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In the era of online dating, many wonder what ever happened to the old-fashioned simplicity of boy meets girl. A handful of local dating services hope to shift the dating conversation (and the practice) back to those days gone by.
One in every 10 American adults looked for love online in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. So with hundreds of platforms connecting millions of people at a click of a button or a swipe of a screen, technology should have simplified the process of finding Ms. or Mr. Right, right?
Wrong, says Linda Lipshutz, a Jupiter-based therapist who helps people navigate the difficulties of the dating world. “People come in saying, ‘I’ll never find anybody out there. There’s no one trustworthy,’” she says, describing the online dating fatigue that many clients complain about.
At the top of the complaint heap? Profile dishonesty. A study by professor Catalina Toma at the University of Wisconsin reveals that 81 percent of online daters lie about their height, weight or age.
Kimberly, of West Palm Beach, has been on and off the dating scene for 10 years and says the deceit goes well beyond being misleading. “You get people contacting you who don’t have a picture at all,” she explains. “In those cases, it’s usually because they’re cheaters—they’re almost always married or in a relationship.”
Lipshutz even hears tales of profile dishonesty from people who justify misleading potential matches. “I had a client who put her age as 10 years younger than she is,” Lipschutz explains. “I said to her, ‘You run the risk that a person is going to be angry that you lied.’” But the client remained undeterred. “She said, ‘I’d rather have the chance to meet them. Then we’ll find out if we can get past it.’”
Despite the lure of efficiency, all that swiping and browsing can eat up endless hours. Recent research from Duke University’s Dan Ariely found that people spend an average of 12 hours each week on dating sites and apps: 5.2 hours per week browsing profiles, and an additional 6.7 hours per week messaging potential matches.
Tim, of Jupiter, says he doesn’t have the time for all of that. A busy professional with a high-profile career, Tim has been dating for more than a year, but has never tried online dating (and never intends to). “Not only do I not want my picture all over the place, I don’t have the time to sift through all of the profiles online,” he confesses.
The online dating phenomenon has not only altered the way people meet, but it has also changed how they evaluate and commit to potential partners. “The world of Tinder and Bumble, where someone chooses you [based on whether] you’re ‘hot or not’ is ruining the typical dating dynamic,” says Delray Beach-based love and life coach Riana Milne.
FOMO (or fear of missing out) is more than just a hashtag, and it is rampant in the online dating community. As Lipshutz points out, the temptation to find someone better with a click or swipe is strong. “People have so many opportunities,” she explains. “They get involved with somebody, but then they get overwhelmed and confused with all of the choices available to them. Suddenly they’ve got an opportunity with someone else and they move on,” she says. “That’s a bitter pill for many to swallow.”
Still, the heart wants what it wants. And if what it wants is a romantic relationship, it will keep you scrolling through profiles at one o’clock in the morning, even though you’ve got to get the kids to school before the 7:30 a.m. bell rings and be ready for that big presentation to your boss by 8 a.m. sharp.
So what’s a South Florida singleton to do? For those who are looking to cut the connection with online dating, these reputable local dating services want you to know that when you turn off your device and give their approaches a try, you’ll turn yourself on to a world of options that may give you the edge you’ve been missing.
Nancy Gold and Barbara Black Goldfarb are the self-described “dynamic duo” behind South Florida Matchmaker, offering matchmaking services to some of the area’s wealthiest relationship seekers. Boasting a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, Gold provides her clients with relationship know-how while Goldfarb, a community leader who sits on several charitable boards, is the networker. “We refer to me as the Rolodex,” Goldfarb says.
The majority of Goldfarb and Gold’s 40 active clients (another 40 are on the sidelines in committed relationships, thanks to the duo’s services) admit to having had a failed online dating experience.
“They come from online dating with a checklist of all the things they’re looking for,” Gold explains. “Some [clients] say, ‘I want somebody who is this height or who is this athletic,’” Goldfarb says. “But we drill down and ask: ‘Is that what you really need?’” They advise their clients to mentally shred their checklists. “You can still have a wonderful marriage even if the person isn’t 6-foot-2, or doesn’t jog like you do every single day,” she explains.
“As clients go through our process, they actually begin to change what they’re looking for,” Goldfarb says. “We work through the process with them. It’s a partnership, not a unilateral thing where we insist you go out with this person or that person. We develop it together.”
For Patti Gottesman, coordinator of Pre-Dating Palm Beach, the modern time crunch makes the speed dating events that she offers ideal. “The last thing busy people want to do is waste time,” Gottesman explains. “They’ve been talking to somebody for weeks online, and then they finally go on a date only to realize that after meeting in person, it’s not what they thought it was going to be. We get rid of all that.”
At a Pre-Dating event, participants have six minutes to engage in conversation, plus another minute between sets to make notes on match sheets. They circle “Let’s Talk” if they’d like to get to know the person better, or “No Thanks” if they’ve had enough after a bell rings to indicate that it’s time to move on.
Jeff, of Palm Beach Gardens, has used dating sites like Match and Plenty of Fish, but he recently attended one of Gottesman’s events for people ages 40 to 59 at Boca Raton’s Zone Sports Lounge. As a newcomer to the area, Jeff sought out Pre-Dating as a way to meet people in a new town. “I like this better [than online dating],” he says. “You get to see body language, emotions. All you see online is pictures.”
Gottesman reports an 84 percent match rate at the speed-dating event Jeff attended: of the 18 people who attended, 15 had “Let’s Talk” circled next to their names. Five couples even made a double match, meaning both parties indicated that they’d like to see each other again. Jeff was one of them. Not too shabby for a six-minute time investment.
Kelly Leary, president and founder of Revolution Dating in Palm Beach Gardens first “caught the love bug” while completing her master’s degree in clinical psychology and working for other people’s dating services throughout the early ’90s. “I saw the worst of the industry and the best,” explains Leary, who has 25 years of experience.
Revolution Dating boasts “thousands of happy introductions and marriages well into the hundreds.” The service represents a large group of professional, relationship-minded singles from a wide demographic of ages, and offers both matchmaking and members-only meet-up events.
Matches are pitched to clients one at a time. “It’s both a science and a feeling,” says Vice President Rachel McKee. “One match [at] a time makes us different from online dating. It’s like when you go to the grocery store and there’s 50 different types of peanut butter,” she explains. “You can’t choose, or you choose the wrong one. Or you unscrew the lid and there’s nothing in there,” she says, laughing.
The events that Revolution puts on are the service’s answer to an online database. “Why shop from behind a screen, and with your eyes only?” Leary asks. “At our parties, our members can shop with all of their senses.”
It was at one of those events—Revolution Dating’s 2015 Halloween Gala at Angry Moon Cigar Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens—that Stuart residents Frank Puleo and Barbara LaVerde first spotted each other across the proverbial crowded room, making a match that would result in a long-term committed relationship.
Barbara joined Revolution Dating in February 2015. She was matched a few times and went on a number of dates, but hadn’t found anyone truly special. That is, until she met Frank, who joined Revolution Dating in August.
“Frank often says to me, ‘You dated for a whole year [through the service] before we met, but I only dated for two months,’” she says, laughing. “He says, ‘You got more of your money’s worth than I did!’ But I tell him, ‘Was I worth it or what?’”
But you can’t put a price on true love. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple decided to move in together in September 2016. “Frank and I really love each other,” Barbara says. “It’s amazing, it really is. Second time around! I gave Revolution a shot, and I found my match.”
If you find yourself in the modern dating game, take heart. Maybe skip the swiping and let someone else do the work. Sure, you could try to meet people at random. But with experts like these in your backyard, why leave it to chance?
For her part, Lipshutz doesn’t counsel her clients to abandon the online dating world altogether. Instead, she advises them to tread carefully and to consider face-to-face options that might complement the dating search.
“I encourage people to hang in there and know there may be a disappointment or two or three,” she says. “Ultimately, most people are looking to find one solid, special relationship. A lot of good people are out there; you just need to meet that one special person that you have a good fit with.”
Editor’s Note: Many sources did not wish to include their full names, therefore they are mentioned by their first names only.
Love and Life Coach Riana Milne:
• Do conduct a background check after the third date. It’s best to find out early on if there are any skeletons in the closet.
• Do wait at least two months (or 12 dates) for sexual intimacy. Why be intimate with someone you barely know in hopes for a relationship forming afterward? That never works!
• Don’t lie about your age or anything else, or take a second date from someone who does.
• Don’t date a person who is “separated.” They must be totally single and available to date.
South Florida Matchmakers’ Nancy Gold and Barbara Black Goldfarb:
• Do consider what you really need in a life mate, as opposed to some ideal you’ve created in your head.
• Do remember that physical chemistry is important, but so are emotional and intellectual chemistry. If you only focus on the physical, you’re missing out on the rest!
• Don’t turn the first date into an interview. Try to foster a comfortable conversation.
• Don’t text or take phone calls while on the date, no matter the reason.
Therapist Linda Lipshutz:
• Do persevere. There are a lot of good people on the dating scene, and you just have to meet that one special person that you have a good fit with.
• Do pay attention to the warning signs that people can give you. On the first few dates, clarify whether that person is that someone you really want to risk your time and attention with.
• Don’t go for the superficial at the expense of overlooking the possibility of meeting a great person who initially you wouldn’t consider.
• Don’t take things personally. If you go on a date and you don’t hear back, it’s always worth it to reflect on how things went. But beyond that, let it go.
Revolution Dating’s Kelly Leary and Rachel McKee:
• Do make a good first impression with your wardrobe. Time got away from a client of ours before a first date, so she showed up in the clothes she had been cleaning the house in.
• Do trust the experts. We’ve had people who say, “He’s not cute enough,” about a potential match. But we’ll say, “You have no idea! We really think this is a good match.” Of course we will give them the right to refuse, but we want them to say yes to us, because we are the experts.
• Don’t chat on the phone at length before the date. Call to make the date, and then end the call. People have a tendency to start interviewing each other over the phone and that can ruin the magic of meeting and getting to know a person face to face.
• Don’t text before the date. Way too often, we make a match and then the parties try to coordinate the date via text. When that happens, it’s common for us to find out that the date never happened, simply because someone texted something that concerned the other person and was misinterpreted.