There’s more online dating apps (and fish in the sea!) to choose from than ever before. And women are more educated, financially independent and confident now. So why are there so many single 30- and 40-something people still looking for love?
Relationship psychologist Yvonne Allen has over 40 years’ experience as a professional matchmaker, successfully introducing thousands of singles-turned-couples. She knows what makes both Mars and Venus tick – and get ticked off – and how women’s (and men’s) values, needs, wants and expectations in a partner have changed over time. But more importantly, Yvonne’s dating insights make sense of how today’s social influences, dating styles and behavioural changes (that includes you, swipe left dating!), have contributed to a singles epidemic – and where singles are going wrong.
So if you’re a single 30 or 40-something looking for love, read on. Yvonne’s front-line experience and advice could be just what you need to re-frame your dating brain and game…
Tell us about your matchmaking business. How has dating changed over the past 40 years?
The ’70s social & dating climate: “When I first opened the doors to my consultancy in 1976, if you were a woman who was 30 and not married, you thought you were left on a shelf. It was a period where women had really started to succeed in areas that were once a man’s domain, and the question around how do you balance work and a personal life was really starting to become apparent.
The expectations that women had of a partner and a relationship then were less complex, and there were not that many women who were holding senior positions in business and industry. These days, that’s a very different scenario.”
1970s Matchmaking! What wo(men) want: “My approach right from the start was to want to assist our clients to become more aware of their real needs and expectations of a relationship and a partner. I also decided that we would not show photos, as a rule. Our clients had the opportunity to go on a journey towards the one, whether they met the person through us or in the world at large. That was very much due to the fact that my background was psychology, and I could see that the way we women were focussing on careers was quite likely to shift the emphasis on what really matters when it comes to a partner and a relationship.”
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A New Millenium! How women today are unique: “Today, very similar (matchmaking) principles apply, however the scenario is very different. When it comes to looking at the pressures on women in balancing very demanding careers and a personal life, it’s not uncommon for us to have a woman contact us in her later 40s, who is hoping to meet someone as soon as possible so she can also have a child.
It’s not uncommon to meet women who have had very little dating experience, whom are in their 30s and 40s. We have a situation where a lot of women from 20 are going into very short term relationships via the web, and not really getting a lot of experience in how to develop and maintain a good relationship with a man.
Part of the problem as I see it is that so many women as so focused on careers in a way that has been detrimental to having balance in our lives.”
A new approach to finding L.O.V.E: “The key to our success has been that right from the start, we chose to work with a niche: the business professional sector. So much change is happening in terms of expectations of life and relationships. We are very boutique these days, and much more akin than traditional matchmakers. I don’t exactly like the word matchmakers, as it indicates that so and so should be with so and so. The emphasis that I have placed is on the individual becoming far more aware of their real needs and expectations, and becoming increasingly confident about what matters to them as they meet people through us. It needs to be seen more as a human relations consultancy than a matchmaking consultancy, as the outcome ideally, whether they meet the person through us, or later in the world at large, they’ve done so because they’ve gotten to know themselves first.”
How is your matchmaking approach different to online apps?
“Our clients see a profile about each other, and that holds the information that probably is on most online profiling; that is, about interests, attitudes and the like. The differentiation is the set of questionnaires that they complete that we then discuss with them, that are not seen by the party that they meet.
These are really encouraging them to stop and look at themselves, their values, their expectations, what they have experienced versus what they have not in terms of their personal life and a relationship. We still work with the classic profiling from right at the beginning, but the issues have altered. These days it is not uncommon for a woman to have not had been in a relationship, whereas when we first opened it was common to have people who had been involved in several marriages.”
How is matching a single with limited dating experience different to someone with long-term relationship experience?
“There is no huge difference in the questions, but the approach, and our responses, vary. It depends on the individual that you have sitting with you, that the questions and answers read.
If you have someone with you who has never had a significant relationship, the process of looking at where they are looking to go, and what matters to them is very different to somebody that’s had a good relationship. If someone has only had upsetting experiences, then we need to look at why that has been so. The questionnaires remain the same; the consultant working with the client may however focus on a very different scenario depending on the needs of that individual.”
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What qualities make a well-matched couple?
“I must say, I don’t really like the word matched. I think, two people who are seeking to develop a relationship that could lead to something very significant, need to be prepared to take time getting to know each other.
Unfortunately in today’s world, so much emphasis is placed on chemistry, that when that settles, they then think ‘oh, I don’t love him/her’ anymore. I think it is about being known, and knowing each other, and that takes time. One of the main problems today is people are jumping into bed very quickly, and then they don’t hear further from the other. It’s very common, today on the web, for people who connect, not to have to opportunity needed to take time to get to know each other. Friendship seems to me, to be bottom line, given the issues and pressures of today’s world.
We also have a situation where today, both men and women have very busy hard working and demanding careers, that balance is short. Women need to consciously focus on having good friendships, with at least one or two other women, because it is very difficult for a man to be able to handle her needs when she is stressed at the end of the working day, because he is needed to actually recharge himself. And women are much more complicated creatures than males.”
What are red flags that couple’s aren’t suited to one another?
“We provide the opportunity for people to choose to meet after reading an extensive profile about each other. And the profiles are selected according to the criteria we have been given by the clients, which includes the things they have precluded. For example, if someone is not open to meeting someone of a different religion, or different race, such criteria as that is never transgressed. Depending on what level of work we are doing on behalf of a client, the criteria can be more extensive. What we are also wanting to do, is to encourage people to meet and gain through the process of getting to know each other. It’s so easy for people to be dismissive of someone on a first date.”
What advice do you have for singles?
“I really like encouraging the concept of friendship. For example, we had a couple who were in their 30s who met. There didn’t appear to be bells ringing, but they both liked opera. They decided that rather than going to one or two shows on their own each season, they chose to take a season pass, meet and have a meal, go to the opera and then have a supper and a glass of wine and discuss it. When it came to the end of the season, they realised how much they had grown to really care for each other, and how much they were missing each other, and they married 6 months later.
This is a phrase I often use: when we used to marry the boy next door, or the girl at the next desk, it wasn’t that we had the hots for them. It was that we had grown to love them, to know them and to care for them.
Today, often we get together at this high intensity of romance and sex, and then realise that there isn’t a foundation underneath it. It’s no wonder that we have so many millions of people who are on their own. When I opened the doors of my consultancy, it didn’t matter whether you were fat, thin, short, tall, intelligent or not, everybody assumed they would partner, and most did. That’s not the case today, and we have a problem where so many people are not going beyond the first few dates.
We have so many people who are just continually choosing to meet on the basis of photos on the web, and continually saying that these people are ‘not for them’, without even knowing who the person really is. I suspect our society, by and large, is the loneliest we’ve ever had.”
The one thing you wish singles today wouldn’t do?
“Don’t rush into getting into bed! Take time to get to know each other, so that when you do, it’s more than just a sexual experience. Hot sex is fine, but then when it settles into normalcy, so many people are thinking that they don’t love them anymore. If you really love and care for someone, the sexual experience is a totally different one; it’s not just about chemistry, it’s about caring and communication. I’m not saying don’t enjoy sex, but a lot of people don’t know how to enjoy sex as a means of connecting and communicating. Take it slowly, savour it.”
ABOUT: Matchmaking mastermind Yvonne Allen has over 40 years’ experience in the relationship and matchmaking industry.
Yvonne will be a part of the exhibition, Love Is… Australian Wedding Fashion Exhibition, which celebrates almost 200 years of Australian wedding fashion. Her consultancy, Yvonne Allen and Associates, is one of Australia’s oldest and most successful matchmaking businesses, and revolutionised the way couples met before the internet.
On display at the Love Is… exhibition will be excerpts from Yvonne’s archives, including her matchmaking questionnaire from 1976, Yvonne at the first international conference of introduction agencies in 1986, and one of her books from 1987, Successfully Single.
Love Is… Australian Wedding Fashion exhibition
When: 13 May 2017 – 22 April 2018
Where: Love is… Australian Wedding. Powerhouse Museum Sydney, 500 Harris Street Ultimo, NSW 2007
Cost: Free with museum entry