OK, so that’s not exactly how romance bloomed in the case of Judi Taylor and Rick Anderson — but it’s pretty close. The Minnesota couple met last year through an online dating service at a point when Taylor had just lost her dream job and Anderson’s business was under pressure. Taylor still recalls how downhearted she felt at the time.
“I had to give up my house because I couldn’t afford it and go into an apartment, and I was feeling pretty low about it,” said Taylor, 51. “I was sitting in an apartment collecting unemployment, and my life was looking pretty bleak.”
Despite the financial strains she was experiencing, she — like thousands of other single adults in these dark economic times — decided to fork out about $60 a month for a dating-service membership. Within a month, she met Anderson. Within 15 months, they were married and working together at Anderson’s financial consulting business.
“I literally met the love of my life,” she said. “We make a really good team. ... I wish everybody could be as happy as I am.”
Anderson, 54, is similarly grateful that he met Taylor when he did.
“I really missed someone being around, especially when the economy was working you over emotionally, which it really was at the end of the day,” he said. “It was nice to come home and have someone to discuss how the world was going around.”
‘Taking stock of what’s important’
Make no mistake about it: The recession deserves plenty of credit for spurring more first dates.
Some singles are now hunting for dates with the same fervor others are showing hunting for jobs. On matchmaking Web site eHarmony.com — the site Taylor and Anderson used — membership is up 20 percent despite monthly fees of up to $60, and activity has soared 50 percent since September at OkCupid.com.
Similar membership spikes have been reported by Match.com, Perfectmatch.com, ItsJustLunch.com and other online dating services, as well as at more traditional brick-and-mortar matchmaking services. This is the case even though some memberships are anything but cheap; the average cost per person to use a matchmaking service is $5,000.
PJ Osgood, a director at It’s Just Lunch, said an annual It’s Just Lunch membership costs $1,800, but that her clients tend to view that expense as an investment. That’s because the service connects busy, time-crunched professionals with other busy, time-crunched professionals who are seeking the same thing: a real relationship.
“Right now more than ever, people are taking stock of what’s important in their life,” Osgood said. “And when you think about it, finding someone and finding a relationship you’re going to spend your life with — this is the most important thing you can have.”
Kailen Rosenberg, president and founder of the matchmaking service Global Love Mergers in Minneapolis, agreed that people’s priorities tend to shift when times are tough.
“They were so focused on their jobs and their careers and on the hum and the buzz of everything going on around them ... that they were really losing focus and track of the most important things — of family and of love,” Rosenberg said. “And now with the recession ... they’re looking at what’s a little more deep and a little more real.”
A comparatively ‘inexpensive distraction’?
Theories abound about why we lightly turn to thoughts of love when the chips are down.
“Misery loves company, especially if the prospect of romance and/or sex looms large,” said Craig Kinsley, a neurologist at the University of Richmond. “Really, dating, rather than being considered as expensive, can be a thrilling and inexpensive distraction. Like getting drunk without the wallet-hit or hangover.”
Still, Sam Yagan, the founder and chief executive officer at OkCupid.com, sees the changing dating climate as a matter of dollars and cents.
The way he figures it, a man can spend $100 buying drinks at a bar trying to pick up a stranger and leave with little more than a cold shoulder. But, when he’s in a relationship, a Saturday evening can be as simple as Thai noodle takeout, Netflix and some fun under the covers. All in all, Yagan said, that’s “more bang for your buck.”
It’s more than just the recession. Experts say changes in behavior can relate to other world events — with upticks when news is bad.
Last fall, comparing periods when the stock market fell more than 100 points and when it rose by the same amount, eHarmony found more members searched for matches when the financial news was grim. Activity also grew in the days after a tragedy like the Virginia Tech shooting, while it stayed the same during “good” global events, like the Olympics.
Unlike those one-day or weeklong events, the recession already has spanned more than 18 months, and its effects are expected to last just as long — and that likely will mean more discernible changes in human behavior.
“It ends up being a reminder that you need to look for the important things in life,” said Gian Gonzaga, eHarmony’s senior research scientist. “It isn’t that surprising when you see people gravitating toward the most fundamental human relations.”
This story contains information from The Associated Press.
falsefalseClick for related content
falsefalseClick for related content