The boy-meets-girl game isn't easy for today's career-minded singles. Dating colleagues can be awkward, bars are less than ideal and friends only know so many people they can introduce as prospective partners. It's no wonder singles are cutting corners with speed dating and are looking for love in online places.
Perhaps the Internet's appeal comes from the opportunity to control and accelerate the screening process. Matchmaking services "get all the evaluating out of the way, saving you a lot of wasted energy," says Shmuley Boteach, author of Why Can't I Fall in Love? (HarperCollins, 2002). "You get to focus on falling in love, not hyping yourself."
Finding love online
Judy Farrant, a flight attendant in her 40s, was single for almost three years before she ventured into cyberspace to try Internet dating. Although hesitant to try this medium, she was having trouble meeting men while juggling a family and a career. "I finally just sat down and took stock of my situation," she says.
Eventually Farrant began e-mailing Mark Nesbitt, a management consultant she met on Toronto-based Lavalife.com. Three months later they were engaged. "Online dating helps you find people you wouldn't meet otherwise," says Nesbitt.
And many others are catching the cyber love-bug. Lavalife.com, a Web personals site, boasts 1.9 million members to broaden the field.
Practising safety first
Taking precautions online is as important as when meeting someone in a bar. Many dating sites let members post a profile and communicate by e-mail with a username. "It's anonymous, which is a great safety feature for women," Farrant says. Instead of providing her phone number, Farrant did the calling and blocked her number. She met dates during the day at familiar locations, always carried a wireless phone and made sure someone else knew where she was.
Matchmaking with speed
Another time-saving solution to finding a prospective mate is speed dating. Stephanie Mitelman, a sexuality educator in Montreal, founded Quickie Encounters to help couples connect.
Singles register online and attend a party of like-minded people. They spend five minutes with about seven people and later submit a card saying whom they hope to see again. Mitelman contacts the matches within 48 hours. "Meeting people is important because someone can look fantastic on paper, but if there's no chemistry it doesn't work," she says.
An inclusive service for all singles, Mitelman says speed-dating is great for meeting people without worrying whether they're interested. "It removes the guesswork and anxiety," she says. "When I put a party together, it's 20 people who are looking [for a relationship]."
Taking the next step
Both online and speed dating help people make that first connection, say co-therapists David Rubinstein and Louise Dorfman of Couple Enrichment in Thornhill, Ont. But the fact two people meet online because they like skiing doesn't necessarily mean they're soulmates. They're going to have to dig deeper to find out whether or not they've made a match.
When communicating with a potential partner, Dorfman recommends asking open-ended questions, such as why they like something, to discover their values in addition to their interests.
"The key is to know what your own values are and what you want from a relationship," says Rubinstein. "Then you can see if there's another human being out there who shares that with you."