Some may say Jennifer Conte broke an obvious rule on her first date with now-husband Michael: she brought up marriage.
“I laid it out there,” the 34 year old from Pickering, Ont. tells Global News of her date in 2009. “I said I wanted marriage, kids and a house in the suburbs so he knew where my head was at. I had no time to waste.”
Although both had a good sense of what they wanted in the long run, experts say online dating in 2017 has left people confused by the options. And more than ever, talking about marriage or settling down becomes a deal breaker.
“Online dating creates a feeling of choice and this idea that there is always something better coming along,” says Deanna Cobden, a dating coach based in Vancouver. “Sometimes this limits you.”
“Options are great, but what happens when there are too many options? It becomes hard to make up your mind about what you want,” she tells Global News. “And sometimes online, when people are faced with that dilemma, they choose to just have fun with no strings, over relationship-building which takes more work and commitment.”
While some may see marriage as a turn-off, there shouldn’t be any shame around it, adds Salick.
“Someone also seeking marriage should be attracted that you know what you want. It’s all in how the message is delivered and thus, portrayed.”
Looking for love
Conte began her hunt for love unofficially in the early 2000s, but says she started getting serious about settling down and finding a life partner in 2008.
She tried meeting people at bars, clubs, blind dates and speed dating, but was getting no results.
“One weekend I was hanging out with my mom, and two friends separately and all three had said, ‘why don’t you join eHarmony?’ I took it as a sign and signed up the Sunday night of the Labour Day long weekend in 2009.”
Michael ended up being the second person she talked to on the site, and by the third date, she knew he was “the one.”
“I couldn’t tell you how I knew. I just did. The very next day I went in to work and said to my co-worker, ‘I’m going to marry him.’ And I did. And now we have a house in the suburbs and a 2-year-old little boy.”
Sites, for the most part, don’t matter
And while you’ll probably find more individuals interested in marriage on paid dating sites like Match and eHarmony, don’t take free ones like Tinder and Bumble out of the equation.
Often deemed a hook-up site, Tinder in particular, has led to many love stories, and Cobden says having variety is always a good option.
Although Natasha Maini met her husband, Arash Mousavi, on Tinder in 2013, she says it was rare to find men who were looking for a future wife.
“It’s unfortunate because many guys out there use online dating just to have fun,” she says.
The 35-year-old of Burlington, Ont., says she wasn’t shy about wanting marriage either, something she talked to Mousavi about after a year into their relationship.
“I wanted to build a family and grow old with someone,” she says. “I know for many people marriage isn’t necessary for that to happen but I guess I’m old school like that.”
“He had a different perspective on life. Maybe that stemmed from being married previously as well as being a father. When I saw how amazing he was as a father… I knew he was right for me.”
READ MORE: How to actually pay for your wedding
Below, Cobden and Salick share their best tips on how to put your best foot forward when it comes to finding marriage material online.
#1 Make your profile stand out
A solid written dating profile can make or break how successful you are with finding a match, Salick says. Look at the photos you are using (are they blurry? Feature other people?) and be honest in what you are looking for.
Also, look at your options. If men or women are implying they want casual dating or just friends, don’t date these people.
#2 Try paid sites
Salick says for the most part, serious people end up on paid sites.
“I’m not saying that paid sites are better than free sites/apps because of course you can find marriage on those too. However, think about the mentality that goes into choosing to pay to meet your match.”
#3 Don’t make superficial lists
We all have our wants and needs, but Cobden says making a long list of superficial must-haves will keep you single forever. Height, income and looks shouldn’t be as important, but instead, focus on qualities like kindness and how loving they are.
#3 Try a niche site
“If you know marriage is what you want, go for the websites where more marriage-minded people might be on. This will help with limiting the pool of candidates you have to fish from,” Salick adds.
Cobden says you should also be active on at least three sites at the same time. For example, try Match, as well as apps like Bumble and Tinder.
#4 Have a clear idea of what you want
If you do end up going on a few dates with a potential partner, be clear from the start of how you want things to end.
“Be casual about it,” Cobden says. “By the third date tell them where you see your life going. You can say, “I’m in a great place, but I could see myself in the future settling down and having a family.'”
#5 Don’t be afraid to say the word ‘marriage’
Salick says there is nothing wrong implying marriage is your end goal on your profile.
“If you are seeking marriage as your end goal, I don’t think there’s any shame in putting that out there, I think it’s honest,” Salick says. If someone is turned off at that goal, that just tells you they aren’t on the same page as you and why would you want that anyway?”
#6 Social media can also be useful
Salick also recommends joining groups on Facebook or local meetups for single people or with people with the same interests.
“Facebook and Meetup have become such an active way to meet new people, and they’re free and the engagement is a lot higher and more open. Don’t limit yourself to dating sites only.”
You can also find like-minded people on sites like Twitter and Instagram, it all comes down to making a move and sending them a message.