now-wife says she may have been quick to judge him in his jeans and sneakers. But she soon came to appreciate her husband’s authenticity.
Authenticity may be in short supply on dating sites.
Beth – the straight Charlotte woman who was once matched with a woman – was once matched with a man she refers to as “The Engaged Guy,” although that wasn’t mentioned in his profile. He was getting married and told Beth he “just wanted to see what else was out there” before he tied the knot.
Beth grew frustrated with getting to know her matches online and over the phone and then having the in-person meeting fall flat.
“When you meet (someone) in person, you know immediately if there’s chemistry,” she says.
It’s backwards with online dating, Beth says. Too often, she felt “zero chemistry after wasting a lot of time getting to know” someone who seemed compatible in cyberspace but was a mismatch in person.
For Dave, it was that difficulty in gauging chemistry from a distance that led him to end his eHarmony subscription.
There’s an added dating challenge for women over 40 with a ticking biological clock. “When you are in your 40s and want to start a family, it’s hard to meet men who want the same,” Beth says.
Yet Beth and her fiance, the Blumbergs, and Sheryl Spangler and her new husband prove online dating can work for middle-aged people.
Lachow-Blumberg says, “If being in a relationship is important to you, love can happen to anyone, at any time.”
Tips from people who’ve been there, tried that:
▪ Create a fun, short online profile that explains who you are and what you’re looking for in a match.
▪ For your online profile, use current, full body pictures. Consider getting professional shots taken.
▪ Be safe. Meet your dates in public places, and don’t give out your home address. “Be a little paranoid in order to be safe,” warns Sheryl Spangler, a professional matchmaker. “Get a confidential Google voice phone number and set up a separate email address to use for online dating. For women, let your date drive away first so you can’t be followed.”
▪ Don’t skip steps, Spangler advises. With online dating, email or message first. Then, talk on the phone. If all goes well, plan a brief meeting – for coffee, for instance.
▪ Don’t narrow your parameters too much. “I have one friend who will only date men in a five-mile radius of her home,” Beth (who didn’t want her last name used) says. “You have to throw a wider net.”
▪ Beware of scammers. “If that guy (or gal) won’t meet you in person, there’s a reason,” warns Beth.
▪ Be patient. Spangler says you should plan to spend four to six months online.
▪ Be proactive, Spangler advises. If you see someone who looks interesting, write a short “ice breaker” or comment on a picture. Be sure that whatever you write, end it with a question so the recipient has something to respond to.