Attitudes about courting changing in dour economy

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BY THE NUMBERS

According to a Match.com 2011 survey of 5,000 singles on its site:

29 percent of singles reported that they were very stressed by the economy and money concerns, and 84 percent described themselves as at least slightly stressed.

37 percent of men and 19 percent of women said they believe that it is always the man’s responsibility to pick up the check on the first date.

50 percent of singles would be open to dating someone who is jobless if the person is interesting.

46 percent of women say it doesn’t matter how much their potential partner spends on a date.

58 percent of women said they don’t want an expensive date.

46 percent of women said they are fine with their date using a coupon.

65 percent of women spend more than $50 preparing for a date.

Maybe a few years ago, when the economy was better and jobs were more plentiful, a single on her first date might be treated to a bouquet of flowers and a fancy dinner at the most chic eatery in town.

Now, with the nation’s employment picture far from sexy — 14.1 million workers were unemployed nationwide in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — relationship experts say men and women are adjusting their ideas on what makes a great date. Online dating is still going strong, but expectations are changing.

Some men and women are relaxing their standards on a potential mate’s job status. Joel Koosed, director of the San Francisco Bay area-based The Meeting Game Salon, which hosts evenings of conversation and icebreakers for single men and women, said many have moderated their requirements for potential mates to be employed or have six-figure salaries.

“So many people are out of work and underemployed, and having financial problems,” he said. “For many people, I think (unemployment) would no longer be a deal breaker.”

It’s not for Lauren Jackson of Alameda, Calif., who said she likely would have not considered dating someone who is unemployed when the economy was better, but now, the 22-year-old beauty-school student said she has relaxed her standards a bit.

“I’d date someone who doesn’t have a job,” Jackson said. “The economy has changed my feelings about that.”

That’s also true for Gina Favro, 28, of Walnut Creek, Calif. She said she has been on dates with men who are looking for work and has occasionally paid for the entire outing herself.

“I’ll date someone if he just got let go from a company and is looking, but if he got laid off two years ago and is living in his parent’s basement, probably not,” she said.

Koosed, who also is single, said it’s not so much the money or the job that is important to him.

“What I am looking for in a first date, and what most women are looking for, is generosity of spirit,” he said.

April Braswell, a dating specialist, relationship coach and contributing author to the third edition of “Dating For Dummies” said that although singles are generally looking for financial stability, they will be more forgiving of someone who has just lost a job — as long as the person shows motivation to get a new one.

“They want to see and they want to hear about things you are doing and how you are taking action to get a job,” Braswell said.

Even though the first date generally is a get-to-know-you adventure, you should talk about the networking you’re doing, the people you’re connecting with or the résumés you are sending by the second date.

“Just mention your job search … without complaining how hard the job hunt is in this economy,” she said. “Talk about your search just the same way you would lightly converse in a positive manner about your workday.”

And as to how to answer that inevitable predate question about what you do for a living?

“In this case, they’re trying to make conversation,” Braswell said. “Keep it focused on your career, rather than your job. Practice what you’ll say a little bit, but think of it in terms of carrying on a conversation and storytelling.”

But before you go on a date, you have to find one. And singles are looking to save money before they step out the door.

When the economy crashed in 2008, the online dating site Match.com had its best quarter, Match.com relationship specialist Whitney Casey said.

“To have your best quarter in the worst economic times, I think, is an astounding realization,” Casey said. “Sometimes, the first things to go are gym memberships because people have lost their jobs, but it seems the last thing to go from their budget is love.

“I think they look at online dating sites as somewhere they can actually save money. You can eliminate useless dates. You can really lower the amount of bad dates.”

While smaller paychecks might mean skipping dinner at expensive restaurants when couples do go out, expectations about who pays and how also are changing.

“A year ago or two years ago, it would have been a deal breaker for most women if the guy didn’t pick up the tab on the first date, whether it’s coffee or dinner,” Koosed said. “For some women it is still a deal breaker, but for most, it’s not. I think that’s changing slowly. If you’re talking a dinner date, it is more likely to expect people to split the bill.”

Match.com’s Casey said new couples also are more willing to accept a date paying with a coupon from a daily deal site than they were in years past. In fact, five years ago, Casey did a study of Match.com daters, many of whom said they would rather a date’s credit card be rejected than to have them offer to pay with a coupon.

Today, coupon promotions are accepted ways of finding new places to eat or play on the cheap, she said.

“It’s become really hip and cool,” she said. “Today, nobody wants to get taken, and paying full price for something is for fools.”