People often come to therapy to work through relationship issues. These issues range from improving one's relationship to figuring out why the right relationship has not come their way. This blog post focuses on heterosexual women between the ages of 35-45. In the last few years I have noticed a distinct pattern with many of the women in my practice that are interested in finding Mr. Right. Here are some things these women have in common:
They are all:
• Financially independent
• Have lives filled with friends and family
• In good physical health
To meet compatible men, these women have done what most single people are doing these days: turning to online dating. Online dating is the largest segment of paid content on the web, second to pornography (who would have thought), according to a study conducted by the Online Publishers Association. Match.com touts that 1 in 5 relationships start online. As I write this blog, OkCupid's website states "44,596 are online right now." Plenty of Fish states that they have 135 million monthly users. Clearly, online dating is here to stay and it can be a great way to meet individuals that you would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.
So if there are millions of single men knocking on virtual doors, why haven't these amazing women met Mr. Right? These women are surely putting out the effort but it tends to be all in one place, online, and it isn't the most gratifying process. They post their information on the dating sites of their choice and then continue to spend hours of their weeks monitoring the sites. Because they are actively broadcasting themselves in the dating world, they often don't do much else in the dating arena. Afterall, for many 35-45-year-old women, summoning up the courage to promote themselves on these sites can be emotionally exhausting. I have yet to meet a woman (friend or patient) in this age bracket that doesn't find the entire online dating system distasteful.
There are several reasons for the negative feelings around online dating. First of all, many women are not assured that what you see is what you get. It is not entirely uncommon to find out that the man you have been emailing (or even dating) is living with his girlfriend or worse, married. Another common downer is repeatedly witnessing men check the "interested in" bracket that is a decade or two decades younger than him. Recently, I was told a story of a 36-year-old woman who went on a couple of "okay" dates with a 39-year-old man; they just didn't have the right chemistry to continue dating. However, a week after their last date, she saw that he had changed his age bracket requirement from 30-40 to 20-30. You must have some powerful ego strength to continue to endure these humiliating encounters.
Which brings me to another frequent problem of online dating: how do you continue to feel good about the amazing person that you are when you know that there are millions of people online and nobody has "winked" at you? When you are in the 20-30's chances are that your social live is quite active. You are going out to concerts, dancing, clubbing and so forth thus you are most likely getting many opportunities to meet others who are interested in what you have to say or that think you are beautiful. Once you hit approximately 35, you are often dedicating more time to your profession, leaving you with less time to socialize. Additionally, many of your friends are now coupled up and the pool of who to go out with dwindles significantly.
I wish there were some easy answers here but as with all things in life it is all about balance and diversifying. If one chooses to engage in online dating they should also be going to college alumni events, professional conferences, volunteering, joining a running group or whatever it is that one enjoys in life. Relying on online dating alone is insufficient and runs the risk of increasing the risk for anxiety or depression. It is unfortunate that there are not enough alternatives for women in this age range. I found it amusing that one woman took control of her situation and started an online dating site, CougarLife. This site is for "successful, self-confident and mature women in their prime," 35-65 who are looking to date "younger, confident and hot men." I am not sure if this dating site is what the women I know are looking for but at least someone is thinking outside the box. The women I have been speaking about in this blog have a phenomenal amount of poise, grace and confidence which often isn't developed when one is in their 20's. There should be dating options that match this level of grace as well as enhance not diminsh one's confidence.