With the elimination of more than 5 million jobs since December 2007, coupled with the fact that the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the nation's unemployment rate has hit 8.5 percent, there's a good chance some of those without jobs are also without mates.
Dating is tough enough when you have a job — and a disposable income to spend on coffee, dinner and entertainment. Worries about unemployment, the economy, instability in the workplace and cold hard cash can create more tension and anxiety for singles, experts and studies say.
Despite the down economy and people everywhere stressing out about economic issues, dating is not dead.
In fact, the online dating site eHarmony, in conjunction with Opinion Research Corp., published a study several months ago saying that singles still wanted to be in a relationship. That study of more than 1,000 adults also noted that the economy was adding anxiety to their lives.
Other online dating sites, such as match.com, have even seen a growth in online dating subscribers. IAC, which owns match.com, reported a 5 percent increase in subscribers in its fourth-quarter 2008 report, which was released in February.
But surfing the Web — especially when you have an abundance of, ahem, free time — and exchanging a few e-mails are quite a bit different from actual dating and interacting.
Some dating experts and Web sites are eager to provide hokey and unrealistic advice to singles in a fledgling economy. Some of my favorite tidbits include one site that encourages singles to start a baby-sitting co-op or take a date to a free concert in a park — and don't be afraid to ask your date to split the check! Why not pick up your date on your bike to save a little gas?
With advice like that, there probably won't be a second date.
"It's harder for singles," acknowledged Bonnie Eaker Weil, a relationship expert and author of the new book Financial Infidelity. "People who are married have someone to fall back on. Singles feel very alone."
Unemployment will not put an end to your social life, but it won't make it any easier either.
"If men lose their job, their identity is threatened," she said. "Men feel they don't have enough money to take a woman out, and if they just go for a drink instead of dinner, 'she'll think I'm cheap.' It's a good way to find out if she's a 'barracuda.' "
Being open and honest, especially about financial issues, is important for a relationship — even early on, she said.
She noted that even singles who are dating should address the topic of money because it's such a crucial and potentially divisive part of relationships.
For the unemployed single, she recommends:
· Be up front.
· Have a dialogue about it.
· Be honest.
· Be light.
· Use different skills.
· Let the person know you are cutting back.
"You really are testing someone," she said. "Some people will stop. There are people who are less flexible, and there's a reason why they are still single. It's a way of weeding people out."
Many of the same techniques used in a job search can be used effectively by daters, said Louise Kursmark, an author of numerous career advice books and a principal of Best Impressions Career Services in Boston.
Although she hasn't been in the dating market for 30 years (she's married), Kursmark said that unemployed daters face an identity crisis that can be off-putting to a potential mate.
She has some tips, too:
· Practice what you plan to say about your employment situation, the same way you would for a job interview.
· Don't pump your date for job leads.
· Be honest and polished.
For daters, Kursmark recommended approaching certain topics the way you would prepare for a job interview.
"Be positive and relevant, and open the door to an interesting discussion and dialogue," she said. "If you come off like a desperate loser, you're going to turn people off."
Many daters fall into traps about talking too much about themselves, addressing inappropriate issues or not presenting the best image of themselves.
"A big issue on a date, when someone says, 'Tell me about yourself,' correlates into saying I'm such and such — a lawyer, accountant, social worker — because your profession identifies yourself and puts you in a certain social strata, whatever that means," she explained. "If you're out of work, you might be self-conscious."
Her other recommendations involved addressing job and unemployment issues, but then accentuating positive aspects of what you like about the profession, what you hope to accomplish once you're re-employed and talking about the good side of having a dose of free time.
Work the unemployment into the conversation and segue into other topics, she noted. "You want to show the most shining, positive, attractive part of your personality."
Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. Contact him at: www.Lrev.com.