Are you tired of your online dates never matching up to your high expectations? Maybe it’s time for a new outlook — and a new website.
Instead of aiming high, aim low. That’s the philosophy of settleforlove.com, a dating site that wants to take the disappointment out of online dating and replace it with realism and humor.
Instead of listing the qualities sought in an ideal mate, members describe the minimum standards they’d be willing to accept. Its theme is “embrace imperfection.” One woman asked for “anyone with a pulse and a car.”
The site is the brainchild of David Wheeler of Waukesha, Wis., and friend Jacob Thompson of St. Charles, Ill. They launched it last year. Thompson, who has been married for nine years, is a software engineer and a “code genius.” Wheeler, 30, is both a founder and a man looking for a relationship.
The site has 150 members throughout the United States and Canada. Wheeler and Thompson want to beef up the site with more development and better servers, but the going has been tough. Keeping with the site’s model of lowered expectations, a Kickstarter campaign with a goal to raise $45,000 brought in $1,406.
Wheeler’s experiences in online dating helped frame the site.
“It started when I was online dating,” he said. “We were just laughing at some of this. We couldn’t believe people would lie and be so fake.”
He worried that his dates felt that he might also be hiding something. Traditional dating sites, he said, “were all about people selling themselves.”
The two men looked at five other dating sites for inspiration. They knew they wanted to create a place where people could be themselves but also laugh at themselves.
“We wanted a name that jumps out at people and emphasizes the goal of the site,” Wheeler said about settleforlove.com.
The levity begins with testimonials on the home page: “Finally, a site that encourages honesty,” said the founder. “This will never work,” said the founder’s mom.
Harold Takooshian, professor of psychology at Fordham University, would beg to differ.
“I was wondering when someone would start something like that,” said Takooshian. “Psychologists have always recognized that dating is extremely inefficient. Everyone is projecting the best side of themselves. It’s almost doomed to failure when people get together.”
In constructing a profile, female members are asked to fill out categories about preferences and include something about themselves. They’re also asked what they would settle for in a prospective date.
“I can handle a smoker, dislike someone that always makes excuses,” said one woman. “Can’t deal with a big drinker or someone that has to sit in a bar.”
Pros and cons
Men fill out a “pro” column and a “con” column (the concept is being phased into the female side). One man counted among his pros as being handsome, smart and having a “really nice dog.” “I sweat a lot” was listed under cons.
“We all have imperfections,” Wheeler said. “Some people’s negatives can be a positive for others.”
Sameer Gupta 26, a buyer for an Illinois warehouse distribution company, signed up after being frustrated by other dating sites. He believes that the format encourages everyone to be on the level.
“When you sign up for these things, you’re kind of looking for something,” he said. “Most people want instant gratification. This one felt as if things happened, it would be more of a connective nature. I felt like there would be more compatibility.”
Wheeler follows his own rules. His profile has a list of his pros, which include a “stable and good-paying job.” Under the con list, he includes a photo of his growing bald spot.
Takooshian is enthusiastic about the site.
“There have been a couple studies about how effective pros and cons are,” he said. “And a sense of humor? That’s so important.”
The online dating market continues to expand and as it does, it matures, he said. “It’s becoming more human.”
Even Wheeler’s mom has changed her opinion. “I didn’t think it would work,” Margie Wheeler said. “I just thought settling to me sounded negative.”
But after listening to her son talk about online dating experiences with people who aren’t honest, exaggerate themselves or hide things, she came around.
“It doesn’t go any further once you start finding out the real things about people,” she said. “He’s proven me wrong now. I think I’m going to have to eat my words.”