Middle-aged Online Dating -- Any Specific Tips?
January 8, 2017 2:42 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm a straight cis woman with two teenage kids, and I found myself unexpectedly single last spring. I'd been married for nineteen years, which means that I've had no experience at all with online dating. I'm 45, which feels incredibly old for putting myself out there. But (a) pretty much everyone single seems to date online, and (b) despite having a reasonably active social life with friends, I pretty much don't meet any single, roughly appropriate, men in real life, so online dating it is. So far, it's been going not traumatically badly, but not satisfyingly either.

I've been on a couple of services off and on starting in July -- first OK Cupid, then Tinder, and now Bumble (in NYC, if regional factors matter). OK Cupid, the strategy I used was ignoring short, content-free messages ("hey" "hi pretty"), responding to messages that were responsive to my profile, and messaging men with profiles I liked. Mostly, sending first messages to men got no response -- I got one response that way, which turned into coffee and then no further contact from him (well, he did text six weeks later, but I'm not interested in dating anyone who makes contact at six-week intervals). One other message from a guy turned into coffee, and a second date to a concert, but although he was perfectly pleasant, it faded through mutual disinterest. At that point, I'd messaged everyone who looked interesting, and wasn't seeing a lot of new profiles, so I figured I'd give OK Cupid a rest for awhile.

So I tried Tinder, which I'd been told was a surprisingly fruitful dating rather than hookup app. I hate the shorter profiles -- I'm a wordy person, and I have no idea if I want to go out with someone from two sentences and a bunch of pictures. So on that, I swiped right sort of based on looks and whatever I could get from the profile there was, and waited for messages from matches to come in, rather than messaging first. This got me a lot of matches -- I've been told the male strategy is to swipe right pretty indiscriminately -- but not many messages. Managed coffee/a drink with two guys: both pleasant. One I wasn't interested in a second date with. The second I went out with one more time, and then he faded - work commitments making him too busy for another date for some indefinite period, which I'm reading as disinterest. He might reappear, but I doubt it (and there's a limited period in which I'd remain interested).

Tinder didn't seem to be going great, so I tried Bumble. Same problem as Tinder with the terseness of the profiles. Much lower match percentage: while I matched with probably better than half of the guys I swiped right on in Tinder, it's more like 1 out of ten on Bumble. And out of five messages I've sent on Bumble, I've gotten one response (from a guy who didn't meet my minimum standards of spelling/coherence). This is not making me cheerful.

So, any advice, tips? Is this just what it's like in your forties, and I need to keep on slogging away like this if I want to meet someone (I haven't said, but I'm looking for something steady, but not all that serious. I've got kids, and I work long hours: I'd like someone to go out and do things with a couple of times a week and have sex with, but I'm not looking to get married or form a new family any time in the near future.) Or is there something major I should be doing differently?
posted by LizardBreath to Human Relations (13 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure you have the most flattering pictures possible. A friend's success rate went waaay up when she removed (beautiful!) photos of herself in day-to-day clothes and makeup and put up a bunch of photos of when she was a bridesmaid (professional hair plus makeup plus photographer).
posted by pintapicasso at 3:05 PM on January 8, 2017

I'm not in my forties yet, but I did a lot of online dating and met my now fiancé on Match (I messaged him). In my experience this is basically what it is -- a game of chance and numbers and short bursts of hurrah with long drags of meh that just goes on endlessly until you either give up or find someone. I went on many dates, exchanged many messages, was creeped out thoroughly many times before I met my SO.
posted by sm1tten at 3:37 PM on January 8, 2017 [10 favorites]

It sounds like you're doing everything right. For what it's worth, I met my SO on OK Cupid the first weekend I signed up. I'm 35 with 2 kids. I consider myself ridiculously lucky! I have so many friends who have met their husbands online, some with some ridiculously long journeys thru creeps and crappy first dates, and some like me! So online dating does work. Match seems to be more "relationship" orientated. I will give you one piece of advice tho. I went on a few dates with people who seemed like they were looking to fill a role. They didn't care who, necessarily, they just wanted a partner. The man I met wasn't looking for a partner, specifically, but he fell in love with me as a person, not just because I checked off the "girlfriend" box. So keep on keeping on and make sure you find someone who falls for you rather than is just looking for a role to fill.

My second piece of advice is to be active and join some kind of exercise thing. Running club,crossfit, biking club, walking club, whatever. You will meet people organically there, which might work out better than online, or you will have a fun hobby to impress the online dudes with.

Good luck!!
posted by katypickle at 5:21 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is slightly old information but about 15 yrs ago I worked for a site that had a referral deal with a dating site, so we got information (in aggregate) about people we had referrred. We were a 40+ company. The women searched on profiles 5 years +/- their age. The men searched on women 10-15 years younger than them (or more).

I know that's depressing but I would assume it will just take awhile longer than it might have at 30. Good luck!
posted by warriorqueen at 5:30 PM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't want to be discouraging, but this is pretty much how it is. It is relatively easy in my experience to obtain casual sex if you're into that; basically put your sluttiest photos first (mine is a shoulders-up shot of me skinny-dipping by a waterfall), say in your profile that you're interested in that, and set your lower age range at 29-ish. It can feel like robbing the cradle but is also somewhat empowering?
posted by metasarah at 5:31 PM on January 8, 2017

I'm you're age, I'm also in New York, and this is pretty much how it goes. Online dating isn't a magic bullet, it's really just like "a way to meet people you wouldn't have met otherwise". There's still the same raft of chance meetings, faltering converasations, and first dates that you both go home from thinking "....meh....." and neither one of you calls the other again.

The fact that it's hard finding good guys online has nothing to do with online, and everything to do with the fact that it's hard finding good guys period. But every once in a while, people get lucky, a message catches your attention and you click and you trade youtube videos and you get excited to meet and you get lucky - just like in real life.

You're doing everything right, it's just how it works. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:59 PM on January 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

My advice: leverage your social media, especially in real life. Start throwing parties. Invite everybody you know with enthusiastic "and feel free to bring friends" extensions to that. The first ones might be a little slow, but if you can keep it up and people feel you can be relied upon to have funky glasses and a very good type of goat cheese [etc], they will recognise the effort expended, be interested, and expend the effort to show up -- with friends in tow. With any reasonably close friends, you'll want to point out "...and if you are bringing people, don't forget that I am single and currently looking. BRING ME MEN NOM NOM NOM..."

Keep pushing and pushing until your social circles are as big as they can get. Did somebody you thought was nice come by for drinks? Friend that person on FB the next day, before they have time to think "I only met her once -- WTF?" -- because the more friends on FB, and the more friends in common on FB, the bigger your circles there, and the easier the opportunities to show up to other people's vernissages or casual 'see you at Pub X? I hope?' birthday parties and so on and on. And the nice people tend to have nice friends -- it doesn't matter if the people you are meeting are single or not. You just want to meet more nice people, to up your odds of meeting somebody nice, and single, through one of them. And when you do they'll have already been a bit pre-vetted so you can be reasonably confident they're not an axe murderer.

(When I was in my late 30s and open to the idea of dating again I peeked through all the local dating sites. Nothing! I didn't think Ottawa was that small, but... I signed up for OKC for a matter of weeks in case there were interesting lurkers. I got the usual 'hey babe' throwaway messages, and interest from a number of eccentric professors from Toronto and Montreal. Which suggested to me that I was coming across as insufficiently conservative for relatively buttoned-up Ottawa. I can't imagine that's a problem in NYC, but, apparently careful tailoring and targeting of a profile is a big thing.)
posted by kmennie at 6:59 PM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm late 40s now with two kids younger than yours, and four years ago started looking for something like you --- romantic/sweet outings and sex, not a relationship, though I'd be open to one if it evolved organically. The last thing I wanted was another person in my life who needed me to handle their care and feeding.

I used OKC, Match, and PoF at first but didn't try Tinder. OKC was definitely best for me, and I quickly dropped Match and PoF. Good photos definitely help, as does getting to first meetings fast rather than chatting forever, and being willing to expand your range along a few dimensions. Some of the best advice I got--from AskMe iirc--was to not be so descriptive in my profile, to leave obvious hooks for questions. Until then I'd been using the wall of text in my profile as a way to filter rather than keep it brief to encourage curiosity.

My best move, though? After a few years of aiming for guys around my own age and education (40-50, college educated), I got fed up with how many of them were:
- only ambiguously separated from their former partner
- uninterested or unskilled in learning anything about me
- dedicating the first meeting to complaining about being old and looking for someone to commiserate
- looking for someone to fill a caretaker role (à la katypickle's description)
- and/or simply not emotionally aware/feminist enough for me.

So after about 2 years of doing things "the right way" I decided to expand my search to guys 25+. Lo and behold, I met lots of guys who were curious about me (a mutual novelty factor, for sure, but also genuine & interesting conversations), doing interesting things themselves, (more) feminist, looking for the same thing I was (and not putting me into some caretaker-wife role). It was fun, interesting, and educational in so many ways while it lasted, and I'm still friends with a couple of them. There were a few people in my circles who were troubled by this approach but I refused to be defensive or ashamed of it, and basically perfected a placid, no-fucks-left-to-give shrug.

That said, my now-boyfriend is an old acquaintance I reconnected with when I was dating these younger guys and he was dating someone in a different social circle. I had no romantic feelings about him until we were single at the same time and then had an a-ha moment. So let friends know you're interested in spending time with them, interested in meeting someone, and be willing to do new things with familiar people. If you're ever interested in something longer term, that may produce some dividends. (On preview, exactly kmennie's advice.)
posted by cocoagirl at 7:33 PM on January 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

Just want the nth the advice above that younger men seem a lot more egalitarian and feminist to me then men my age and older. (I'm quite a bit older than you.)
posted by Bella Donna at 7:53 PM on January 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

The other day I was reading a really interesting article about the discovery of intelligent alien life (stay with me, this gets relevant!). The article was making the point that we tend to think of our chances of finding intelligent life as being affected solely by the vastness of space - if there are three hospitable planets in our galaxy, the chance is a third what it would be if there were nine. But the other huge factor is TIME OVERLAP. The universe is so old, and intelligent life is likely to exist for such relatively brief time periods that it may have a bigger effect on the chances of linking up than space. To contact intelligent alien life they need to exist in the same blink of an eye that we do.

The same goes for online dating. It isn't just about the right guy being out there (which, in New York City, he definitely does), it's also about your paths crossing on the dating site at the same time. When I look at my own history of online dating, and those of my friends, I would say the pattern is of short bursts on a particular site interspersed with longer periods of not being on that site. Therefore the most rational approach is to rotate. I would rest profiles for several months, sure, but you'll find that the OK Cupid crowd is substantially different in the summer to what it is now, and there will be a further cohort of fresh prospects come the end of the year.

To keep your motivation up, I think you should remind yourself that there is a finite number of men you will have to go through before you find the one who ticks your particular boxes. You've already ruled several out - BRILLIANT! I'd be amazed if you could get to fifty first dates without finding something more long term, so just crunch those numbers. You're obviously an intelligent, thoughtful person so I'm sure there's an amazing guy out there who is just waiting to find exactly what you are offering.

I spent years and years occasionally dipping my toe in the online dating pool (I mean VERY occasionally, probably averaging one date a year for ten years) and then when I finally met my partner of three years I discovered we had often been on the same sites at different times. Your guy is out there, your job is to just try to be where he is when he is.

Good luck, and try to enjoy the journey. Remember, even the disastrous dates make for good stories, and every date takes you one step closer to finding that intelligent life form you seek!
posted by matthew.alexander at 1:44 AM on January 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

Is this just what it's like in your forties, and I need to keep on slogging away like this

Yup. Sorry. You're doing everything right. That said, it's a shitty process and a numbers game.

If there is anything you should be doing differently -- always fine tune your profile to keep it current and reflect the mood you're in. Keep it brief, but have a few hooks in there for people to latch onto and start a conversation. Don't be afraid to reach out to someone who isn't a great percentage match or whatever -- you could be surprised, and if not, it's more practice which makes you better.

It's a terrible process, but it's really the only game in town.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:14 AM on January 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

RE cocoagirl's comment: I also have better dates with younger men and find them generally more interesting people than the men my age and older I've been meeting. However, they don't take me seriously as a partner. Casual dating is great, but they drop me when they decide they want something serious and go for someone younger. (And it's not just me; my friends have had the same experience.) So it's a great option if you're not interested in getting into anything too serious, and it's worked all right for me for that reason, but proceed with caution if you're looking for a Relationship.
posted by metasarah at 10:31 AM on January 9, 2017

One other thing I do on OKC to maximise exposure without paying money is to make small changes in my profile every day (when I think about it), ideally later in the day when more people are on. Because OKC announces changes (Bella Donna just updated her profile) and it doesn't matter what those changes are. So I will take out a descriptor one day and add it the next or change the part of Jabberwocky that I'm quoting to another part, etc. This is simple, painless marketing and it helps get your profile seen more broadly. It's not obligatory, of course not, but doing it increases the number of visitors I get to my profile and I think this small hack can be effective. (Adding an explanation to a question does the same but I've explained all the answers I care to.)
posted by Bella Donna at 5:35 PM on January 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

« Older Foot specialist in PNW   |   Emotional unpacking list Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.