Spoiled for Choice: When To Stop Online Dating?

Does anyone out there remember the old days of dating? Being set up with a friend of a friend, or locking eyes with someone cute across a crowded bar and striking up a conversation that leads to numbers being exchanged? We’re sure that there are still some people who find dates the old-fashioned way (well, maybe minus the crowded bar these days), and that fate simply drops an ideal partner in the path of some lucky people, but for an increasing number of people, finding a date means heading online. 

Apps like Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid have given people a seemingly endless array of singles to meet, and that can be great if you’re trying to play the number games when looking for the perfect new partner. But does being spoiled for choice when dating have a downside? Can having so many options actually make it harder to find the right person? And once you start making matches, when do you stop looking?

The Numbers Game

If you look at the numbers, it seems like people have started to turn away from the traditional ways of finding dates, or have begun to lose faith in them, and have been heading online more and more. After all, according to a 2021 survey by the dating site eHarmony, if you’re set up on a date, you only have a 17% chance that you will like the person you’re set up with. Not only that, but only 9% of women report finding a relationship at a bar or club, with only 2% of men saying they found a relationship that way. 

Compare that with statistics cited by eHarmony that show 20% of current, committed relationships began online, as well as a 2019 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that found that heterosexual couples are more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts and connections. That study showed that around 39% of heterosexual couples reported meeting their partner online, compared to 22% in 2009.online dating facts infographic

Those numbers give us an idea of how couples have been meeting recently, but what does the landscape look like if you’re firing up your online dating profile now? Once you head online, you’ll probably find what can feel like an endless stream of people to swipe through – and the numbers back that feeling up. Just take a look:

  • As of 2019, there were 30.4 million online dating users in the US. This number is expected to grow to 35.4 million by 2024.
  • A Pew Research Center study conducted in October 2019 found that 30% of Americans have used online dating, compared to just 11 percent in 2013.
  • 32% of female American adults have used an online app or service for dating, compared to 23% of men.
  • 55% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults say that they’ve used online dating at least once.
  • Among single LGB people who are looking for dates or relationships, 37% currently use online dating.

Whether it’s your idea of a great way to meet a romantic partner or not, it’s clear the numbers are there, and that can work in your favor. As licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship expert Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D. points out, “While online dating has some potential for pitfalls compared to meeting people in real life, the volume of possibilities is much higher. That increases the chances that you’ll meet someone you’re truly compatible with.” 

Choices, Choices, Choices

So maybe it’s worth it to get finger cramps from all the

light bulb with 4 different oxes around it and arrows pointing to each one
When online dating, you are presented with so many options, which can get overwhelming and lead to not choosing anyone.

scrolling, and to deal with the superficiality of some people, and the frustrations of ghosting, because you are definitely bound to get matches, and to hopefully start moving your dating life off the screen and into real life. But as you get the ball rolling, you might notice something kind of interesting about the way you interact with the apps that you’re using (because most people use multiple apps to find as many potential matches as possible). 

It might start to feel like you’re staring at a menu the size of a book, where each dish and dessert sounds like an appealing possibility…until you see the next one. It turns out, when it comes to dating options, there can actually be too much of a good thing. In fact, a 2021 study in Computers in Human Behavior “tested the impact of having a wide variety of online dating options on perceived attractiveness of familiar as compared to novel faces,” and found out that having a lot of choices might lead to never actually choosing. This study found that the huge amount of choices available through online dating sites could create an “assessment mindset,” leading people to continually consider alternative partners and feel far less motivated to commit to just one partner.

A study in Psychological Science for the Public Interest agrees. According to this study, while online dating can be good for giving people convenient access to dates, and for helping to filter out unsuitable matches, online dating sometimes “reduces three-dimensional people to two-dimensional displays of information…In addition, the ready access to a large pool of potential partners can elicit an evaluative, assessment-oriented mindset that leads online daters to objectify potential partners, and might even undermine their willingness to commit to one of them. It can also lead people to make lazy, ill-advised decisions when selecting among the large array of potential partners.”

Wow, that’s definitely a downside to the endless choices offered by online dating, if you’re looking for a more meaningful relationship. Of course, all of this is fine if you’re looking for casual dating (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but is the convenience of online dating really suited to finding love? After a while, does it just become quantity over quality?

Advice for Avoiding the Numbers Game Trap

It’s looking more and more like rapidly swiping your way through half the people in your city isn’t always the ideal way to date, unless you’re more interested in the ego boost of matching, starting up lots of chats (which can be fun, or can start to feel like work), or finding casual sex (and even that tempting type of real-world encounter can sometimes be hard to come by in the somewhat lazy world of online dating). But, on the other hand, the numbers are there, and it is hard to find dates IRL right now, so you don’t have to write off online dating completely. What we suggest is the following:

woman looking distressed while looking at a computer screen
Narrow down your options in order to avoid dating app burnout.
  • Narrow down your options – To avoid choice overload, try making your search parameters as narrow as possible, being strict about the age, location, etc that you’re looking for – that will help cut down on options. Try to find other ways to limit the number of potential matches you see, as well, perhaps by giving yourself a per-day limit on your swiping. And, conversely, it might sound counterintuitive, but don’t try to appeal to everyone. Make your profile totally tailored to you, and to what you want, so you don’t end up getting messages from endless people who just aren’t right for you.
  • Avoid dating app burnout – Juggling endless chats can really start to feel like you’ve got a second job, and can suck all the fun out of online dating, and lead to those “lazy, ill-advised” decisions that the study above warned us about. It can also lead you to give up entirely. Relationship therapist Rhonda Milrad, LCSW advises, “Set a limit for how many people you will be dating at once. It is difficult and time-consuming to manage the dating process with multiple people. If you start to feel consumed, exhausted, or discouraged, take a break. Delete all your apps and cleanse for at least 30 days. It’s OK to take a break every once in a while. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up completely. You’re just giving yourself a chance to reset.”
  • Don’t become a pen pal – Unless you’re looking for someone to endlessly chat with without things going anywhere, try to initiate either a video chat or a meeting with someone that you’re truly interested in getting to know better. You’ll never know if you have chemistry with someone unless you meet them face-to-face – and if you find out it’s just not there, you know you can move on.
  • Know when to stop looking – Now we’re not saying you have to – or even should – delete all of your profiles once you’ve had a few dates with someone and things are looking good. But if you do meet someone who there’s some potential with, slow down or even take a break from the furious pace of online match-making. And if things are going really well, have a talk with your new partner about where things are going, so you can both figure out if it’s time to hang up your swiping finger for the time being. And always, always be honest about what you want, and expect the same honesty in return.

If the internet has given us anything, it’s seemingly endless choices, and a great deal more convenience in our lives. In the last few decades, those things have spilled over into even our romantic lives, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You just have to be careful to not be so dazzled by all the possibilities that you forget what you’re really looking for. 

Have you been dating online during the pandemic? Do you feel like the endless options have helped you in your quest to find partners? Or are you burnt out by it all? We want to hear from you!

Dating Later In Life? How to Approach Sex with a New Partner

Do you remember your “first time?” It might have been decades ago (hey, who’s counting!), but you probably remember some of the feelings surrounding your first sexual experience, since it can be a momentous occasion for many people. Did you feel nervous, excited, shy, anxious to get it over with, overjoyed that it was finally happening – or maybe a combination of all of the above? If you’re single again as an older adult and have made the decision to start dating, you might find yourself going through those emotions all over again when you meet someone new; and, if you’ve been with the same partner for decades or haven’t been intimate with someone new for a long time, there might be a whole new set of feelings (and fears) that go along with “getting back out there.” Don’t worry, though, navigating a new sexual relationship doesn’t have to be filled with anxiety: with some confidence and communication, you can make this new chapter in your life positive, exciting, and yes – fun!

It’s Good to Mingle If You’re Single

If you’re over 50 and single, you’re in luck (and maybe even the envy of some of your friends in long-term relationships) because you’re certainly not alone: roughly a third of older adults aren’t married. Turns out Baby Boomers did (and are currently doing) a lot more divorcing and separating, and a lot less marrying than previous generations, so there’s a lot of you out there. Not only that, but it’s much easier for older adults to meet these days, since you tend to have wider social circles than your parents did, and you have all the benefits of online dating and social media. 

a black keyboard with a purple key with the word love on it and a heart
Dating has become easier than ever later in life with the help of online dating.

So if you’re in the category above and are getting out there and dating again, that one little three-letter word is bound to come up: sex. And you know what? It absolutely should come up if it’s something you’re interested in! In the words of 80s superstar George Michael, “Sex is natural, sex is fun” – so even if your sex life had become somewhat, well, humdrum, before you ended your previous relationship, or if you’ve been feeling like you’ve somehow missed out, it’s never too late to begin experimenting again.

After all, it’s not just some sort of cliche or hollow consolation when people say that older people can have better sex lives than their younger peers. Surveys, including the annual “Singles in America” survey, commissioned by the dating site Match.com, have shown that people report having the best sex of their lives in their 60s, because they’ve had decades to figure out what they like, understand their bodies better, and often have more time on their hands. 

Even science agrees that sex can be especially pleasurable – and even physically good for you – as you age. According to senior sex expert Joan Price, taking those raging youthful hormones out of the picture can actually improve your sex life: “Sex as an older person is not the same as sex as a younger person…as we are not driven by hormones…You might think that is a bad thing…but what is wonderful about not being driven by hormones is we don’t have to be so goal-oriented. We are not fertile, we’re not hormonal; we’re having sex because we really enjoy it, for the pleasure.” 

And it’s not only enjoyable: many scientists believe that sex is good for you, and that sexually-active people look younger than celibate ones. Some experts put this down to the boost of oxytocin in our blood streams that we get when we’re having joyful sex, which not only helps us feel close to our partners, but it also combats stress chemicals, such as cortisol.

And when we say it should come up (no pun intended), we also mean that sex should be a subject you communicate openly and honestly about with any new dating partner: if you’re feeling a little bit of anxiety about getting physically involved with someone, acknowledging those feelings and being upfront is vital for having a positive experience. So where to start?  

Talk About What You Want

Some conversations can be difficult to have, and a frank conversation about sex with a new partner can definitely be on that list. But hey, you’ve gotten this far, so you’re obviously physically interested in each other, and if you’re feeling nervous, one of the best things you can do is have a conversation about sex early on, when it seems like the relationship is going in that direction. There’s nothing wrong with sitting your partner down and telling them you’d like to talk about each other’s desires, preferences, and, yes, fears. 

two older caucasian adults laying in bed together smiling
Talking about what you want will make the sexual experience more enjoyable.

Make it clear that you’d like to open up about yourself, but that you’re also very interested in hearing what they want to share with you – these conversations can be difficult to start, but they can lead in interesting directions and most likely to a more enjoyable sexual experience, especially if you’ve both been with one partner for a long time and are learning to share intimacy with someone new. As Joan Price says, “The important thing is to have a level of trust where you feel like you can talk about these things. If you can’t talk about these things, is it really time to invite this person into your body?”

Set Boundaries

Part of being honest with a new lover is also being honest about what you’re comfortable with sexually, so set boundaries if you’re not ready to just jump into bed on the first date. There’s so much you can do that’s mutually pleasurable that isn’t penetrative sex; in fact, getting rid of the all-or-nothing notion of sex can take some pressure off of the situation and make things hotter and more fun. Just think back to your teenage days of making out in cars past curfew! 

For those who are just getting back into the dating scene and starting to get physical, Joan Price suggests, “You may want to explore kissing or tentative touching with your date before you’re fully ready for a sexual relationship. If you sense that your date is expecting that these first explorations will lead to shedding clothes and heading for bed, it’s a good idea to set boundaries verbally. You’d like to do X right now and set the limits at Y. Define those your own way. For example: ‘I’m enjoying our kissing, and that’s as far as I want to go tonight.’ Or, ‘I feel vulnerable and need to know we can stop when I want.’” Suggesting that you explore each other without any goals is a great way to get the juices flowing, so to speak, and to find out in an exciting way whether you’re sexually compatible. 

Let’s Get Physical 

There’s no getting around it: sex might get better in some ways as you age, but there are some physical issues that both men and women might be apprehensive about when starting a new sexual relationship in their golden years. First of all, partners of both sexes might worry about whether others will find them desirable, or whether they’ll find the people they’re dating desirable – this is totally normal (and can happen to anyone at any age!), and can be addressed with the honest communication we talked about earlier. We’ll also say that, while this hasn’t been scientifically proven, we’re pretty sure that most men don’t really actually know what cellulite is, and a lot of women are actually more turned on by what they hear from their partner, and how generous their partner is in bed, than what they see. Just saying.a black vibrator laying on top of red underwear with black polka dotsOther physical concerns might be harder to overcome, but certainly not impossible. For example, for women, sex after menopause can be painful because of issues like vaginal dryness, so if you’re worried that this will be the case for you start out by practicing! Yes, a very practical and enjoyable way to prove to yourself that everything is in working order is by exploring masturbation, especially with the help of a vibrator. In addition, when you’re ready to invite someone else to the party, don’t be embarrassed to introduce some luxurious lubricants into the situation, to make things more pleasurable for you. If you find you need more help making sex comfortable, speak to your doctor.

For men, the problem can be getting or maintaining an erection (and getting an erection that is hard enough for sex). The first thing you should do if you’re experiencing this is speak to your doctor, as ED can be a symptom of a larger problem; if you’ve done this, your doctor can also prescribe you an anti-impotence drug – these medications are a godsend for men with various erectile problems! And if you’re the partner of someone with ED, remember that their condition has nothing to do with you or your ability to turn them on – ED is a very common problem among older men.

And remember, as we discussed earlier, penetrative sex is never the one and only option on the table for pleasuring each other: if your genitals don’t seem to be cooperating, try kissing, exploring, mutual masturbation, oral sex – come on, use your imaginations! We know you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeves…

Be Safe

condom halfway out of a silver wrapper.
Because there is no age limit on STIs, you should be safe and talk about which form of protection you will use.

All of the above physical issues should be part of your frank discussions about sex with your new partner, and you know what else should always come up? Your sexual history, and how you plan on staying safe when and if you become physically intimate. There might be no risk of pregnancy at this stage in your lives, but there’s no age limit on STIs, so get tested, ask for test results from your partner, and plan on using barrier methods in new relationships to protect both of you. 

Sure, teenage lust was fun in its own way, but, ugh, who wants to do that again? You may have been through a lot in life, and maybe you’ve got the battle scars to prove it, but you’ve come so far from those awkward years; you know what you want, you feel confident in your skin, and you’re better equipped to honestly communicate with others. So, if you’re ready, get out there and find what makes you happy – if that’s sex with a new partner, enjoy it and be safe!

Tips For Dating Over 65

Finding love at any age can be difficult, but the older you get, the more difficult it becomes. Whether you have faced the loss of your spouse, or divorce, getting back out there is not easy. You may have less energy, but a lot of younger people find love from their couch using an app. Studies say one in three marriages now start by meeting online.

While it has become the latest trend, dating does not have to be limited to online. Online dating can be rough for some people, especially since it promotes filtering potential matches based on looks and age. Older adults often steer away from online dating because it is portrayed as more of a “younger generation” thing. But, there are various ways to get out there and meet people. Dating does not have to be nerve-wracking. Keep it simple, and have some fun with it with these rules.

The back of an older man and woman with black backpacks on holding hands while walking.
Senior dating does not have to be hard, you can meet someone almost anywhere. Just keep a positive attitude.

Keep a Positive Attitude

Smiling and keeping a positive attitude are attractive qualities. The saying that a smile can take over a room is true. You can meet someone while walking your dog at the park, or simply grabbing coffee at your local shop. Smile and strike up a conversation with a fellow person and use your similar situations as an ice-breaker. 

Use Community Centers

Local community centers usually run fun activities, celebrations, and outings. Take advantage of these to get out and mingle. Seniors from different neighborhoods gather, and it is a great way to meet others, especially in a social gathering where you will not feel awkward. Many seniors will meet in these settings, even seniors in assisted living centers find love. 

Get to the Gym

What better place to meet someone that is health-focused than at the gym? You can kill two birds with one stone: get fit and find love. Work out to remain physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy, while meeting people. Meeting people at the gym can help you build friendships, keep each other on track, and possibly build a relationship. 

Find a Dating Coach

If you are too shy to get out and meet people, and you would rather not do the online dating thing, then consider a dating coach. These matchmakers will work with you, finding out all of your likes and dislikes, and what you are looking for in a person. It will cost you about $2,000 dollars, but these people are professionals and will provide personality tests that help match you with a person meeting your demographics. It might be a bit pricey for some, but can you put a price on love?

Try Online

Keyboard buttons with one pink one with a red heart int he middle of it.
There are tons of online dating sites dedicated solely to seniors. Some will have personality tests to match you with your perfect person. Give it a try.

If worse comes to worst, and you do not want to try any of the options listed, do not lose hope. There is the wide world of the web to help you find love. There are tons of online dating sites dedicated solely to older adults. AARP, eHarmony, Our Time, and other specific niche sites are offered depending on your preference. For example, there are sites catered towards religions, the LGBTQ community, and more. Some like eHarmony will administer personality tests and match you with someone based on the results. Generally, these sites will cost you a membership fee, while others are completely free. Do not be afraid to dive into the world of internet dating, a lot of people will find their true love online. So why not give it a try?

Happiness and companionship are important at any age. It will provide you with a better quality of life, and this is especially true the older you get. If you are ready to start dating, then get out there and seek your partner. There are different forms of dating; it is all preference and whatever you are comfortable with. You are not getting any younger, so get out there and find love! You deserve to be happy.