What’s it like to look for love on the internet when you’re a single parent of a certain age?
By Martina Fowler
For many singletons no longer in the first flush of youth, the idea of ‘marketing’ yourself to total strangers over the internet in the quest for love is slightly terrifying – especially if you’ve got kids to consider. But, unless you suddenly lock eyes with Paul from Accounts over the office photocopier, and start to see him in an entirely new light, that’s how many of us will meet a new partner these days – even if you do have to kiss a few virtual frogs first.
‘Note to self: if you are going to do internet dating, and some people’s pictures aren’t full length, learn to read body weights in both metric and imperial,’ warns Natasha, 39. ‘It can save some nasty shocks when you turn up to meet someone…’
Natasha only goes on dates when her kids are staying with their father – but for one man she met, things were a little too close to home for comfort.
‘When he realised I lived a few doors down from his mother, he’d park round the corner, so she didn’t see his car outside my house!
‘I met another guy, who I knew was dating more than one woman at once. But I put up with it, convincing myself I was the favourite. Still, I didn’t see the funny side when he rang me from a train, saying he was on his way home from work. In the background, I could hear the train stations being announced… heading in the opposite direction from his home. Eventually, he admitted he was off to meet another woman.’
‘Internet dating is so two dimensional – if I don’t like the look of a bloke I can’t be bothered,’ says Paula, 36. ‘If they were posing in a room with bad taste in curtains, for instance, I’d think “Oooh, can’t go out with someone who’d live with curtains in their house like that.” And blokes wearing V-neck T-shirts – that’s my pet hate. Or taking a selfie with a load of dirty washing and mess behind them. All material things, but it puts me off.
‘Because I’ve got young kids going out on a date means getting a babysitter, and investing my free time and money on a night out, usually finding the person I’m meeting is wrong for me. If I did the numbers game of the more men you meet the more likely you are to find Mr Right I’d have to go out at least twice a week – and I don’t have the money and the inclination to do that.’
‘Some of my anecdotes about internet dating are unprintable – I’ve had some real corkers,’ says Shelley, 41, who lives in Suffolk with her son. ‘A lot of men seem to like getting their willies out… and I am really not that sort of girl!’
One such willy-waver was Paul, who, says Shelley, looked nothing like his photo – but if only that was all… ‘He went to stick his tongue down my throat as soon as we met. I said I was having a panic attack, and legged it. He then sent me a photo at 4am of his erect penis. Needless to say,
I blocked him, and reported him to the site.’
So much for romance. But there was a happy ending for Josie’s internet dating adventures. With an acrimonious divorce behind her, and two small children, the 43-year-old had almost given up on the idea of a relationship. But that changed when she met Rob.
‘We married three years ago, and I’ve never been happier.
The only thing is, Rob’s quite old-fashioned, and hates people to know we met on the internet. So if anyone asks, we bumped into each other in the queue of a museum cafe!’ M
Dating Tips for Single Parents
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s tempting to throw yourself into the throes of infatuation, especially if you’ve been lonely. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are relationships. Don’t fall into bed straightaway. Remember there are such things as STDs, and, as Aretha Franklin says ‘Just a, just a, just a, just a…’
- As much as possible, keep casual dating out of sight of your children. Think about what kind of potential step-parent your date might be – and only introduce them to your kids when you know your relationship is serious.
- Be honest from the start that you have kids. But when you join a dating site mention that you have child(ren) that you adore, but keep it to one brief sentence. Make the rest of the space all about you, for a change – your favourite books, film, foods. If things work out, there’ll be plenty of time for your date to figure out how much you love your offspring.
Safe Online Dating
Whilst most people using dating sites are sincere and their reasons for joining are genuine, there are exceptions, so it is important to keep yourself and your possessions safe. Online dating can be a fun and rewarding experience and following these basic rules will help minimise any risks:Check that the dating site you are using is a member of the Online Dating Association (ODA). Membership means that the site has to commit to an industry code of practice that includes honest communication with users, protecting their privacy and providing a mechanism for reporting abuse. Inclusion of the ODA’s logo on the site indicates membership Be anonymous and never disclose any personal information on online dating sites Be careful when accessing your account from a public or shared computer so that others can’t view or record your password or personal information. Be wary of opening email attachments from someone you have only just met Ensure that you keep your internet security software up to date. Take your time getting to know someone before meeting them and trust your instincts