Looking for love

Looking for love
Mr Benjamin Koh, 36, says he still wants to find a wife who shares his Christian faith. Ms Wee Le Fong, 40, does not go clubbing and seldom takes the initiative to meet people, prefering to leave such things to chance.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Lawyer Yeo S.E., 39, has a group of close female friends around her age who are all single.

According to her, they had channelled all their energies into their careers, but very little into finding husbands.

"We spent the previous decade telling ourselves that we're happy as we are, and if it happens, it happens," she says.

Three years ago, hoping to get over an unrequited crush, she took matters into her own hands and joined the OkCupid dating website. At that point, she had been single for 12 years.

Three years later, she has gone on dates with men in their 30s, 40s and 50s, but has remained single. As have her friends.

See also: 'Looking for a partner can be scary'

GROWING NUMBER OF SINGLES

Ms Yeo is part of Singapore's swelling ranks of "singles" - a term used by statistics gatherers to define someone who has never married - who are aged 35 and older.

In 2004, there were 844,100 Singapore residents who were singles, compared to 1,048,100 last year - a jump of almost 25 per cent over 10 years, figures from the Department of Statistics show.

The number of singles also rose across all ages surveyed, but the sharpest spike was in the 50s age group. The number rose from 43,100 to 75,600 between 2004 and 2014 - or a jump of 75 per cent.

In a sense, these numbers are not surprising as marriages worldwide are following the same trend: people are getting married later - or not at all.

Delaying marriage is reflective of most developed countries, says associate professor Paulin Straughan, a sociologist at National University of Singapore (NUS).

The main reason for delaying marriage is "competing life goals", she says, such as a prolonged period in formal education and career.

She adds: "When you're older, you're also more likely to know what you want and less likely to compromise."

See also: Men dare not date her

The median age for first-time grooms in Singapore rose from 29.1 years in 2003 to 30.2 years in 2013. For brides, it rose from 26.6 years to 28.1 years.

But there is another set of figures. In the Marriage and Parenthood Study 2012, a survey commissioned by the National Population and Talent Division, 83 per cent of single respondents indicated that they wanted to get married.

WHY ARE PEOPLE NOT MARRYING?

If so many people want to put a ring on it, why is it not happening?

Older singles Life interviewed say the challenges they faced include ambivalent attitudes towards dating, dwindling social circles, a mismatch in expectations and a self-sufficient lifestyle.

This might seem counter- intuitive at first glance.

By all accounts, dating culture should be burgeoning in Singapore with the growth of online dating and dating apps such as Tinder.

Moreover, dating agencies in Singapore have also seen a rise in demand from older singles - as well as interest from divorcees and widows.

CompleteMe, a dating agency with a 3,000-strong database, set up a personalised matchmaking service for above-35s last year that has since seen a 40 per cent rise in customers.

Ms Anisa Hassan, managing director of It's Just Lunch Asia, which matchmakes professionals over a meal, says: "In the past, people who were married before might have felt that the best years are behind them. Now, more divorced persons have come forward."

In 2004, when the company started, 20 per cent of its clients were divorced or widowed. Now, 40 per cent are divorced and 10 per cent are widowed.

But attitudes are hard to change: There is still a lingering sense of embarrassment and conservativism about putting oneself out there, especially for older people in the dating pool here.

The problem seems to be worse online. Ms Yeo, for example, sees a marked contrast between men in Singapore and those from abroad.

When American men sent her online messages via OkCupid, an international dating website, she could find and identify them on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Dating in Singapore was far less transparent.

"There were men who didn't want to give their real names or say what they did for a living. Some said on their profiles that they were married but were looking for 'friends'," she says.

DATING CAN BE EXHAUSTING

There are also those who find online dating exhausting, meeting person after person on first date after first date.

Take bachelor Benjamin Koh, 36, a consultant in learning and development at a corporate training firm, who three years ago gave up on the Lovestruck app he used to meet people.

He found the constant search for romantic possibilities tiring and fruitless.

"Sometimes I would meet someone who I may not have had any connection with. I'd think, maybe another girl would be better," he says, which would spur him to get on the dating treadmill again.

Having given up on dating apps, he says he still wants to find a wife who shares his Christian faith. Now he is looking among his church circles.

See also: 'I'm branded goods that's slightly worn'

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.