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

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - NEWS -

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.

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