I don't think that online dating is for me. What now?
February 14, 2017 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I am a 38 year old man. A year ago my 8 year relationship ended. I spent the last year working on myself and I'm now ready to date. I've never tried online dating. I have been "creeping" on dating sites for the last year - just keeping an eye on what is out there. The answer is not much. Where do I go from here?

I am a 38 year old man. A year ago my 8 year relationship ended. I spent the last year working on myself and I'm now ready to date. I've never tried online dating. I have been "creeping" on dating sites for the last year - just keeping an eye on what is out there. The answer is not much. Where do I go from here?

After my breakup I was anxious to meet someone. I realized (partially because of a post that I put on here) that that was not healthy. I wasn't ready. I needed time to heal and work on myself. In the last year I moved, started therapy, started to going to the gym regularly and attending meetups. I even started my own Meetup to meet friends (and maybe a woman). I really got out of my comfort zone and realized that I was putting my entire social life in my partner. I am now ready to meet someone. Online dating is the first suggestion that everyone makes. I've tried Bumble, OKcupid, Match and Plenty of Fish. I don't live in a huge city, but not in the "boonies" either. Initially I selected women 30-40 and only put smoking and kids as restrictions. I'd like to keep it to 30 miles or so max. That yielded a very small pool. Subtract any red flags or people that I wasn't attracted to and there wasn't anything left. I want to be clear, by red flags I mean "Men are awful. I don't know what I'm doing on here. Please don't be a piece of shit like all other men I've dated." Also people who were radically different than me. People who wanted someone very religious like them, etc. As far as attraction, I don't need a supermodel, just someone that I am attracted to. I'd take someone intellectually stimulating and interesting over "hot." I also weeded out anyone covered head to toe with tattoos or huge nose piercings etc. Nothing wrong with those things, just not for me. I am being selective as I don't want to settle. I am not a big fan of dogs or sports, but I don't even rule those out.

There is not a sizable regular influx of new people to these sites. I will keep at it, but I don't have a lot of hope. At one point I posted a question on here of how to approach women and people got all over me not to approach people that were working or at the gym etc. People dated before online dating. I reject the notion that online dating is the only option. My main interests are art, philosophy and the like. Many people say to go to museums and places that the people I'd be interested in would frequent. The other problem is that I don't know how to approach people. I also feel like you are solely approaching based on looks. I also feel awkward going to galleries and such alone.

The other thing that is disheartening about online dating is that many people just put up one selfie and that is it. They don't write anything. Often it is just one duck faced selfie and it says "Looking for a nice guy." That is it. Ummmm .... how am I supposed to know what you are into, etc. I really appreciate when people write and give me a glimpse of their personality. The only site that seems to have women that I'm attracted to and people with substance and wit is bumble and I think that many of those profiles are fake. Super professional pics. Perfect looking women. All went to great schools and have great jobs. Profiles are ridiculously well written. That site also changes your location depending on where you are. I travel for work and it tells other people that I live in a different state. Dumb. You also can't search other than age/distance.

I realize that my age is a tricky age to find someone. I don't want to date a 25 year old. Most people my age are married or just divorced with kids.

posted by kbbbo to Human Relations (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You start out saying:
I've never tried online dating.

But you proceed to say things like:
I don't think that online dating is for me.
keeping an eye on what is out there. The answer is not much.
I've tried Bumble, OKcupid, Match and Plenty of Fish.
I will keep at it,
I really appreciate when people write and give me a glimpse of their personality.

Respectfully, you are not "keeping at" anything. You have no idea if online dating is for you because bro, you are not online dating. You have not "tried" any of those sites. You're just lurking and staring and dismissing.

The absolute first step to putting yourself out there is that YOU HAVE TO put yourself out there. Make yourself a profile, be the person you want to date. Put up some pictures of yourself! Write interesting things that give women a glimpse of your personality! Send some messages! Even if you don't see anyone who's your super dream woman on these sites (which, by the way, you literally have no idea since you've never actually spoken to or met any of them), you will have the practice of speaking to single women, meeting single women, and getting yourself in a dating frame of mind, which is going to be enormously helpful for you as a person who wants to date but has no idea how to start. You just...start.

Also I would suggest expanding your age range upwards. As a 38 year old man you should not have a hard cap at 40. That's going to make smart, reasonable women think you're a dip.

But really I cannot state this enough: YOU HAVE NO IDEA that online dating isn't for you because you have NEVER ACTUALLY TRIED online dating. Best way out of this quagmire of yours is through. Try it. If you hate it after a couple dates, then you can quit and never do it again. But right now dude this entire post reads like this.
posted by phunniemee at 9:16 AM on February 14, 2017 [62 favorites]

You should reconsider the no-kids restriction. Interesting, grounded, attractive women in their late 30s and early 40s are very likely to have kids, and would naturally want a partner who is good with their kids. It's quite literally the way the world works.
posted by eschatfische at 9:19 AM on February 14, 2017 [38 favorites]

As a 38 year old man you should not have a hard cap at 40. That's going to make smart, reasonable women think you're a dip.

For reference, when I date online I auto-dismiss men who are only looking for women their age or younger. Being unable to imagine that a woman five years older than you could be attractive says all I need to know about your character.
posted by praemunire at 9:20 AM on February 14, 2017 [120 favorites]

My first thought is to ask your friends to fix you up, especially if they are women and/or if their SO is a woman who you admire. Don't expect them to find you a date for next week, but ask them to keep you in mind. Meeting through friends is still pretty common. If you have siblings or cousins near you, ask them as well. If your breakup was just a year ago, some people might not know if you are ready yet. Let them know in a low stakes way that, yes, you are ready.
posted by soelo at 9:21 AM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

It is a HUGE turnoff to women looking online if a guy's profile indicates they recoil at the idea of dating a woman more than two years older than them.
posted by cakelite at 9:23 AM on February 14, 2017 [63 favorites]

Your question seems to depend on an unspoken premise that there is a pool of women out there in the world which is radically different from the pool of women on online dating sites who you have, for one reason or another, rejected on sight without ever attempting communcation with them. I'm not sure that's true. I think, maybe, that most of the women you run across in the wild will be the kind of people who a) have brief uninformative online profiles, or b) have ridiculously detailed and suspiciously over-curated profiles, or c) have some unfortunate beliefs or theories about men, or express their needs in relationships in off-puttingly aggressive ways, or d) have tattoos or piercings, or e) are unattractive to you for some other reason, or f) are older or younger than you want, or g) have kids or baggage you don't want. I don't think changing the context of your search, from online to meatspace, will do much if these are your standards before you even speak to someone. There are lots of contexts for meeting people-online and offline-but you have to actually meet them in order to get anywhere.

I suggest that you at least try communicating with some woman whose profile is too uninformative, or too detailed, or too bitter, and just see what happens. Maybe your first impression will turn out to be right, or maybe not. Maybe you will find that you are compatible, in unpredictable ways, with someone whose profile is just a picture + "I'm looking for a nice guy". Who knows. I'm not suggesting you lower your standards for dating someone - your needs and desires are yours and should be respected - but I do suggest you lower your threshold for deciding to interact with someone.
posted by Aravis76 at 9:28 AM on February 14, 2017 [11 favorites]

Oh hi, other people have made some good points but I will add: I also hate online dating. I find I am actually much more open-minded and interested in people I meet in real life than I am of people I see on dating sites. But I suspect it's still the easiest way to meet people, especially if you have a lot of restrictions like age/distance/no kids, so I'd recommend that you give it a serious try.

The other way I know to meet people is by doing an activity with them at least once a week for as long as possible. Like, my choir has three or four couples who met in the choir, and loads more people who met their partners in other performance groups. I have a bunch of good friends who I know because we used to volunteer together on Saturdays. I met my fiance in an intense job-training program (after dismissing him on OKCupid - like I said, I was bad at online dating). If this sounds like a big commitment, well, it is.

Either way, whether it's online dating or just expanding your circle of acquaintance, it's not a fast process. Picky people like you and me don't just decide to start dating and immediately find someone to date. So your options are basically to relax your standards a bit and hope that you are pleasantly surprised (a 42-year-old who lives 35 miles away might have some amazing quality you didn't even know you were looking for), or to cultivate patience and make an awesome non-partnered life for yourself.
posted by mskyle at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

In the last year I moved, started therapy, started to going to the gym regularly and attending meetups. I even started my own Meetup to meet friends (and maybe a woman). I really got out of my comfort zone and realized that I was putting my entire social life in my partner. I am now ready to meet someone.

So... now that you're feeling more ready, why don't you get back into the meetups? Maybe don't organise your own if that was too much. Join any that focus on things you're interested in. And get rid of that mental separation between friends and "a woman". Many people need to find out if they can be friends with someone first before they will even consider becoming romantically involved with them. Meet people, make friends, and don't screen every friendship with a woman as "could it become more", just enjoy building friendships.

The other problem is that I don't know how to approach people. I also feel like you are solely approaching based on looks.

If you are doing something you both enjoy, or are somewhere like a museum or a gig, you already have something in common. So you can talk about that!
posted by greenish at 9:35 AM on February 14, 2017

Keep at it. Make the effort to put yourself out there in good faith, to see if cool little connections can be made, and allow yourself to find nice commonalities with others' profiles. There were months at a time when I wouldn't really see anybody that was inspiring to pursue, and that's okay. Usually you can be a good judge of character based upon profiles, it's true; however, despite what you say about there not being much of a turnover, people do come on- and offline all the time, so don't despair after not finding what you're seeking right away. Frankly, I got lucky and someone who seemed decently interesting came online, and she messaged me, saying that she resonated with the words I had put in my profile (after I'd worked on it a fair bit!)

So do take care to find a way to take some stock in your online persona. I almost made it a point of pride, for me, because I felt it accurately reflected me and who I was, and had some of my female friends vet it. Do that, and then be proactive and patient.
posted by a good beginning at 9:42 AM on February 14, 2017

As in lots of things, you get out what you put in. It's easy to window-shop and judge everyone who's in a pretty narrow band that you've set up for yourself, but you need to make an effort at interaction in order to say that you sincerely tried. Send some messages, go out on at least one date (maybe 2! first dates can be weird and I think most people deserve a second chance) before writing off online dating.

I'd also suggest meeting some of the women that are outside of your parameters -- you might be pleasantly surprised! (This is how my husband and I met - he messaged me, we set up a date, I didn't think I'd be into him but I figured I'd at least grab some pizza with an interesting, smart person who saw something in me, and the rest is history)
posted by Fig at 9:43 AM on February 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with all of the above posts, especially about whole-heartedly setting up online dating profiles and contacting people (and making your range more like 31-45: 7 years diff in either direction).

If I'm attracted to someone in person it's not just 'looks', it's their style, how they walk, if they look happy, if they look hurried, etc. it's not purely superficial for me.

Women with kids your age may be less likely to want kids than someone younger without kids, food for thought depending on what you want longterm.

A year of looking around is not a long time, keep putting yourself out there.
posted by lafemma at 9:47 AM on February 14, 2017

Sorry to jump back in here. I should have stated that I DID put up profiles a month ago

As far as the kids, my last partner had a child and it was very difficult.

I am still doing Meetups - mine and others.

I will def increase the age range upwards.

My last partner was 10 years older than me BTW

Thank you everyone
posted by kbbbo at 9:48 AM on February 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Did you let the peanut gallery here review the profile you posted? I've seen excellent profile advice be given on the green. [Edit - the reason your profile needs to be as informative as possible is that many women will deliberately keep their profiles minimal because they want to be the one to do the looking, because of the way women get treated on dating sites. So you want to have them be able to spot you, rather than expecting to be able to spot them.]
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:56 AM on February 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

Do things the pre-internet way and join some clubs and organizations. Heck, join a church. Find a favorite coffee shop or bar and go there a lot. Get over the fear of going to galleries alone.

As for the rest of it, I see a list of complaints that includes, "not enough pictures and information" and "pictures and profile are too good, must be fake" (because women can't get professional photos taken, or actually be educated and accomplished?), and "not enough women in my area that I find attractive" as if that's an inventory issue somebody needs to address.

It's completely fine to be selective, and to know where clashing interests and values make someone incompatible from the start. But I dunno, I just get a vibe of disgruntlement, like "I was told there would be women here for me to date, and there aren't! I want to speak to the manager." That's not the appropriate mentality with which to approach this.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:56 AM on February 14, 2017 [12 favorites]

In addition to the above suggestions: in my area, Tinder has more people than any of the other sites. This is unfortunate because Tinder is awful at most things, but it DOES have a larger selection.

If "no kids" is mandatory for you that's probably what's severely limiting your dating pool... 85% of women in the US have had children by age 44. Children definitely complicate relationships (whether they're yours or someone else's!) and if they're a dealbreaker for you, I understand. But at our ages, no one comes without baggage, and you may want to think carefully about what exactly you want to rule out. All kids? Young kids that require a lot of hands-on parenting? Involvement in a complicated custody arrangement? Someone who can't go out every night?
posted by metasarah at 9:57 AM on February 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'll answer your question about how to approach people. (Caveat: I'm a nerd with social anxiety.)

At a gallery or art museum, you look at the same painting or whatever and ask the other person a question about what they think. And then really listen and watch their body language. If they seem into you, talk a bit about it, then introduce yourself with a friendly smile. "Hi, I'm kbbbo." If they respond in kind, ask about another piece of art or give them a genuine compliment. If you hit it off, ask them if they'd like to get coffee or a drink sometime. You will get rejected. It will feel awkward. A key to making this okay is the very first part where you suss out how the woman is reacting.

You can still do this approach thing if you're at a gallery or museum with a group of friends. Attending a talk beforehand or an opening night event might be a good idea because there will be more people in attendance.

It is true that the pool of people to date is smaller at your age. It could be that someone with kids will not be hard in the same way your ex was.

Have you told your friends and even acquaintances at meet-ups, etc. that you're looking for love? Before online dating, people would work their IRL social networks to find people to date. Do that.
posted by purple_bird at 9:58 AM on February 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Before you dismiss online dating entirely: Just meet some of these women whose profiles don't pass your muster already. People aren't profiles. You're shooting yourself in the foot. You have no idea whether you'd be attracted to any of them in person from a profile; you have no idea whether conversation would be stimulating or dull based on a profile. And yes, try tinder. If you go on a date a week, even if it's someone whose profile you're not thrilled about, that's one more date than you have now.

These are the same women you'd see out and about, so try to view them less judgmentally. Lurking has maybe given you a "catalog shopping" mentality where you might be more harsh than you would be in person. Women are judged primarily on looks in this world, so it's not fair to hold someone's pouty pic against them on a dating site.

In the meantime, keep expanding your social circle; say yes to every social opportunity even if it doesn't seem singles-focused. It's true that you shouldn't intrude upon and hit on a woman working out or otherwise occupied but it's not true that you can't make pleasant conversation in public occasionally if you know how to read social cues and you can take a hint. I do have more luck with friends-of-friends than cold approaches-- maybe that's you too. A small dinner party at a nice couple's home could yield some surprises, for example.
posted by kapers at 10:10 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

...just keeping an eye on what is out there. The answer is not much.

Yikes. With this attitude, you're unlikely to find a woman to date at all, whether through online dating or more organic venues.

Finding a partner isn't like going shopping or eating at a restaurant. If no store stocks sweaters in the color you want - sure, there is not much out there for you. If the restaurant doesn't offer food that agrees with you - again, sure, there is nothing on the menu for you. But women are not products. They're (we're) people.

You need to meet some people in person. Don't outright dismiss people because you aren't attracted to their photos. Much of attraction happens organically and in person. Most people are more attractive in person than in a photo, anyway.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:25 AM on February 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

For what it's worth, after my now-wife and I met (through unrelated means) we compared OKCupid profiles and agreed that we wouldn't even have messaged one another if we'd encountered each other there. Definitely meet some folks in person - it's the only way to really tell.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:27 AM on February 14, 2017 [15 favorites]

One thing worth keeping in mind: not everyone is good at writing or at 'pitching themselves,' but that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't awesome. If even one thing in someone's profile jumps out at you as positive, it's worth trying to set up a date, especially when you're just starting out.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:30 AM on February 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Maybe you thought this was outside the scope of your question, but what do you want out of dating? How did you decide that you're ready to meet someone? What do you want your date to do that friendships don't (I'm guessing sex, but is there anything else)?

I agree with the advice above, especially to relax your requirements a bit, make sure you're treating women like people, and focus on making IRL friends. FWIW, I'm 35 and about a year ago I had zero luck on dating sites despite having success with online dating in my early 30s. I met my boyfriend at a mutual friend's party. He would not have made it through my online search criteria and he's pretty great. Also a major bonus that he came pre-vetted by mutual friends.

Also: I have a PhD, I'm reasonably attractive, and my background has some swerves that are weird enough that I'm pretty sure some folks think I'm pulling their leg. No harm in messaging those "too-perfect" women and seeing if you hear back.
posted by momus_window at 10:30 AM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you are doing something you both enjoy, or are somewhere like a museum or a gig, you already have something in common. So you can talk about that!

Seconding this.

Further, a solution that seems simple in retrospect was me deciding that if I wanted to find people who liked to do the same things I do, I should go do those things and let the rest work itself out. Which it did. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:32 AM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I appreciate that online dating can be disheartening. I didn't find anybody through online dating — I've had much more success by striking up conversations in person.

My view is that in-person is the best way to meet people, due to all the intangibles of attraction that rarely come across in writing, pictures, or even video calls. If I have a nice talk with someone, I'm very confident that the date at least won't suck. And the best way to meet people in-person is to be in the world doing things that you enjoy or think are important, like play tennis or saving raccoon babies or burning tires in a field or whatever.

But I wasn't able to do that before I did online dating. Online dating did two things for me:

1. It got me to put work into reaching out to a LOT of people in a safe space. You have to spend a chunk of time every day reaching out to people you might find interestingto get ANY result.

2. It got me to work towards an objective. A series of objectives, even — can I start messaging with someone who looks neat? How about a phone call or video chat? How about coffee or drinks? I knew that I couldn't really know how I felt until I met them, so I was always eager to try for the next step.

3. It got me comfortable with rejection. The vast majority of women on dating sites won't be interested, and that's perfectly fine. The vast majority of women in real life aren't interested, either, and that's also okay. But sometimes they are. Hell, sometimes the ones you think are out of your league are interested, too. You never know — let women tell you if they're interested or not instead of making that decision for them. And respect their decision about you.

4. Going out on coffee dates with strangers is an awesome exercise for your comfort level with people. Until I got comfortable doing this, I don't think I had ever been comfortable striking up a conversation with someone else.

Anyway — good luck!
posted by billjings at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

You might want to up the distance a bit; when I was doing OKC I expanded mine to 50 miles and found a much richer pool than at 25. The logistics were a bit more difficult, but the guy was worth it.
posted by TwoStride at 5:18 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Someone has already mentioned asking friends to set you up with someone but I'd like to take that to a different level: let a trusted friend spend some time on one of those dating sites and suggest people for you to contact. Sometimes someone who isn't taking things quite so seriously can be helpful.

I did this one afternoon for a close friend years ago and I think he ended up going on dates with at least a couple of my suggested people - people that he said he might never have contacted if it hadn't been for my suggestions.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:26 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go to gigs or places you want to be and interact with people there. I met a guy at a gig recently that I would totally have dated but I'm not on the market. In this case he asked me about my tattoos which are to to with the artist we were both seeing. He asked about my tattoos in a great way, actually, which you can use about anything you like about a woman to your advantage. He said, "Your tattoos are beautiful, I love that lyric, too!"

Standing in front of a painting: "I really love [painter]. This one in particular is great because of [reason]."

Complimenting her jewelry: "Your necklace is really fantastic! My sister/best friend would love that. Can you tell me where you got it?"

It is awkward but it can be fun. Just DO it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:56 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also have a weird thing about online dating. It's odd seeing people packaged and displayed like that. But if you're really wanting to date, now, it's probably worth a try. It is definitely easier to figure out how you feel about people in person.

Re approaching people - definite no if at the gym or while they're working, because they're trapped, and because most people want work or gym time to be actual work or gym time. Bar/club/show/gallery, however, yes, because although people may not *always* welcome being approached in those settings, it's within the realm of expectation. (There are a number of threads here about this, might be worth checking a few of those out.)

I remember that in previous questions, you mentioned this thing about disliking sports/dogs and people who are into sports/dogs, also that you were mostly interested in people who are into music etc. Maybe it's a demographics thing? If so, 2nd expanding your distance parameters.

I'm guessing that a lot of women in your target range might be newly divorced and have some fresh feelings about that, would just be prepared to encounter that. Might be less of an issue if you're including women up to 45. (I don't agree that having had children by 40 is necessarily an index of worth, and I'm sure there are at least a few good people out there who don't have or want kids. Or whose kids have mostly grown, again if you're ok with up to 45ish or so.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:03 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wanted to just point out that your follow-up showcases that even with your best initial intentions at fully explaining your situation, people here didn't have the whole picture...

- that you actually have put up profiles already
- that you have a good reason for not wanting to date someone with kids
- that you haven't stopped and indeed continue to do meetups
- that you are open to dating someone older and in fact have before!

Which clearly says to me that most people, yourself included, are really not too great at coming across in writing and maybe you should cut all these profiles you're disappointed by a lot of slack, because there's probably a lot more to all these women that you're not seeing in a single written communication. You should just meet some of them in person on a date and find out what they're really like before you totally dismiss them as "not much."
posted by sestaaak at 6:59 AM on February 15, 2017 [12 favorites]

Unless you are in NYC 30 miles is not a wide enough range, and the vast majority of dateable women in your age range will have kids. Widen the geography and if you are determined not to date a mom widen your age range ... don't just lower it because creepy.

But overall you have the entire dynamic wrong. In online dating women choose you. Your focus should be creating a good profile and sending good notes and hope it bears fruit.
posted by MattD at 1:05 PM on February 15, 2017

You are doing it right. You have your own criteria and what works for you so don't let anyone tell you anything different. What might be an issue is your expectations, don't expect instant connection. Just GO for a date. Get comfortable. You will have to do the searching and asking women out. Do not lower your standards just because it is difficult to find someone you can connect. It takes time AND meeting people. If you don't want to date an older women, you don't. If someone cannot handle that it is their problem, not yours. When it comes to personal preference, you know what works for you-go after that.
posted by metajim at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2017

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