The Sunday Times
FINDING Love IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Winning someone’s heart is very different in the modern era where a courtship can start with a swipe. Perth’s matchmakers share their secrets with Rochelle Tetlow on how to find love in 2018 and beyond
ASECRET of the matchmaker’s trade will come as a newsflash to most — blind dates offer the best starting point for potential success.
It’s the polar opposite to the shallow world of online dating, where profiles are centred around photos and swiping left or right allows singles to pass judgment based entirely on looks.
Perth relationships experts say internet dating is fraught with pitfalls, but is here to stay. In order to survive, let alone thrive, today’s singles have to understand the ways dating has changed.
Mt Lawley-based Viola Steed has been in the matchmaking business for 35 years and says singles are fussier and more self-centred than ever before, often with unrealistic expectations of what they want in a partner.
Online dating has also encouraged a whole new culture of bad behaviour — where there’s little accountability as people create fantasy versions of themselves.
“Just about everybody believes and sees themselves as something particularly special — their views are distorted,” she says.
“People behave badly, they can be rude, they don’t have the commitment to follow through on meeting someone, they don’t call people back.
“That behaviour is tolerated online because no one’s there to tell people to have some sort of decorum. The best thing you can do is go in level-headed with your eyes open.”
Osborne Park-based matchmaker Louanne Ward likened online dating to putting a five-year-old in a lolly shop and telling them to leave with only one sweet.
“When there’s too much choice, we can’t choose,” Ms Ward said.
“Even if they go on a great date, the fear that there might be something better overwhelms them and they go back online. Experiencing chemistry with a new person you’re highly attracted to is addictive.” It takes time nurturing a relationship in the real world for an online match to last, according to Relationships Australia. WA executive director Kylie Dunjey said the proliferation of online dating was the biggest challenge to finding a partner in 2018.
“It can be a dangerous place for people who aren’t sure of themselves, have a good sense of self-worth and are feeling robust. Yet the chances are if you’ve turned to the online space you may feel a little vulnerable regarding your attractiveness or your ability to get a relationship going,” Mrs Dunjey said.
“People can be very cruel on the keyboard with no limiting factors.”
While interventions to find love have become more acceptable — from online dating through to sophisticated matchmakers — Mrs Dunjey said that the actual work in growing the relationship can’t be outsourced.
She advised online couples to transition to their first real-life date quickly.
“Online, we present our ideal self, not our actual self,” she said. “Move to reality as soon as possible. Then when you meet each other (in person) . . . even if you’ve been chatting online for months and know each other’s innermost secrets, it’s still necessary to treat it like you’ve just met.
“Despite so much changing around the pace with which relationships take off — when to have the first kiss, when to first have sex — the majority of people are still looking for a person to be with them and only them until that relationship ends.”
Ms Ward said dating apps had been designed for people who didn’t actually want a relationship, whether they knew it or not. The successful lifelong bonds that originated from online dating were owing to the vast volumes of users, and were the exception rather than the norm.
But online dating had cemented its place in modern courtship because technology had reduced the amount and quality of human interactions.
“When people are in their own little cocoon, their own bubble, it’s like you don’t notice anyone,” she said. “I’ve matched people that have lived on the same street and they’ve never known each other.”
It was also important to see both positives and negatives in any prospective partner, Ms Ward said, warning that online dating could stunt emotional intelligence by avoiding difficult conversations.
“You are avoiding all kinds of emotional evolution because you don’t accept responsibility for how you end something.” she said.
“Online, people get ghosted, benched, used, discarded and despondent. Their self-esteem gets damaged. People go on Tinder because it’s very easy to get dates and then they get frustrated because the vehicle they’ve chosen is not getting them to their (desired) destination.”
Memberships with Perth dating services and matchmakers start about $500, with some charging up to $15,000 to headhunt an exact profile for their client.
Corporate Cupid’s Renee Brown is focused on helping Perth’s time-poor professionals look for love by offering compatible options, countering unrealistic expectations and getting them game-ready.
“You’ve got to be OK with being vulnerable because dating is so dismissive and there’s a huge element of rejection . . . otherwise
confidence can be killed quite easily,” she said.
“So many people date and they aren’t actually emotionally available. It’s like a taxi cruising around without its light on and wonder why no one’s sticking their hand out to stop it.
“If your light’s on, opportunity will come wherever you go, whether walking the dog, going to the bank or at work.”
By far the biggest problem, especially for successful women, Ms Ward said, was they looked for a carbon copy of themselves and didn’t let men have a masculine space in which to shine.
“All the things they’re infatuated with themselves, they want to find in a partner so they end up trying to date themselves: ‘I’m intelligent, I’ve got my own money, I don’t need him to support me so he’s going to have to have at least as much money as me. I’m good looking and keep myself looking nice so he’s going to have to do that too’.
“If you’re too similar you will overshadow the other and the very thing you first liked about them will be the thing you most resent about them.”
One of the hardest stages of any dating was mutually agreeing the relationship had become exclusive, but Ms Steed said honesty was important.
“A man might say, ‘I’ve been out with a few females and told them I can’t be contacting them any more because I think we’re getting along quite well’.
“If you’re open, their response to that will be telling.
“(But) they are allowed to have a few dates then call it off.
“They don’t owe you anything, they’ve just been on a journey with you.
“The ones who find the most success with dating are the ones who don’t expect too much too soon.”