Sure, dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid are all the rage. Yet here’s a romance reality check: Most relationships still begin offline.
According to a 2017 survey by wedding planning resource The Knot, just 1 in 6 brides — a mere 17 percent — said they met their mate through a dating site or app.
But don’t log off that dating site just yet. For a greater chance of success, those looking for love should combine digital and in-person strategies, relationship coaches say.
“I believe in casting a wide net online and offline,” dating expert Julie Spira says.
Here’s a look at ways to meet a potential match in real life.
Ignore your digital devices
Sitting solo at a restaurant or bar? Resist the urge to continually scroll through your smartphone, advises Bela Gandhi, founder of the Smart Dating Academy coaching service.
“Look up,” she says. “Smile at people. Look them in the eye.” Be approachable and open to conversations with strangers. And while you’re at it, “say something nice to them that you mean,” she says.
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Home in on what you want
Think about the type of person you’d like to meet, then do some “reverse engineering” to devise where that person would spend time and who might know a person like that, says dating coach and Dates & Mates podcast host Damona Hoffman.
Would he or she frequent a gym, potentially be part of a running club or likely show up at a church social? Use those insights to decide where to go when making plans.
That clarity will also help you to better describe to others what you are looking for. “Do you know any single men who are Christian, family-oriented and smart?” is more specific and helpful than saying, “Do you know any men who are single?” Hoffman says. She also has her clients create an elevator pitch describing an ideal match focused on “values, goals, personality — more so than interests and physical type.”
Get out of your comfort zone
Switch up your routine and go to new events. “It’s saying yes to something you otherwise wouldn’t say yes to — maybe going to speed dating or a singles mixer,” Hoffman says.
Need ideas? Facebook Events and EventBright.com have options. Check out ProfessionalsInTheCity.com for speed dating gatherings, says Maria Leonard Olsen, author of 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life.
While speed dating may sound scary to some, the minute or two of chatting — even flirting — is “great practice if you feel your skills are a bit rusty,” says Trish McDermott, a member of the Match.com team in its early days who now works with the dating portal Meetopolis.net.
This site, which allows people to find others with shared interests, is “a great way to get out and about with a group of potential dating partners,” McDermott says. “You might hike, bike, visit an art gallery or meet for a meal, game night or a movie.”
Meet-ups are a low-pressure way to meet others, since the gatherings aren’t specifically for dating, says relationship coach Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won't Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany). Some meet-ups are age-based, he says, so you can select a demographic that appeals to you.
And you always have the option of planning your own Meetup gathering. “If there isn't a meet-up for singles age 50 and up in your community, organize one,” McDermott says.
Consider singles trips
“For the more adventurous types, there is SinglesCruise.com, where you can go on a Caribbean cruise with a ship full of single people,” Darné says. He also suggests checking out TripSavvy.com’s section of senior-oriented singles tours and cruises.
Get professional help
Even in this age of swiping left and right on your smartphone, matchmakers abound. And singles don’t always have to pay in order to benefit from their services. Some let you into their pool of potential dates for free. For instance, anyone can join the Three Day Rule’s private database. The company uses a proprietary algorithm to search that database for matches for its premium members, then meets with candidates face-to-face before setting up a date. Paying premium members get lots of extra care, but it comes at a cost. Fees start at $5,000 for a three-month package, which includes one-on-one sessions with a personal matchmaker, vetted matches, post-date feedback and dating coaching.