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Swipe right for love

Divorce or death of a partner is leaving growing numbers of lonely hearts looking for a new life partner, but for over 55s, opportunities for a chance meeting are limited. CARROL BAKER investigates the promises and pitfalls of online dating.

Colleen, 67, sat for 30 minutes waiting for Ken, her online date, to arrive. Thinking he was a no-show, she headed back to her car only to be chased by a bloke in bordies and thongs, huffing and puffing, “are you Colleen?”

Against her better judgement she stayed for a coffee. He hung back while she paid. Unimpressed when he asked her for a second date, she eyeballed him and said: “If there’s no spark, the car won’t start and this car ain’t going nowhere.”

Collen says she smiled all the way home.

“I thought, I deserve better than that,” she says, She had been dating online for a few months, with mixed results.

“I’d always go on coffee dates and was getting a bit sick of drinking coffee, but I wanted to give it a go,” she says.

A few months later, Colleen met Peter and they began a long-distance relationship.

“I love his sense of humour,” she says. They’ve been blissfully happy for the past 16 years.

The grey divorce trend is rising in Australia, with 2023 data by Australian Seniors showing 32 per cent of divorces occurring after the age of 50.

While some choose not to re-partner, many hope there might be a special person out there for them.  In the good old days, you’d bump into someone at a pub and have a bit of a chin wag, or chat over the photocopier at work. But it’s a brave new world and connecting with potential partners online is fast becoming the new way to find romance.

If you are newly divorced, it takes time to heal. Dating and Relationships coach Debbie Rivers, advises not to throw your hat in the ring too soon.

“Build a life you love and enjoy,” she says. “If you are happy, you are going to be instantly more attractive.”

Widower Harry, 59, has been online dating for 10 years. He’s had a few relationships, the longest lasting two years. He’s just met someone and although it’s early days, he’s hopeful.

“I’d still like to believe there is someone out there for all of us,” he says.

Harry stresses the importance of meeting face to face early on.

“You can text and chat all you like, but it’s not until you meet that you know what that person is going to be like,” he says.

Debbie adds that if you are dating online, it’s important to look beyond the photo.

“Photos are too dimensional. Most of us are making snap decisions on a photo and set criteria, so you run the risk of missing out on someone who could be just right for you,” she says.

Being real about who you are is also important. One thing that surprised Harry was that more than a third of the women he met admitted lying about their age on their dating profile.

“Sometimes it was by 10 years or more,” he says.

When you are dating online, it’s important to be yourself.

Andrew, 66, was puzzled to see the woman he’d been chatting with had a full sleeve of tattoos and a large neck tattoo.

“I don’t mind a small tattoo, but I looked back at the photos. She was wearing long sleeves and the camera was angled so you couldn’t see her neck,” he says. “Why not be yourself?”

Honesty really is key. According to Debbie, it’s the single biggest reason people don’t get a second date.

But, she adds, you can also be too honest – and overshare.

“We need to date like we did when we were younger, enjoy yourself, keep it light,” she says. “Don’t go on a first date and lay it all out there – here is my baggage, are you going to accept me warts and all?”

Go into dating with a spirit of adventure. While you are busy swiping left and right, looking for the right guy or girl, there’s an unexpected bonus. Online dating is an opportunity to expand your social circle.

Jenny, 62, divorced after a 20-year marriage ended in a very cliched way – her husband ran off with a much younger woman.

She tried online dating and has now met a few good friends.

“We catch up for coffee or a movie and have a bit of fun sharing our stories about who we’ve met online,” she says.

Before trying online dating, Relationships Australia Queensland regional manager Helen Poynten suggests doing some soul searching to figure out what you want.

“You need to be clear to be kind to both yourself, and potential partners,” she says. “Some might want a life partner, others might just want someone to travel with.”

Helen adds it’s also important to be realistic in the search for love.

“Theres no magic algorithm, it’s dating, let’s be real,” she says. “We have to meet and see and connect to discover over time if our values and hopes align.”

When Colleen decided to try online dating, she showed her mate Fiona the profile photo she’d selected. She was holding up a fish with her son while squinting into the sunlight.

Fiona raided Colleen’s wardrobe and they did a mini photo shoot, which turned out to be a fun night.  With a more recent photo in which she was well presented, Colleen got a lot more “likes”.

As well as a recent photo, if you’re thinking of dating online pay careful attention to what you write in your profile. It turns out most profiles actually appeal to the same sex.

Not sure how your profile sounds? “Get someone of the opposite sex to read it,” Debbie says.

There are always going to be deal breakers. A person who says they’re active turns out to be a couch potato, charmers with a string of broken hearts in their wake.

Harry’s deal breaker, cuts to the heart of the matter: “I’ve met people who aren’t talking to one of their children. I find that hard to fathom. I love my kids. If there are problems, you work through things.”

Other red flags can be inconsistent communication, overtly sexual remarks, and rushing intimacy.

Debbie cautions while there are certainly things to be cautious about, look for the good in people too.

“Some people are so focused on looking for red flags that they are looking for what could be wrong, rather than what’s right,” she says.

Beware romance scammers. When April, 55, met Marty, 45, he ticked all the boxes. He was easy on the eye, charming, and besotted with her. After dating for a few months, he suggested they buy a motorhome and travel around Australia.

April was head over heels. She sold her house, and most of the $136,000 cash would be used to buy a luxury motorhome. On return, she would move into Marty’s place.

She wired the money to Marty’s account – he was travelling to Adelaide to pick up the motorhome. She never heard from him again.

Three elderly men recently lost more than $500,000 in a cruel romance scam, a lonely-hearts newspaper advertisement perpetrated by two Gold Coast women.

According to the ACCC, romance scammers are costing Australians more than $28 million a year. With online scams increasing, it pays to always be cautious with online dating.

So, how do you spot a scammer? Helen says it’s important to listen to your head as well as your heart when dating.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she says.

Don’t be too quick to trust another, no matter what they say or do. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away. Some scammers will meet you, but they typically create fake online profiles, known as catfishing, to lure you in. They may use a fictional name, or falsely take on the identities of real people.

With online dating, you can be “chatting” with multiple people at one time. Helen says some people think if you’ve been messaging someone or meeting them for dates, you’re automatically exclusive.

“But they can message five people if they like and go on other dates,” she says. “Monogamy isn’t in the early stages of dating – that’s further down the line.”

Some might say that online dating can be a bit of a revolving door as there is a seemingly endless pool of potential dates. It can be exhausting.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, Helen suggests taking time to regroup: “Don’t lose heart if it doesn’t work out. Take a break, and try another site when you feel up to it.”

The road to true love can be rocky. Putting yourself out there takes courage. For those who might be thinking about online dating, Andrew, who has had almost 100 first dates, has the following advice: “don’t get discouraged, it really is a numbers game.”

“Each time I’d meet someone there was that element of hope,” he says. “But as time wore on, it sometimes felt soul destroying. I’d start to think what’s the matter with me?”

His journey began in the depths of Covid. His oddest date was meeting someone in the supermarket fruit and vegetable aisle trying to recognise the mask-wearing shopper on his phone screen. They chatted as they pushed their trolleys around.

For the record, Andrew is a good-looking bloke who is active, intelligent and a great conversationalist. So, case in point, If you want to meet someone special, it can take time.

He’s now in a secure and committed relationship with Mandy. They’ve bought a shared home on the Gold Coast and are very happy.

After meeting online and communicating via text (while Andrew was jetting around the globe) they finally met in person and sparks flew.

You too could find your happy ending. What have you got to lose?

 

DATING TIPS

From Dating and Relationships coach Debbie Rivers.

  • Look for red flags, such as someone who is rude to the waiter, or speaks badly about their ex.
  • Don’t give away too much personal information too soon.
  • Don’t rule out people right away. If you think there could potentially be a spark, give it at least two dates.
  • If you are concerned about meeting someone, always tell a friend where you are going, and meet in a public place.
  • Be genuinely interested in the other person and what they are passionate about. We all light up when we talk about things we love.
  • Don’t chat to too many people at one time. Close your profile so you don’t get overwhelmed.

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