The realities of online dating in the UK?
December 29, 2013 7:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm concerned that I might have unrealistic expectations of online dating, and that this might be why I'm not having much luck with it.

I've seen people ask this question in regards to the US, but not the UK. I'm a straight woman in my late 20s living in London. I'm not British and have only been in the country for a few years.

I've been trying online dating on and off for roughly two years now (OKC, eHarmony, and Guardian Soulmates), but one of these two scenarios happen with each man: 1) I go out with a guy once or twice. I text him either the next day or the day after, but I never hear from him again. 2) I date one man for anywhere from a month to three months, but before we even get to the stage of sleeping together (mostly because I'm still struggling to work out the logistics of it since moving to a city as big as London), he breaks up with me because he doesn't think we click. I do think I click with these men - which is the reason I went out with them more than three times! And then the cycle of dating repeats.

I think that I might be difficult to get to know. I'm introverted but fairly sociable, which might be misleading, and, more importantly, it takes me a while to decide whether or not I like someone; I've also never gone out with someone from an online dating site who I've wanted to talk to/email/text each day. I've never had much luck in the way of romance, which I think is mostly because I'm bad at flirting and prefer to take my cues from the person I'm interacting with. I've never been a touchy-feely person, and it becomes worse when I'm dating someone who doesn't go out of his way to touch me.

For all these reasons, I was ready to give up on online dating, but today I found out that my brother actually met his fiancee through online dating (and not through friends as he'd originally told us). He's extremely introverted and a bit awkward... so now I'm wondering if I'm going into online dating with too high expectations of meeting someone that's a good fit for me. When people say online dating is a numbers game, is it normal to go this long without finding someone to be in a relationship with? Does a site like Guardian Soulmates work better for extroverted people who wear their hearts on their sleeves, or could someone like me still meet someone? Or should I give up trying to meet men this way and instead start joining groups on MeetUp or some other place?
posted by toerinishuman to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Um....I'm Australian so I may have more affinity with British culture than some others might. But three months for sex?? Woah! Had you communicated this with them, that they may be waiting a significant amount of time and they were ok with that? Because it would be quit exceptional in 2013 for someone to wait that long...unless they had religious/cultural reasons and had a no sex before marriage policy. Just my first thought on reading your question...can you clarify?

How was the sex question handled? It might be easier to help interpret what has been happening if you clarify that part.
posted by taff at 11:33 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have to agree with taff, unless you barely saw them in those 3 months, I think "we don't click" is code for, "you wont put out". If they're staying with you for 3 months you must be doing something right (or they're just really desperate for a relationship).

A guy goes on a couple of dates with you and doesn't call back - either he didn't like you/click with you or was looking for a casual hookup not a relationship. As I understand it, that's pretty standard for online dating and not at all personal.

Getting dumped after a month, maybe he's being genuine when he says you didn't click but he really gave it a shot at working out - or he really liked you at first but as he got to know you, found you were less compatible with his personality or beliefs.

If a guy sticks around for 3 months without getting any, he's either desperate, frigid or really likes you (or that's normal for his culture) but even if he does really like you, 3 months without sex is a long time and if you're not communicating about the issue then you can't expect him to wait around indefinitely.

I'm not saying you should jump in the sack with the next guy you go out with - waiting a while is good, it weeds out those that aren't serious but its not unreasonable for them to expect the relationship to get physical within the first couple of months. If that isn't going to happen you need to let them know.
posted by missmagenta at 1:54 AM on December 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

My (non UK - another AU here) experience, as well as that of others whose questions I've read here, is that there are often many, many misses with online dating. It's worth perhaps searching here for previous questions as well, to give you a sense of others' experiences. Good reading.

From what I understand, it is common for men to just not respond to contact if they're not interested, so Scenario 1 sounds par for the course. I always let people know either way if we've been out together, but I'm a few decades older and being respectful is important to me.

Scenario 2 strikes me as odd in a few ways, not the least of which is what taff picked up on. It's possible that at least some of these guys felt as though you hadn't clicked because you hadn't indicated a desire to have sex after a month or more. I'm not one for jumping in too quickly to sex because it tends to inhibit getting to know a person in my experience, but that is a long time by most standards I would think. If I were dating you and we hadn't had sex after one to three months I would assume that you either had a very low libido or that you didn't want a physical relationship with me. Either way, I would likely stop considering you a potential date/partner.

That's not to say that you should have sex before you're ready, which obviously you shouldn't, but perhaps it might pay to make sure your feelings are clear if you're interested because the man may not be getting the message. I know that communicating personal stuff can be difficult, but nobody reads minds well. You've got to let people know how you feel if you want them to know.

As to whether your expectations are too high, I don't get a sense of what they actually are from your question, so I can't answer. Unless you're being totally unrealistic, you should eventually be able to meet someone you really like in a city the size of London. I have met two women with whom I've had significant relationships via online dating and I live in a rural area. It took a while both times and I went out on many dates to find those two people, but it can be done. No need to settle I wouldn't think.

One of the most helpful things I've found is to remind myself regularly that odd behaviour from people I meet this way is highly unlikely to have anything to do with me.
posted by mewsic at 2:04 AM on December 30, 2013

I'm in the UK, not online dating but have friends who are. The first scenario (a date or two then nothing) sounds standard from what I've heard. The longer scenario that goes nowhere is a bit more unusual if it's happening a lot but is also not unheard of. Three months in the UK is an accepted point when people decide whether they feel like turning dating into something more serious. Often people will have 'the talk' then or will cut things off. The no sex thing may well be adding to the lack of clicking feeling if you're not communicating clearly about it, I suspect.

Most importantly though, online dating in London is absolutely a numbers game. My friend who is on eharmony at the moment is lining up 4/5 dates a week. She'll sometimes do 3 on a Saturday if she's free all day. She doesn't count the first date as a date really, more as a brief meeting to see if you'd want to date. She's still single but I think her approach is sensible. Good luck!
posted by Dorothia at 3:00 AM on December 30, 2013

I'd say online dating is hard, generally. And online dating in London particularly is not easy. Locals tend to get introduced to new people through their various groups of friends and the many non-locals tend to be more interested in brief flings. This is a generalization of course, there definitely are many happy couples in London as well.

From reading your question it sounds like you might not have established that many friendships yet. So yes, sign up for classes, meetups, etc. It won't hurt to do that in addition to online dating.

"mostly because I'm still struggling to work out the logistics of it since moving to a city as big as London"
What does that mean?
If you live with roommates, it's fine to bring someone you're dating over.
If you have trouble to navigate your way through the city (most public transport does not run at night, which sucks) - map it out beforehand, have change for a taxi and check which night bus is running or bring a bike. Meet the guy in an area that is familiar to you and not very far away from home. If you know the pub/cafe/restaurant/whatever it might put you more at ease.

Which brings me to this:
"difficult to get to know", "never had much luck in the way of romance", "never been a touchy-feely"
Well, you have to show someone you like that you do, in fact, like them! How you do it is up to you, not everyone likes touching outside of sex. Many people do though. Find a way to express your feelings, so the guy knows it is going in the right direction. If you don't know yet if you even like him, you could still communicate that it's fun hanging out and getting to know him but that it takes you a while to warm up to people. You could do this in writing if verbal expression face to face makes you uncomfortable.

"never gone out with someone from an online dating site who I've wanted to talk to/email/text each day."
Is this a general thing, have you never met anyone who you wanted to constantly be in touch with? If so, that's okay. There is not just the-one-and-only-way how relationships work. Some people prefer to see/talk to their SO's less often. But if you mean that you haven't met great guys via online dating, you are not alone. There just might not be that many great guys online, so it takes a while to meet someone who makes you feel that way.

Like Dorothia, I know a woman who has multiple dates a week from OKC. She keeps them brief and most don't lead to a second date. It's her screening process.
Personally, this approach is utterly strange to me... it would feel like hard work to coordinate that many people and to mentally process that many dates. But to each their own.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:57 AM on December 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

To clarify, the guy I was seeing for 3 months I only saw once a week, sometimes once every fortnight. I'd say we went out probably a total of 6 times. I didn't sleep with him because he never made a move on me other than a goodbye kiss.

I think I'm having a hard time navigating around sleeping with someone because I'm used to dating in much smaller communities where I both already know the man I'm seeing from before we started dating and we don't live that far apart. In London, I could be on a date with a stranger who lives hours away.
posted by toerinishuman at 7:22 AM on December 30, 2013

You are "seeking penguins at the north pole."

Online dating has a rather strong sex component to it. You prefer less. There are better communities out there for you (interest-based, activity, religious). Be ultra clear in expectations.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:31 AM on December 30, 2013

Yes, try to recreate that small-ish community.
It also sounds like you'd prefer to start out as friends, which is tough to do via online dating. See our examples above, people rarely invest much time into getting to know someone from a dating website if there is any doubt as there are hundreds more waiting where this one person came from. I think the guys you've been dating for several months must have really liked you. As to "putting on moves", you could as well signal that you want to move things forward and increase intimacy. Don't wait for people to read your mind, ask for what you want.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:55 AM on December 30, 2013

I don't know london online dating, but I know in Chicago, I could specify neighborhoods in which I was interested in looking for someone so it wouldn't be a huge trek back and forth if I did click with someone.
posted by garlic at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2013

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