The best dating services
September 9, 2013 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I'd like your opinions and personal experiences with on-line dating services for long-term monogamous relationships. I was very dissatisfied with because I got a snotty customer service dude who used a tone with me because I didn't know they renewed automatically each month. Success stories welcome, too. I'm over forty.

On preview, I saw a post similar to this in metafilter, but it was dated 2004 and perhaps some things have changed. Also, the Craigslist personals in my area are downright scary and I would cut my fingers off before answering one.
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Human Relations (23 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I had the same auto-renewal issue with that you did--and I think I was on a three-month plan, so it was particularly unfortunate. However, that's where I met my wife four years ago, and was a bargain--even at the cost of two three-month memberships instead of just one--considering how delightful she is.

I think you have to go where the people are, regardless of your customer service complaint. If you're looking for people in their 30s to 40s, I think you're going to find them more on than on OKCupid.

There's no Metafilter dating service (yet!) but you might also want to try a Metafilter meetup in your area. There are some cool people there.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:52 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites], eharmony, maybe, plenty of fish (a hookup site? Not entirely sure)
Some of the specialty dating sites- jdate (Jewish) and others of that type.
posted by Jacen at 11:25 AM on September 9, 2013

I haven't used online services much but I do want to warn you about eharmony, based on my limited experience with them. They have an algorithm that will not allow a woman to be matched with a man who is younger than she is, and they also pay just about zero attention to what you might classify as important. For example, reading is a HUGE deal for me, books books books books books, all the way through my profile.... and the men they matched me with hadn't read a book in literally years.
posted by janey47 at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

OKCupid has plenty of over-40 members. I'm also in that demographic, and while my profile is currently disabled while I take a dating hiatus, I had a pretty steady stream of interactions. If there is a strong user base in your area, I'd definitely recommend it over, which I've never had any luck with.
posted by Superplin at 11:48 AM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm an OKCupid member. I've not had the best luck lately, but that is more due to either bad timing or bad luck* on my part as opposed to OKCupid.

* I can see meeting one guy who happened to be into a kink that I just plain didn't share, but....five guys?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Things may have changed in the five years since I (got married to a woman met through on-line personals and) gave up looking at them. But I had the best luck with - not just the lady who became Mrs. wjm, but realistic prospects in general. Even though I heard that service described as "the K-mart of dating sites."

That makes me suspect a site with high volumes of ads for you to winnow through yourself is superior to one that has sophisticated matching algorithms but a smaller pool of potential matches.

E-Harmony was the first claiming to be very scientific in this, but despite my placing high priority on eventually having kids, and my spending zero time in bars, they matched me with a female impersonator from a local bar. Sigh!

If it's relevant: I was well over 40 when Mrs. wjm and I found one another via Yahoo.

Best of luck !
posted by wjm at 12:02 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honestly, there is no one "good" one. If your goal is really to find a special person for a long-term relationship, you need to cast your net far and wide. It can be expensive so I always did something like: 3 months Match (NEVER had luck there ... Even though I ended up living with a guy I met on there, I would hardly call it "lucky"), 3 months OKCupid (I found this one to contain a LOT of men looking for polyamorous relationships so if that's not your thing, you might want to double up here.) Ultimately, I found my guy of three years on Craigslist for the reason I listed in this thread.

Eharmony never sent me anyone I was interested in ... But the fact it, I have friends that have met spouses/SOs, etc., on each of these sites so you just have to give them all a go.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just another shout out for OKCupid. I met my current boyfriend after being on the site for a month or two, and a handful of dates with other very nice people. We've been together for over a year now, and are very happy. We also had a really low match percentage, so don't put too much stock in the numbers. If you're in a decent-sized city your prospects should be decent, regardless of age or appearance or strange proclivities.
posted by dinofuzz at 12:15 PM on September 9, 2013

I think you'd do best to ask friends and coworkers which site is most used in your area.
In my area for example, very few people use anything other than PoF, regardless of age. So while OKCupid is by far superior in letting you know beforehand that a potential date doesn't think gay people should marry and does think that recreational drug use can be a romantic event (and thinks it's mandatory that you are in agreement), there may not be a lot of choice on there for you depending on where you live. I've seen a lot of people sign up to PoF just to cross-link back to their OkC profile to get more traffic.

I personally haven't used Eharmony, but I've heard a lot of complains about there being an extremely disproportionate ratio of females to males.

Keep in mind that online dating isn't for everyone. I tried it for about 2 weeks before calling it quits (20+ messages a day? Come on, who has time for that.) I quickly burnt out on it and felt as though my privacy was being invaded, so I'm really happy I tried a free site to begin versus signing up for a paid one.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2013

I agree with nubianinthedesert that none of them are really very good. OKCupid is definitely the best free site so you may as well be on there and I would pick either eHarmony or depending on whatever offers they have on. It would be great if it were possible to find the numbers of active users for each site by location because that's really what matters.

I wouldn't place any faith in the matching algorithms either. You fill in all the details for other human beings to decide whether they're interested in you or not rather than computers. You just need to trawl through the profiles of lots of people you aren't interested in until you find the ones that you are.

(I'm not trying to advocate for eHarmony but just in response to janey47 saying it won't match women with men younger than them - I'm a man and my matches on eHarmony seem roughly 50% older and younger than me)
posted by neilb449 at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2013

I'm going to co-sign that there is no one "good" one. It's all a frustrating combination of numbers and luck.

I met my SO on (we're in our 30s). Prior to that I had a long-term relationship with someone I met through the online personals section of a newspaper.

I've tried OkCupid, eHarmony, Chemistry, and Plenty of Fish. It depends on where you live, but different populations tend to sit on different sites, so I'd ask around. Plenty of Fish sketched me out right away but I've heard that if you can wade through the pond scum, you may yield a goldfish. Algorithm-based sites NEVER matched me to anyone based on all the damn things I had to fill out. Many of these sites also "share" their userbases.
posted by sm1tten at 12:25 PM on September 9, 2013

Mutual friends. Seriously, the wider your social circle, the more potential spouses you'll meet.

Second to that, hire a professional matchmaker. You may be shelling out more money than you'd like but you'll be matched with people who have demonstrated through a monetary investment that they're seriously looking for a marriage partner.

Third, meet people through school or friends.

Online dating is great in theory but there is a significant risk of falling for someone who is already spoken for, who is looking for a bit on the side, and who is misrepresenting themselves. In my experience of having nearly a dozen penpal, pseudo-relationships, online dating leads to broken hearts faster than just meeting through friends, school, work, mutual interests in real life, and whatnot.

I'm continually reminded of the best piece of advice I've ever received: if you haven't found a partner by now, something in your social life is off. If you were out living your life to the fullest, you'd have already attracted someone by now. Keep on keeping on and the right one will come along. Couples always tell me how they found each other when they weren't looking.
posted by lotusmish at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I appreciate all the responses.

If you haven't found a partner by now, something in your social life is off. If you were out living your life, you'd have already attracted someone.

lotusmish, anyone that knows me in real life (do we still abbreviate?) would tell you I'm everywhere (except a few bars that skeeve me out): art festivals/museums, open mikes, yoga, flea markets, bluegrass shows, church ice cream socials, benefits, lectures, swing dances, contra dances, beaches, historical reenactments, apple orchards, rock concerts, Tibetian monk mandala constructions, and so on. I don't own a tv and I don't like being bored, so (barring a giant snowstorm) I am out having adventures. And I volunteer a great deal as well. It may that I have issues that I'm still working on that prevent me from connecting with someone, but please don't accuse me of not living life to fullest, when in reality, you know nothing about me.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2013 [29 favorites]

I cannot speak from recent experience, but I'm responding with this because nobody else has mentioned it. The Onion Personals is one approach if you appreciate the silliness of The Onion in general. It attracts a certain kind of humor, and if it is aligned with yours, well then there's one potential hurdle behind you.

FWIW I met and married the person I connected with through The Onion Personals. It wasn't exclusively owned by the site. At the time, the database was collocated with The Nerve Personals. I don't know about now. However that speaks to you.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 3:11 PM on September 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

i know one married couple who met through eharmony and my sister and her boyfriend (both over 40) of ~4 years also met on eharmony. i don't think there is one best site though just what works for you.
posted by wildflower at 3:19 PM on September 9, 2013

I'm younger than you (late twenties) but I've started several relationships through OKCupid, including the one that I'm in now. My current boyfriend and I met on OKC because I was working in a field that was almost all women, and he was working crazy long hours. Neither of us had time or energy to meet people outside of our jobs. We've been dating for about a year and a half and live together now.

I was on and off OKC for about five years in my early/mid-twenties, so it took me awhile to find someone, but I had very few bad experiences on OKC.
posted by anotheraccount at 3:32 PM on September 9, 2013

I met my husband through OKC, he was 49. I wrote him. I highly recommend being proactive in making contact. Uh, unless you want the olde-fashioned Gentleman sort. I agree with the recs above for joining a few sites and trying to find the one that has a good pool for you (but staying in all of them isn't a bad idea either, if they're free). Craigslist may be a long shot, but try writing your own ad on there, not reading all the creepy other ads.

In previous years I met one really great guy on Match, and on Yahoo met several great guys, one worth a multi-year relationship. But Yahoo is Match, now, and a paid site--are they any different from the regular Match site?

I've always written quite long profiles with lots of details about what I care about and how I live, in order to scare away the wrong people. Unless you just plain want practice having awkward dates, I think that fewer, higher-quality dates are better than high numbers of dates. The OKC match percentages worked well for me; I answered the questions that were important to me and ignored most that were not. Therefore low match percentages usually had a few dealbreakers.

PS: I've heard that POF is impossible to delete from, so use a new email address if you sign up for that site.
posted by Anwan at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm continually reminded of the best piece of advice I've ever received: if you haven't found a partner by now, something in your social life is off.

This is extraordinarily condescending and judgmental, with the added bonus of being demonstrably false.

People develop at different rates, and flow in and out of the dating pool for all sorts of reasons, across all ages. And there is no one healthy norm for "social life". Introverts, for example, may be quite content with relatively limited groups of friends and activities, and that is 100% healthy and cool. They may not rub up against suitable partners IRL because of that. That is also 100% OK, and the reason dating sites flourish.

Back to the question at hand: as a person a bit longer in the tooth than our OP, and who also uses online dating for long-term monogamous intents, I've had the best results, surprisingly, on craigslist. I don't know why that is.

In my area, OKCupid has a large and active pool of people in the 40+ demographic. I am not a fan of the user experience of the site -- the matching process is simultaneously too wide-open and too restrictive, and leads to many "false positives" -- but it can produce results if you approach it with your boundaries firmly in place. (By that I mean: expect to be contacted by all sorts of people who disregard your clearly-stated preferences and dealbreakers.)
posted by nacho fries at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Plenty of Fish = Plenty of Crazy Fish. The barrier to entry is low. My friends and I met a disproportionate number of people who had severe mental health issues on that site.

OK Cupid = navel gazing hipsters & other interesting people. Met lots of friends here. Just gotta sift through the people who are waaaaay too into themselves and can't see past their interests ("not into Arcade Fire? Don't talk to me.").

Lavalife = the men pay and the ladies just answer the emails. I've met some good people for dating off this site (didn't work out, he didn't want kids, and other missed connections). Still, I liked this one.

Match, eharmony - didn't like, had no bites off this site.

I put it down to LUCK - my friend's sister married the first guy she dated from online, now they have a kid. It was just the right match.

Also, look for people who seem REAL and NORMAL and DECENT; chatting with good boundaries and saying appropriate things, their comments aren't creepy or witholding, they make plans to meet and follow through with plans without any confusing push-pull bullshit. Online dating can attract a lot of commitment-avoidant or intimacy-adverse people, but you can spot them easily. So take no prisoners and say "no" to those types, no apologies. Also, just keep it casual and have fun, don't be too serious off the get go. And practice good dating behaviour (tm). Let them know what you feel, where you stand, what you want. I know a couple who met online, didn't quite click, ended it, dated other people, then 3-4 months later he just thought of her, called her up again, they went out again and now they're married. So just don't take it seriously. The problem with online dating is that you don't have time to warm up to someone. It feels like there's pressure to like them right away or nothing, and love doesn't always work that way.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:10 PM on September 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

My boyfriend (45) and I (36) met on OkCupid. I liked the percentage match thing - we were 86% or something like that. I dated a few others from that site a long time ago and it had me figured out pretty spot on!
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 11:07 PM on September 9, 2013

I tried POF, OKCupid and Match.

POF was terrible - poor user interface and no success.

Match - frustrating with so many users that didn't have paid access - lots of dead ends. A few fun dates but nothing serious.

OKCupid - seemed a smaller userbase than Match but had more of what I was looking for. Two short relationships and current girlfriend (6 months and holding steady).

My biggest learning was to move on when things cooled - people can be flaky, get busy, etc. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and chalk it up to experience.
posted by Twicketface at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2013

okcupid. met my SO there

one advice-Change your expectations. Most of think that we know what we want. However when you haven't found it yet, you have no idea what is your right fit.
posted by ladoo at 10:56 PM on September 10, 2013

OKCupid; met him in 2007.

Married him a couple weeks ago.
posted by Windigo at 2:04 PM on September 11, 2013

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