Hard road to FINDING LOVE
Today’s dating world is competitive and comes with a whole new set of rules to be navigated, writes Mercedes Maguire
Preparing to meet a partner is big business in the modern dating world. In their hope of grabbing the attention of Mr or Miss Right, singles are spending hundreds of dollars on first and subsequent dates, primping and preening with spray tans, haircuts, new clothes and even teeth whitening procedures. A new report on the cost of dating by ING Direct reveals a quarter of dating singles spend $100 or more preparing for a date with new clothes, shoes and getting their hair done top of the expenses list. For those dating regularly, the expense can quickly escalate.
Just ask single Americans. A recent survey claimed they spend five years and more than $20,000 on dating before they get married. In Australia, the dating industry is worth almost $12 billion, testament to how competitive the singles hunting ground has become.
Much has changed in the dating world from one generation to the next, the most obvious being the use of technology to find love. Australians spend more than $80 million a year on finding love online or through an app. Where once a date was established through family, friends or some common connection, now your options are seemingly limitless.
Psychotherapist and relationship expert Melissa Ferrari says one of the biggest changes in modern dating is the solitude in which you find your dates. “With so much online dating now there is a real solitude in the experience,” Ferrari says. “In most cases you’re sitting completely alone in front of a computer or with your phone, whereas in the olden days you had people around you as you met a potential partner, you had help in vetting them.
“As a result, the modern dating world is filled with insecurity and anxiety. I’ve seen people come out of a dating period completely worn out and lacking in confidence.”
Relationship and sex expert Nikki Goldstein says modern dating is not all negative, with one of the major bonuses of finding a partner today is that women have so many more options. “In past generations there was very little casual dating, it was tinged with a more serious agenda as often women were marrying for economic security,” says the author of Single But Dating. “And there was more invested in dating back then, you had to take it seriously from a young age.” But Goldstein says there is still some tradition left in dating, for example, it’s still nice if a man pays for dinner, particularly on a first date. More than half of single men are prepared to pay for dinner on a first date, the ING Direct report claims, but only 26 per cent of women expect this gesture.
“A man should pay on a first date, especially if he’s asked a woman out and to make her feel special,” Goldstein says. “But these days it’s important a woman finds other ways to pay for things also, maybe the taxi home or a drink at the bar.”
Emma Markezic, lifestyle commentator for ING Direct, says modern dating has become a financial burden and one that many cannot afford.
“It’s incredible how much we’re spending on dating,” says Markezic, 35, who has been single for more than five years. “The reason is that the stakes feel increasingly high, this has become the most intimate time to be dating in history, it’s like The Bachelor but instead of choosing from 12 singles, there's millions with the amount of apps and websites around to connect you.
“The report found singles are spending an average of $79 preparing for a first date, imagine if you go on more than one a week, you’d be splashing out more than some people pay on rent.
“But people are happy to pay because love is the ultimate goal.
“I’ve been dating for many years, I’m sure I’ve spent the deposit for a house during that time.”
Markezic says singles need to take the financial burden out of dating and focus on ways to get to know each other rather than impressing each other.
She says it should be acceptable to have low key dates, like a coffee in a park or a movie night at home.