Trust Me, These Are the Best Dating Apps for Women Over 40
After a lot of trail and error, here's my unfiltered take.
I resisted online dating until the very bitter end. I was never a very good dater to begin with, and the idea of someone judging me the way I judge a pair of shoes I'm debating online seemed chilling. "I'll just meet someone in real life!" I exclaimed idiotically, obliviously. But two years later, I was 40 and had exactly zero dates. So I signed up.
The first few months were horrendous. I tossed my phone to any willing colleague who thought online dating sounded "fun". "Great, so will you do it for me?" Then, I began to enjoy it. (Call it Stockholm Syndrome.) But I quickly learned that not all sites are created equally, especially when you're in your 40s. I don't want too get overwhelmed. I don't want to be catfished (too late!). I don't want to date guys who live with their mom. I'm accomplished, successful, and awesome. I don't want to faff around.
So, I consulted the experts ahead of time: a couple of 22-year-olds who are Yoda-wise in the ways and pitfalls of online dating.
"When it comes to dating apps, I think there's a pretty clear order of which are most to least serious in terms of getting into something serious: Hinge, being the most serious, then Bumble, then Tinder," 22-year-old Connor says.
And what about dating during a pandemic? "I think it sucks for everyone especially during Covid," says Jessica, who is also 22. "It's hard to balance chatting and being realistic about actually meeting up! I find that a lot of people either wanna message forever or meet right away, both of which are frustrating for different reasons. It also requires a lot of trust in others' honesty about getting covid tested and being safe with exposure, which has made me anxious, too."
So, armed with all that knowledge, much trial and error ensued. But from my numerous and genuine mistakes comes true firsthand knowledge. Here's my take on the best sites for the 40+ person. (Tinder is not included. On purpose.) Long story short? Unless you've got nerves of steel and the world's greatest b.s. monitor, you get what you pay for.
When I first got into online dating, this is the site every friend assured me was the best. (My best friend just married a guy she met on here!) It was founded by Whitney Wolfe, also co-founder of Tinder, as a way for women to control the online dating experience, and now has over 50 million active users in the US alone. It's intuitively designed and shows a nice blend of photos and personal information without overwhelming you. There's a queue of people who have already seen your profile and liked you, but you can happily scroll through a massive amount of profiles who, for whatever reason, haven't seen you or didn't swipe right. Its basic membership is free, but limited. For more matches and freedom to interact, you need to add Bumble boost for $40 a month.
At first, I only picked from the guys who liked me already, but then I stopped caring. That was no way to operate in this dog-eat-dog Bumble world! But, I'll be honest. I hate that as the woman, I have to message first. It throws me off and makes me feel awkward. Over time, I stopped being shy (which led nowhere) and became a Bumble Banter Queen. Maybe too much so. I found I made a lot of text-based "connections" that didn't translate into real life. Bumble made it easy to get involved with several guys over a stretch of time — a boyfriend, a semi-boyfriend and a few flings — but nothing long-lasting. Word to the wise: In the 'About Me' section featured on every profile, they will all say they are looking for a commitment. Many of them will be lying. Also, pay attention to the political view they share if that's important to you. I went on an inordinate amount of dates with Trump supporters before realizing to pay special attention to mentions of 'conservative' in their profile.
Bottom line on Bumble? it's a great place to start your over-40 online dating journey. It's where I've found the most dates, had the most sex, and the most disappointments, too.
My coolest friends love Hinge. It started off more as a hookup app but an intensive rebranding and re-working transformed it into the rare relationship-focused dating site that doesn't feel too nerdy or earnest. Rather than being forced to send messages in order to make contact, you can be a little more laid back in your approach by simply "liking" or commenting on stories or photos in a profile. Matches and conversations never expire, which is a plus. And as I've learned with every dating app, the best way to work it is to upgrade from the free version and become a preferred member at $20 a month to see more matches and get more visibility.
Let me get straight to the point: I got catfished on Hinge! A dreamy guy was messaging me sweet nothings, photos of his son (my future stepson!) for days. Then, in a dramatic tone shift, he suddenly started asking if I could send him Amazon Gift cards. Ahh, so that's why you need an identity verification process! I may or may not have already sent him a topless photo and he may or may not have attempted to blackmail me. This is the benefit of being in my 40s. I told him to go nuts, send it to anyone he wanted. I mean, who cares? And I never heard from him again. Nor did I ever use Hinge again. Hopefully, you'll have better luck than I did.
eHarmony was started by a psychologist who saw the need for a more logical, compatibility-based online dating option for people genuinely looking for love. It's an antidote to the swipe-swipe looks-based madness of other apps. You do this by answering a 70-question quiz about yourself, your likes, and your wants, and they match you up with your most compatible people from there. According to their data, they're responsible for a whopping 4% of marriages in the US and their married matches go on to experience significantly fewer divorces. If you want to get serious, go here. They have three subscription-based membership levels, and the more you pay, the more freedom and matches you get.
Quiz? A quiz? This immediately excites me, I'm in. Forever love? Sure! But gimme that quiz. eHarmony is based on an algorithm designed to match you up with your most compatible possibilities to ensure the richest, deepest connection. ("This is where you go when you want to get married," my lovely, meddlesome stepmother told me as she signed me up.) Great, I could get married but even greater, I like quizzes. Bring it on! And while I love taking the quiz, it does seem a bit arbitrary. Do I support my partner's different point of view? I don't know — depends on the point of view? How would my friends characterize me? Um, you really think I know the answer to that? OMG, what would they say? Who am I? Worst of all, you can't go back and correct your answers later.
Here's my other issue: Once I get past the quiz and set up my profile I'm presented with an overwhelming grid of potential matches. Too much, too many. Too tiny. I need that one-by-one slideshow to look right in their eyes and accept them as actual human guys with moms and souls. These tiny headshots make them look like eBay search results.
I get a slew of responses to my profile but they're all over the place. There's winks and waves and likes and messages and hi!'s. WTF. I can't figure out or categorize any of this. I shut it down.
The League was founded in 2014 by Amanda Bradford as a better way to meet high-quality partners — yes, it sounds elitist and has gotten a lot of flack, but the emphasis on cutting through the b.s. of dating culture really resonated with me. According to The League, the women on the app "have consciously prioritized their education and career trajectory: 98% have college degrees, 8% are PhDs, 30% have advanced degrees, 14% are director-level or higher, 21% are managers, 13% are CEOs, founders, co-founders or owners, and over 39% are estimated to be making six-figure salaries." Meaning, I'm the best, and I want the best back. It's refreshingly straight-talking. Membership starts at $199 a month, and that's for a limited supply of potential matches. The other essential component of The League: You need to be invited to join (so you have to know someone already using it) and you have to connect your LinkedIn account.
It's a bit like an east-coast centric Raya, full of businessmen, bankers, and high profile professionals. Yes, you have to pay through the nose, but I don't mind! At this point, I'm focused on quality, not quantity, and I frankly don't want to date a man in his 40s/50s who expects me to buy his pizza. In my experience, the men also seemed to be better-behaved than on other sites.
Plus, since you only get given only a certain amount of matches each day, it takes that panicked, endless swiping out of the equation. This was a huge relief. And through The League, I went on some amazing dates to lovely restaurants with accomplished guys! While none of them led to a relationship (honestly, this was at the end of my online dating experiment and by this point, I was maxed out and suspicious of everyone), I would classify The League as the best app for dating over 40. I firmly believe you get what you pay for, and at this point in life, it's worth the investment!