If we’re single and looking for a life partner, most of us harbor this dream that we’ll find that special someone magically as we go through the motions of our daily life. This dream is simple, romantic and in line with our deepest desires for an organic connection that develops naturally and without forcing the point.
That’s not usually how it works for most people, however. Dating requires effort and getting out there looking for other singles who also want a relationship. So, at some point, most of us go looking for a partner even if we’re not always “actively” looking with the zeal of someone who will be turned into a lobster if they fail (if you haven’t watched the quirky relationship film about singles who get turned into animals, check it out).
For most of us, this active search for a relationship means online dating.
The problem is that online dating doesn’t work for everyone, and leaning on swipe apps and sites like Match.com and OKCupid is particularly problematic for older singles. If you’re dating in your late 30s or beyond, online dating platforms are not your best bet. Sometimes they even actively discriminate against you.
There are several reasons why online dating is more challenging as you get older, and why it probably is not your best hope for finding a lifelong partner.
First, dating app algorithms and methodologies often penalize or exclude older singles. Most dating apps let users set an age range for their search, and this often leads to older singles getting excluded (sometimes even by default since the platforms are designed for young singles).
Even if older singles are not excluded, this age-based filtering means that matches are often defined in terms of narrow age ranges that limit good potential matches that are outside the specified range. People might say they want someone who is close to their own age, even if they’ll consider someone older or younger. These surprise matches get lost with online dating, however, which really hurts the single person who is in their late 30s or older.
Second, online dating creates an environment where older singles compete more actively with younger people. That’s because these platforms create a marketplace for singles, and they invite active comparison with the young who are also looking for a partner.
Many people have no problem dating the young and the beautiful–especially men–so this active comparison with younger singles makes older singles look less appealing even if they have a lot to offer when encountered in the real world.
Third, online dating emphasizes looks because it is based on the profile system (and looks are especially important for the swipe apps that primarily focus on looks).
Even if an older single has aged well and taken care of themselves, a selection process based on looks is putting them at a disadvantage compared with singles in their 20s. Some of us look better as we age, true. Still, our main calling card as an older single probably isn’t looks.
Online dating forces older singles into a game that is rigged against them.
Fourth, we shouldn’t be dating based on looks even if we are competitive. Especially singles who are older.
Good relationships come from strong emotional connections, not looks. We might all want a partner who looks good and is sexually attractive, but emotional connection trumps looks every time. Emotional connection also is the basis for a truly amazing sex life, far beyond physical attractiveness. Connection is what matters.
Our real opportunity for relationship success, whether old or young, comes from the power of our connection with another person. If you know how to connect, there’s no question about finding a lifelong partner: You WILL have relationship success!
Older singles have a better opportunity for building this connection because they have maturity and typically are more in touch with themselves. Yet, you’re not playing to this strength when you date online, because you start with the online dating “game” and only then move onto the real life part where there’s more opportunity for connection.
Not only are you emphasizing the wrong part, but as an older single you also are less likely to know the current rules for playing the game effectively. Better not to play this game at all and instead focus on connection in the real world!
Finally, online dating is not the best choice for older singles because the game aspect and the focus on looks means that many of the best potential partners are hidden or not active on the platforms.
Have you ever gone on a dating platform as an older single and found that the quality of people you meet there generally sucks?
You’re not alone. It does suck! That’s because many of the older people on these platforms are looking for sex (they just want a hookup), are working on issues that have kept them single for years (desperate or not ready for a real relationship), or are staying away from online dating for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. Many otherwise good matches also don’t know how to stand out online, don’t know how to play the game well, or are too busy for effective online dating.
The end result: Finding good older singles online is more difficult than finding good young singles on these dating platforms. You are not wrong when you feel a bit hopeless searching for your match online as an older single. It is tough finding the right people!
Thankfully, online dating isn’t your only option. You can also meet people in person.
Meeting people in the real world is a good option in general for finding a lasting romance, and it makes even more sense for singles in their late 30s or older.
The trick is that you must put in the work. That’s where many singles go wrong, and one big reason that online dating has supplanted the more traditional, appealing approach of finding a person organically in the real world.
For success with dating in the real world, you must put in the work of choosing the right places to connect with singles, the places you actually will find a quality partner (hint: not the bars). You also must lay the right foundation within yourself for connecting with the people you meet and turning that chance encounter into a lasting romance.
All this can be learned. And it is learned every day by singles who work with us at Kowalke Relationship Coaching.
The problem is that not everybody has the opportunity to work with us. That is why I’m excited about the launch of an online program we’re starting in January, The Joy Love Club. And I’m inviting you to take part.
The Joy Love Club is a series of live weekly video events we’re holding online in January and February. At these live events, me and other relationship experts in the Kowalke Relationship Coaching universe will talk about dating today, and how you can get that lasting relationship that’s both strong and magical. We’ll be teaching you how to lay the right foundation.
More importantly, we’ll answer your questions and interact with you directly at these events so you come away with what you actually need for your own relationship journey. Books, articles and courses are nice, but they don’t specifically address your own situation. So at the events you can ask and get answers that actually help you and your particular situation (and do it anonymously, in case you were wondering).
I’m really excited about The Joy Love Club, and I’d love you to join us. But space is limited because this program is intentionally kept small and intimate. So please enter your name and email address below for more information and to reserve your spot right now. I really would love it if you join us.
Online dating works for some, but it doesn’t serve people who are in their late 30s or older. So don’t do it.
Instead, build the right foundation and put in the work to meet your life partner in the real world.
Get more information about our live online program, The Joy Love Club, by entering your name and email below.
Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.