While many businesses are hurting, collapsing and folding, online dating is booming. Online dating is the third largest producer of revenue out of all paid content sites, generating $957 million in 2008, a figure expected to grow 10 percent by 2013.
Dating site Match.com now has more than 20 million members, with 60,000 new members daily. The company charges members $35 per month and had a total revenue of $366 million in 2008, a 5 percent increase from 2007.
So why is online dating booming during tough economic times? Is it not a paradox that at a time when it is hard to afford fancy dinners and gifts, more people are seeking out dates and partners?
Are people just seeking out social support and companionship? Is online dating a way to overcome anxiety and grief? Have people’s priorities changed? Do more people seek out a partner when times are tough? And how has the recession positively benefitted men in the dating world?
Jessica Belasco, Reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle interviews Celebrity Life Coach, Behavior & Relationship Expert and Clinical Hypnotherapist, Patrick Wanis PhD for his insights:
Jessica: What do you see as the main reasons behind the boom in online dating? How and why are people’s views on relationships changing with the economic climate?
Patrick: Every relationship really begins with you. That means most of our problems relate to our relationships, not only our relationship to the world, our relationship to our self, our relationship to other people. In that sense, we’re always in a relationship with something and someone, our boss, our workers, our team members, mother, father, brother, sister. We’re always in a relationship even if we say, “I’m not dating someone therefore I’m not in a romantic relationship,” but we’re always in a relationship with someone, our best friend, an ex-friend and people that we wish we didn’t have to deal with at all.
There are many reasons that the dating websites and dating online are doing really well right now. The primary reason is that when the recession hits, a number of things happen. One, people stop spending money. You know, they’re not going out as much. They’re not spending as much on restaurants. They’re not going out to as many clubs. They’re not traveling as often. They’re staying closer to home. So that automatically changes their habits very quickly – their daily habits. So that means there’s going to be less opportunity to meet people.
Jessica: That makes a lot of sense.
Patrick: So there’s less opportunity to meet people because they’re not going out as much. It also gives confidence to men to date women in a recession more than when times are booming and I know that sounds not only paradoxical but slightly strange because right now, it’s okay for a guy to say, “Well, I lost a lot of my money in the market,” or, “My business went down.” Now, it’s okay to say that. Before, you couldn’t say, “Oh, I don’t have a lot of money.” Now, you can say I don’t have a lot of money and that seems to be okay because that’s everyone’s story.
So I guess what I’m really saying is it’s becoming more socially acceptable to say, “I don’t have a lot of money. I’m not that rich. I had it once. I don’t have it now.” So what that is doing is removing a lot of the pressure from guys to be a truly powerful financial provider. That doesn’t mean women are not looking for security. It means that our expectations have changed and altered. Almost everyone we meet has lost something. They’ve lost their car. They’ve lost their house. They’ve lost their job. They’ve lost the higher income they had before. We’ve all been affected by it one way or another. Our business is down. Maybe we’ve actually physically lost property; there has been a short sale or foreclosure. What that also tends to do is to unify all of us because we’re all in the same boat. We all have the same challenges right now.
Patrick: Now, the next point: People are not going out as much and they are not eating out as much. With regards to your audience and readership, more people eat out in Houston than almost any other city in the country – a per capita basis.
Jessica: Good point.
Patrick: So people are not eating out as much and they’re not meeting as people as often. But when we get challenged emotionally, meaning that things are going tough, we tend to turn to friends for support. So it’s most likely true that more women are turning to online dating and even some of the social media websites in search of new friends and new dating because they’re looking for support and encouragement, distraction and entertainment and of course, for a relationship.
You know, when times are hard, people tend to bond more often. So that’s another aspect. And I think also that it’s a lot easier for people to start dating now online when a lot of the pressures are being removed – the financial pressures. And the obvious question is, well, how are people finding money when money is tight? And it simply becomes a case of priorities. We all realize – how much we are you going to spend if we go out one night versus how much we will spend for a monthly fee of dating online?
So, it’s easier to put aside, you know, $20, $30 a month to be part of a dating website and then be more selective about who you’re going to meet than just going to a bar and having to spend money and not even know if you’re going to meet anyone. And really that’s a plus and a benefit of dating sites in general and at any time of the year.
Jessica: Doesn’t that apply all year round?
Patrick: Well, here, you can be more selective. If you choose not to go out this week, you don’t have to go out this week. If you’re feeling down and not feeling really good about yourself, you can take a break and you can also hide to a certain extent behind the computer until you’re ready to go out. You can take your time getting to know the person. I think it’s also a case of people finding more security and stability by approaching someone online than in person. That applies to males and females in a time of recession.
Patrick: I think it gives you a psychological sense of security because you can take your time to reveal yourself because no one truly reveals all of themselves either in their profile or the first few exchanges of contact, even a phone call. It’s not until, you know, a number of exchanges or a number of actual physical dates but I think people are finding more emotional – mental and emotional security through online dating because they can connect but there’s less pressure.
Patrick: When economic times are tough, we reach out for greater support regardless of whether we’re male or female. Most guys will turn to their mates, to their friends. Women always turn to their friends but I think that also true that our priorities are changing, so here’s another key. In a time of recession and a time where so many people have lost so much, we are automatically forced to question our priorities and values. “How important was that really – was that extra big car? Or how important were all those possessions or that house? What’s really important to me now? I can’t go out and buy more and more TVs and gadgets and accessories. So what’s really important to me now?” And in response, people usually turn to relationships because their priorities and values change.
For example, even with some of my clients, and some of the high-end clients, because everyone has been affected, they tend to spend more time with their family because they’re not able to go out as much so they’re spending more time at home as a family by doing more family-based activities than before. So I guess what I’m really saying is that that your priorities are changing but it’s forcing you to have a greater desire for a connection with people. And it’s an economical way of doing it or an inexpensive way of doing it.
And I really think from a male ego point of view, it just takes a lot of pressure off the guys there that they don’t have to prove themselves as much economically and financially as they did before.
Jessica: Men could respond differently, though, some gaining confidence, but wouldn’t most men’s esteem be shattered if they have had great losses?
Patrick: There’s a fine balance here. There’s almost a tipping point between, “Do I want to go to the left and hide or do I want to go to the right and meet and connect with people?” And that tipping point is purely about how much you’ve lost. If you’ve really lost your job and you’ve lost a lot and you feel really poorly about yourself, and you feel ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, guilty, yes, you’re going to truly hide. However, if you’ve lost enough – if you’ve lost a certain amount that says, “well, I’m like everyone else and I’ve lost something”, but you still feel relatively okay about yourself than you’re probably more inclined to go out and date.
Patrick: Now, not everyone might agree with me on that but I find that to be true. I also think it’s great to address the point of, is it sexist that men be expected to be financially successful? That’s the way our society is.
Patrick: I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying that’s the way it is and regardless of how we’ve tried to come forward and say men and women should be equal and we’ve tried to say that women have equal rights in the job place and they can be just as successful as men in a career, we still have a situation that men are expected to financially provide.
Patrick: Yes, and the fact that the playing field is being leveled and the fact that we have all lost something gives us the opportunity to bond. It also removes that pressure, that expectation of, “I’ve got to be richer, I’ve got to have more, I’ve got to be more successful.” We’re all almost back at the beginning.
Jessica: Are you speculating here or are you basing it on work with clients?
Patrick: It’s a combination of both.
Patrick: I mean, obviously, whatever I’m saying, I’m basing it on what to me would appear to be based on my expertise and experience, common sense and the right approach. But yes, I have spoken with clients about that and this relates to even clients who have had a lot of success and a lot of money. You know, I have a client who has a building that was three or four years ago valued at $15 million. Well now, it’s worth about four and his comment to me is, “I was planning to, you know, sell and leave in a couple of years. Okay, now, instead of having the Ferrari, retiring with a Ferrari, I’ll retire with a Toyota.” So he’s simply saying, okay, I understand. This is how it is and it changes the way that he approaches things. He’s also recently divorced so it just changes things for him.
Another client of mine was in a job that was paying $200,000 a year, and he was in that job for 15 years, and he lost that job. Even though he was performing really well, it was a simply a case of, “we need to cut back” and so now his priorities have changed again. Does that answer your question?
Patrick: Now, I do also have the other clients who are struggling with, “Well, I always have been successful. I’ve never known anything other than success and I now don’t know how to handle this.” And those sorts of clients are the ones who have the greater challenge; they have attached all of their self-worth and their identity to their money, success and material possessions. For them, it’s extremely painful and those are the types of people who will go hiding. Those are the kind of people who may easily turn to addictions or become addicted because they’re trying to escape their own pain.
The people that survive this and end up coming out on top are the ones who view it completely differently and allow themselves to question, “Who am I?” What makes me who am I? What makes me unique? What are my talents? What are my gifts? What is my identity? What is my self-value? What is my sense of self-worth? To what is it attached? And how can I rebuild myself? And what did I do in the past that I would like to do differently now?” And I can tell you, some people have actually almost been relieved to be free of the bonds and chains that their career, job and financial stresses placed on them.
In terms of some of the stresses that have been removed, you know, they’ve been struggling for a year to make payments on a house and to make ends meet and then suddenly the house gets taken away and they’re forced to live with a family member. There’s a different kind of stress now. The stress is gone of having to make those payments that they couldn’t meet and gone is the powerful fear and anxiety that the inevitable would happen – that they would lose their house. It is easier for them now because it’s gone. Not the house is gone, the stress is gone. The fear is gone. Now, they’re actually in it. Often, what creates greater pain for us is the anticipation of the bad event rather than the actual event itself.
You know, it’s like, oh I don’t want to take that medicine. Oh, and it’s going to taste horrible. And then you take it and it’s done. It’s gone.
Jessica: Yes, I can relate to that, particularly by the way of procrastination.
Patrick: Right. And it doesn’t just relate to procrastination. It relates to every year of our life we’re afraid of something and we build up a bigger, darker, scarier picture of what we’re facing. And that happens to a lot of people. I have one client. It’s a family who went through that and for them, they say – even though they lost their house and they can’t – they don’t have the same lifestyle, they’ve become closer as a family because it gave them the opportunity to connect and bond and to spend more time together.
And when they can’t turn to all these external distractions of the toys and the gadgets and the outings, then they sit down and they start talking again. And they start sharing with each other. And if the father and the mother, whoever are the leaders of the family are mature enough, they’ll know how to speak to their children and help them through this and help them to still feel okay about themselves. And you know, at the end of the day, if you cast your mind far back enough to almost eight years ago, September the 11th, 2001, that was more than just a wake-up call. It was us questioning once again, for at least one moment, “What is really important to us?”
And I know for myself and many other people around me that on that day, none of us were thinking about our jobs, our money, our career. All we were thinking about is my best friend, my family – are my best friends and my family safe? And then we suddenly view life differently. So, this is a long way of saying that we always have the opportunity within every challenge to learn something from it, to come out stronger – in the sense of external things being less able to affect us negatively or throw us down. And the strength that comes from even something such as the recession is our response to reevaluate and ask, “What’s important to me?”
You know, there are the cases of the billionaires, I mean, the billionaires, who took their life because they lost half of their life savings or the empire that they built. And the problem with that was that they felt like a failure, a loser. They didn’t feel that they could rebuild this and for them, the situation became hopeless and helpless. Not only did they give up, they took their own life. So in every situation, we have the choice of how we’re going to respond.
Now, this is a slightly different story, than what you called me for but …
Jessica: That’s great.
Patrick: You’re welcome. I think we also need to remember that when people are faced with really tough challenges, they do tend to look to areas or look to people to support them and women obviously are the first to do this above men. You know, women always turn to their friends to tend and befriend. I think men are becoming a little more open in the sense of, “Hey, I’m suffering. Hey, I’m in pain.” Now, that may not directly translate into online dating but it translates into them reaching out to connect with people more than they may have in the past.
And remember too, dating can also be entertaining. It’s also a form of entertainment. And you can now go on dates, on cheaper dates. And so again, if you’re meeting someone online, there’s less expectation of the expensive dinner date. And I think that goes back to the point that the playing field is being leveled amongst men. So there’s less pressure for the men that maybe weren’t that rich and successful. There’s less pressure on them because here and the people – even in Miami – you know some of the people I know and some clients who were truly successful aren’t as high as they – aren’t as tall as they used to be.
Patrick: I also think there’s opportunity for greater romance and a more sincere connection between people because I think we’re moving past the greed, the overindulgence, the excess and the narcissism. I’m not saying we’ve completely conquered narcissism. We’re a long way from there but I think what happens is that when we see that – when we see the example of so many corrupt people, people who committed fraud, people that were engaging in greed, that again we now realize that’s not the answer to our happiness. And thus we look for something more authentic, something that has greater meaning, something that is more fulfilling. I would be curious to even know if more people are turning to spirituality.
Jessica: I bet. I bet they are.
Patrick: And it’s not just because they’re looking for hope or they’re looking for emotional support. I think it’s because we look for greater meaning; greater meaning than just all the greed and the vanity and the instant gratification; the possessions and things. I also feel that the face of television is going to change a little and I think a lot of these narcissistic, you know, overindulgent, materialistic reality shows will change. I think that will occur because I think the average person can’t relate to them.
Patrick: Before, you could relate to them because you’re aspiring to have that and you said, “Oh, I can get it. I can get it because I can get it really quickly because everyone else is…buy property, invest, etc”. And now, you realize, all that doesn’t work. Oh, imagine, we might actually have to revert to hard work. So I think that especially people who have suffered and have lost don’t want to look at the TV and see all these people that are so overly indulgent, spoiled brats, because I don’t think they relate to them. So I think you’re going to see a shift in the face or the landscape of television and I think that you might even see more programming that’s geared towards a positive message. Let’s hope so.
Anointed “The Woman Expert” by WGN Chicago, Patrick Wanis PhD is a renowned Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert who developed SRTT therapy (Subconscious Rapid Transformation Technique) and is teaching it to other practitioners. Wanis’ clientele ranges from celebrities and CEOs to housewives and teenagers. CNN, BBC, FOX News, MSNBC & major news outlets worldwide consult Wanis for his expert insights and analysis on sexuality, human behavior and women’s issues. Wanis is the first person ever to do hypnotherapy on national TV – on the Montel Williams show.