There are a slew of dating websites and apps to help singles find love, but what is it really like for women navigating the world of online dating?
While online dating has made finding people easier than ever, it seems getting to know them has become harder.
Some women struggle to find decent men online while others who pursue meeting up with dates in the real world have been plagued by trouble.
From disaster dates to being slandered if you don’t want to participate in promiscuity to meeting men who lie about their relationship status, three women open up about their experiences.
These are their stories about what it’s really like for women dating in a world of matching sites and apps.
Sophie*, 36, has been using online dating sites and apps since 2013.
While living in London, she met and dated a French man based in Barcelona so they tried a long-distance relationship for almost a year.
Things were going well until the lies started.
“The lies got so elaborate. One time he told me that his mother had been kidnapped and he had to go find money to bail his mother out. This was so he could get out of coming to London to attend my birthday party,” she said.
When trying to arrange a date with another man in Australia, Sophie experienced suburb discrimination.
They’d agreed on a time for a date and when Sophie suggested meeting up in the respectable Melbourne suburb of Mordialloc, he said getting there was “too difficult” and that he “doesn’t do suburbs”.
He said he only sticks to “the rich side” and listed areas like South Yarra, Port Melbourne, Brighton and Albert Park, but tried to sugar-coat it as “just being honest”.
Then there was the man that got drunk during a date.
They met up for a drink, about 5.30pm on a week night.
Sophie arrived five minutes early to find her date was already there and had downed two pints of beer. He ordered more drinks, started knocking them back and became deliriously drunk.
“About 45 minutes into the date I managed to finish one glass of wine and he was on to his sixth drink,” Sophie said.
“He then said: ‘I’ll get dinner if you give me a lift home’. He also asked me if I was available the following week because, he said, ‘then it can be your turn to shout dinner’.”
Despite countless bad dates, Sophie continues to pursue online dating.
“I get disheartened when dates turn into disasters… but I think a life of giving up on dating would be worse than one trying,” she said.
“The thing that keeps me going, as romantic as it sounds, is I believe that there is somebody out there. I also have very good examples (of love) around me and that’s probably what has made me think differently. I have a few girlfriends who have married men they’ve met online.”
‘It’s like online shopping for a human’
Rachel*, 40, has used almost all of the dating platforms to varying degrees and hates each and every one.
She said most of her frustration with online dating comes from the “hook-up culture” and a shift in gender relations where men feel entitled to women not as people, but for their own sexual gratification without so much as a dinner date.
She said the dating sites and apps were not genuine platforms for singles seeking a partner.
“Almost all of them are for sex matching, and if you’re not there for that you’re in a minority. I’ve been outright derided for it. It’s the exact opposite of slut shaming. It’s besmirching people who are seeking more meaningful connections and don’t wish to participate in promiscuity,” she said.
Rachel said another downside to online dating was the fact that men have become extremely forthright about their intentions.
“Although the honesty is good, in that there’s no deceit at play, women are disregarded as worthy of even common courtesy if her intentions are not aligned,” she said.
“I think of it like online shopping for a human.”
Rachel also said that the way people treat each other online “is appalling”.
“I have almost never been spoken to in real life the way men feel at liberty to talk to me online. It’s the kind of conversation that you’d expect happens on phone sex lines, without any regard for whether she has given any indication that she wishes to engage that way,” she said.
“It’s almost as if the human behind the profile photo doesn’t matter at all. It’s an extremely individualistic culture of ‘I want’ and if you don’t play along, you’re instantly unmatched, often not before being called a bitch or a nun first.”
Despite the challenges Rachel faces in the online dating world, she continues to return to it because she doesn’t meet enough eligible, unattached men in the real world.
“The online sphere definitely surpasses offline dating in this way. It opens up a whole world of people you may not otherwise meet,” she said.
“When you date offline, often times you find there’s nobody who fits your basic eligibility criteria and you’ve wasted your time.”
The other woman
Erin*, 32, connected with a man through a dating app and when they met up in person, she was instantly attracted to him.
“He was charismatic and affectionate. I was swept up in the intensity of the emotion and what I perceived as honesty,” she said.
“Before we had even met, he said he wasn’t looking for a casual relationship. He was a one-woman kind of a guy.
“It would be more accurate to say he was a one-woman per country kind of a guy. He forgot to mention his partner or wife (I’m still not sure) back home in South America.”
Erin said she never thought she would be “the other woman”.
“But there I was, in a thing with a man who lacked integrity and commitment to a woman in another country, who was also the mother of his two daughters,” she said.
“The longer I stayed (with him), the more I felt I was part of the betrayal. It was complicated and kept me awake at night. I ended things a few times and until the end he believed he was doing the right thing.”
When Erin talked about her situation with friends she’d catch herself cringing and leaving out parts of the story.
“I knew it was wrong,” she said.
“With time and distance, I can see I was in a chemical fog and couldn’t make decisions based on my values of honesty and compassion.
“I did eventually end it, but it took me longer to completely break it off.”
Even though the relationship didn’t work out, Erin has met many different men through online dating and, she admits, they are often people who she wouldn’t have met through her own social circles.
Exploring offline options
While these women stick with online dating to find and meet a potential partner, they are hopeful that other avenues will work.
Rachel is a member of a meet-up group called “I’m sick of online dating” which invites single men and women to meet in person.
And it seems she’s not alone in her search for alternative dating options – the group has more than 12,600 members.
Erin has dated men she has met in real life – at live music gigs, through friends and even at an event called Conscious Dating.
“Friends and family have often said ‘you’ll met someone when you least expect it’, and I’d roll my eyes,” she said.
Which is why she was surprised to meet a man recently at a yoga retreat.
“I haven’t felt this way about a guy I’ve dated before, and I also think the way we met takes some of the pressure off. I am grateful he’s in my life.”
Sophie is also looking for ways to meet men outside of the online dating world.
“After a while online dating gets boring, and meeting people platonically or through your everyday life seems more exciting. Everyone talks about how nice it would be to stop doing the online (dating) thing and have the opportunity to meet someone face-to-face or through a friend,” she said.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.