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A good match often comes from chemistry, compatibility and good communication, but it also comes when you’re prepared for it.

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(Design: Erin DeMoss / Photos: Mark Hancock)
  • Design: Erin DeMoss / Photos: Mark Hancock

It’s a Friday night, and unlike years past, singles no longer lament, “There’s nothing to do in Oklahoma City.”

New restaurants, bars and festivals pop up faster than you can say, “Hey, look! A new food truck!” and the metro now tops many positive charts, like best place to start a new company, buy a house and raise a family.

The data also tells us there are plenty of available, single residents around, too. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more singles are standoffish about marriage, even though Oklahoma is still one of the youngest states to head to the altar (24 for women and 26 for men).

No, this isn’t contradictory; many millennials hit their 30s before they settle down. Factor in the state’s not-so-great divorce rates (second highest in the country for women and third highest for men), and there are more available Okies for making friendship and love connections, regardless of age. Fifty-seven percent of OKC householders are unmarried, meaning 50,000 people are living without a significant other.

But how do they meet, where do they mingle and what are they looking for?

Nearly 1 in 5 single Americans have tried online dating and up to one-third of new marriages (since 2005) include partners who met online, according to Pew Research Center.

With Match.com celebrating its 20th anniversary and more than 1,500 dating sites now available, the options for digital Cupid arrows is higher than ever. Like most dating sites, Match won’t share its subscription numbers, but it does say that in Oklahoma City, 45 percent of its users are women and 55 percent are men. A study by GlobalWebIndex found that 62 percent of location-based dating app users are male. It said they treated dating apps like a game and increased their options by casting a wider net, while women tended to fish more selectively.

Amanda McKean and Lane Bennett (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Amanda McKean and Lane Bennett

Defining ‘social’

Earlier this year, Sheri Guyse, a local, 39-year-old life coach, used the Match.com web-based dating service for three months but declared it a “snoozefest” because it offered her a smaller dating pool than Tinder’s location-based “social discovery” app, which connects to your Facebook profile and locates singles nearby.

“Tinder is fast to navigate … and has created far more desirable connections than my experience with Match,” Guyse said.

Though she went on dozens of dates with online matches, right now, she’s happily dating off the grid.

“[Successful dating requires that you] show up to this life you’re living as the authentic you,” Guyse said. “If you put on an act or try to manipulate the experience, the person who would really enjoy the real you may not be able to find you.”

Match boasts that it has made more successful matches than any other service and has a reputation of drawing more commitment-oriented relationship hunters. Its monthly membership fees run between $20 and $41.

Oklahoma City relationship therapist Joshua Nichols of Family Solutions Counseling said it’s important to stay grounded when online.

“Just realize that an online presence does not adequately reflect someone’s character or personality,” Nichols said.

He recommended having at least a handful of app or online chats before considering a safe, in-person meetup.

Fees — and patience — were smart investments for OKC property manager Amanda McKean, 26, and mechanical engineer Lane Bennett, 29, who met on Match and are now engaged.

McKean believes the best place for women to meet guys is online because “we have an opportunity to see what kind of person is emailing us as opposed to them walking up to us in a bar.”

A good match often comes from chemistry, compatibility and good communication, but it also comes when you’re prepared for it. Nichols believes focusing on self-care and achieving goals greatly improves someone’s chances of finding love.

“When we are selecting someone to be in a relationship, we are usually looking for someone who simply knows how to ‘do life’ and they seem to ‘do it well,’” he said. “I believe the perception of ‘moving forward’ in life is a huge component in one’s attraction formula.”

It might sound counterintuitive, but Nichols also advised against hiding behind a computer screen.

“It is a lot easier to get rejected by someone online than in person because the screen takes certain interpersonal components out of the equation,” he said. “Seeking and finding a mate takes courage through vulnerability … To approach someone in person — to make eye contact, to make conversation and to eventually ask them out on a date — takes much, much more courage.”

An app isn’t and shouldn’t be the only tool in your dating arsenal.

“Put yourself out there in a way that truly reflects what it means to be ‘social,’” he said. “Dating sites have a way of making people into cowards if you’re not careful.”

Joshua Nichols (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Joshua Nichols

Get. Out.

Mitch McCuistian, a 28-year-old OKC attorney, hasn’t used an online dating service and prefers meeting women the old-fashioned way: in real life.

His favorite local date spot is Ranch Steakhouse due to its overall vibe and great food.

He met his last girlfriend at H&8th Night Market, the monthly, downtown street festival on Hudson Avenue. His advice for single men is to be confident and start a conversation.

Indeed, the city itself can be a single’s best sidekick, providing a low-pressure environment for meetups and fun.

Oklahoma City Thunder games, watch and tailgate parties, concerts and festivals also were mentioned as ideal spots to meet new friends and find a potential love match.

Singles of all ages pack dimly lit, swanky O Bar atop the historic Ambassador Hotel, swarm the scenic rooftop of Packard’s New American Kitchen after sunset or sip an eponymous cocktail at the intimate Sidecar Barley & Wine Bar. Located in the Uptown 23rd district, The Pump Bar’s large patio is another popular new hangout for casual drinks. VZD’s Restaurant & Bar, located in the Western Avenue district, recently reopened and offers an after-hours stop in an area that includes The Barrel and Flip’s Wine Bar & Trattoria.

While attorney Carrie Palmer met her last two long-term boyfriends at bars, she said women go out together primarily to connect with each other, not to meet the opposite sex. Being in a “girls night out” group might make a woman appear less approachable.

With her busy schedule, she found it too difficult to keep up with messages she received on dating sites and felt that there were better ways for professionals to meet.

Many female professionals are prejudged as tough, controlling and unattainable, but Palmer hasn’t found any truth in the stereotype.

“Maybe I’m really lucky, but all my professional women friends are fun-loving, sensitive, low-drama, team-player types,” she said. “[They] just want an honest, caring man who’s not out to take advantage of them, who can have fun and share great chemistry.”

Palmer recently created Aerie Connections, a networking group that introduces connectors to one another, including personal and professional relationships, to further broaden its scope of potential matches. With the credo “Those who ask not, have not,” it relies on its members to share contacts.

This fall, she hopes to launch an app and website to complement Aerie Connections meetups.

Creating a framework around friends’ or colleagues’ connections could be perfect bait for local singles.

The singles interviewed by Oklahoma Gazette said they’d like to request personal connections from friends, but many never have and wondered why, which means they’re left to their own devices, and that often means using a device.

That app strategy worked for Jon, a 35-year-old local artist now in a committed relationship after a woman found him on Match and made the first move. (Yes, women, you can do that.)

“Everyone is different, and different methods will work for different people,” said Jon, who requested that his full name not be used in this story.

But some things never change, like his advice to other singles: “You get out of it what you put into it. Don’t be a dirtbag.”

Carrie Palmer (Mark Hancock)
  • Mark Hancock
  • Carrie Palmer

App science

When you absolutely, positively, can’t make it to your local bar or book club to meet and get to know potential mates face-to-face, there are dating apps for almost every want or need.

Noobs

For those just wading into the digital dating scene, be careful. No place is 100 percent safe or free from trolling jerkbags. That said, these popular sites are easy to navigate and include features like “block” in addition to flirting, photo sharing and chat options.

Trait-based dating

Match.com

The tried-and-true dating app for grown-ups offers new matches daily and is friendly to everyone, from LGBTQ singles to straight daters.

Passing curiosity and/or beginner

OkCupid

A less formal version of Match.com and a more in-depth version of Tinder. Plus, if you accidentally swipe left, you can change your mind. (The Match Group owns Match.com, OkCupid, Tinder and others.) Bored, new, lazy and/or impatient

Tinder

Tinder is exceedingly popular for all four of those reasons, but it also features an easy-to-use and straightforward interface that allows you to achieve the maximum amount of instant gratification (and regret) possible.

Plenty of Fish

If user reviews mean anything at all, you’ll be slow-trolling for months before anyone bites. But it’s an interesting app for people-gazing. Maybe you’ll discover why you enjoy being single while you’re there.

Novelty

Read as: “I don’t want to date my friends, but their friends are totally cute.” Not open for a date with just anyone

Coffee Meets Bagel

This app, like many others, requires you to log in through Facebook so it can mine your interests and friends list to pair you with friends of friends, reducing your matches with weirdos — unless your friends are weirdos. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Dog bonding

Tindog

It doesn’t promise to get you laid, but it’ll connect your pets with other pets and you with their humans. You can also set preferences to show dog matches, owner matches, men, women and/or couples, as well as preferred age range and location radius.

For the YouTube/Periscope/’80s video-dating throwback crowd

At First Sight

This video chat app lets you send two-minute clips to potential matches and make video and free voice calls. You can even “yo” your new connections and friends. (Is a “yo” less creepy than a Facebook “poke”? You be the judge!)

Big-Hearted Dreamers

Some folks require more attention than others. In other words, these apps help you satisfy that need to know that people like you, they really like you … and they might be watching you wherever you go.

The human touch (but not in a weird way)

Once

The simple app is highly rated for its ease of use, and all matches (one per day) are supposedly hand-picked by real, live humans.

The human touch (in an “I missed it” way)

Happn

For die-hard fans of Craigslist’s “missed connections,” find that Spokies rider you were too nervous to say hello to or learn if your neighbor harbors a secret crush. And women, you get unlimited, free “charm” use. (Sorry, guys; you have to pay for your charm.)

Stalker fodder

Hatch

If you need something to obsessively humiliate and/or control, try a virtual pet. We recommend Hatch. Upside/downside: It’ll do pretty much anything you want except put the lotion on its skin, and if you give it the hose again, well, you’ll ruin your phone.

Specialty

Some people want more from dating apps than “liking” “winking” and swiping left or right. If “some people” means you, you’re not alone.

Adventurous and unconventional meet-ups

3ndr

For the open-minded, kinky and curious, this “threesome” app is everything-friendly, with added privacy controls that allow you to hide yourself from social networks like Facebook.

Gay men

Grindr

Gay, bi and curious men can search by “tribe” (twink, jock, bear, etc.) to meet, flirt, trade photos, chat, hook up and date.

DTF

Down

Formerly called Bang With Friends, this straightforward app lets you choose “get down” when you’re in the mood for no-strings shenanigans, or “get date” if you’re looking for a bit more.

Cheaters

Ashley Madison

Nope. Just … don’t.

Douse

If you’re looking for FWB or just curiously seeking a bit of strange from other app users near you.

Self-Improvement

Self-improvement is always important. So is getting the low-down about some dude you’re thinking about having dinner/date/sex with … from complete strangers. Well, that’s important to some of us. To those, we recommend:

Anonymous public opinion

LuLu

Women can rate dates and men can get “intelligence” feedback on everything from your sense of humor to your agility in the sack.

Passive change

I Can Be Great in Bed

We want to make fun of this, but if it helps you get laid, it can’t be all bad, right? This “mind training” app offers pre-recorded hypnosis sessions to help you refocus. And we think this app’s name really needs an exclamation point at the end of it to make it more, you know, emphatic.

— By Jennifer Chancellor


By the numbers

1 in 5 Americans have tried online dating

33 percent of marriages include partners who met online

There are more than 1,500 dating apps and online services

55 percent of Oklahoma’s Match.com users are men

57 percent of OKC householders are “unmarried”

62 percent of location-based dating app and online service users are men

Sources: Pew Research, Census data, Match.com, GlobalWebIndex

— By Jennifer Chancellor


Print Headline: (Un)complicated, Apps and web services might get your profile and selfie swiped, but the best way to nurture a potential relationship is with real face time.

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