Love online

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Dana Rowan ad Brian Chilcoat (Courtesy photo)

Web dating by the numbers

Annual revenue from the online dating industry: $1.93 billion

Average spent by dating site customer per year: $243

Percent of male online dating users: 52.4 percent

Percent of female online dating users: 47.6 percent

Percent of marriages last year in which the couple met on a dating site: 17 percent

Source: Pew Research Center

After her divorce in 2014, Dana Rowan was jaded. She didn’t think she would ever be interested in dating again — let alone contemplate marriage.

“I’d pretty much thrown in the towel,” says Rowan, who had been married 23 years.

Then, without her knowledge, Rowan’s daughter Brianna signed her up on the internet dating service Match.com. “I started getting all these emails and was thinking, why?” Rowan says. “And Brianna came clean and told me she signed me up on a dating site.”

Rowan pushed back at first. “Then I realized, well, it couldn’t hurt to look at it; so that’s really how it all started,” Rowan says.

Rowan, 48, a social studies teacher, is among nearly 50 million singles nationwide who have opted to give internet dating sites such as Match.com, Plenty of Fish and Tinder a whirl.

While she represents a growing number of middle-aged singles who have tried online dating, the number of younger people seeking a relationship on the internet has increased at an even higher rate over the past several years.

According to Pew Research Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that provides information on a wide range of social issues, the share of 18-to 24-year-olds who use online dating has nearly tripled from 10 percent in 2013 to 27 percent in 2016. And 12 percent of singles over 45 reported using online dating in 2016 versus 6 percent in 2013.

Rowan said she had her fair share of setbacks after entering the online dating scene. One encounter even involved physical violence from an intoxicated date, and other dates involved men who turned out to be married—unbeknownst to her.

“I really felt kind of stupid because I let my guard down and I’m smarter than that,” she said. “You really need to be careful.”

Love at last

Patience finally paid off for Rowan. In June, she met Brian Chilcoat, a retired Air Force sergeant who works for an aerospace company in Airway Heights, Wash. The couple have been inseparable ever since; taking road trips and spending virtually all their free time together.

Having no luck on Match.com, she had switched to Plenty of Fish, which is where she met Chilcoat. “I thought I’d try something else. It was a half-hearted attempt to take one last stab at it.” And it turned out to be a very lucky decision.

“It’s like I won the love lottery,” she says.

Rowan said a lifetime commitment with Chilcoat is very possible. “We’ve actually talked about marriage,” she says. “Both of us want the same thing. I never thought I’d contemplate marriage again but he has definitely made me consider that and I really like the idea.”

Wedding bliss

Dan Foster, 27, of Coeur d’Alene was in a state of dating despair. His only two relationships since he graduated from high school didn’t work out, leaving him discontented with the whole sweetheart scene, he says.

“I just couldn’t find the girl who I’d consider spending the rest of my life with,” says Foster, an IT programmer.

So on a whim, he joined the dating site Tinder. Initially available as a smartphone app, Tinder launched Tinder Online in March 2017, a web-optimized version of the dating app. Today users can access Tinder via the app or on their computers.

On Tinder, Foster met Tiffany Reynolds, 25, a server at a local restaurant. Online conversations developed into personal encounters and the couple discovered they had a strong connection.

“For the first time,” Foster said, “I really felt I was in a solid relationship that could turn into a longtime commitment.” Reynolds agreed. “I’ve met some not-so-nice guys on Tinder, but Dan was different.”

Their relationship escalated and this past June, the couple got married.

“Finding Tiffany was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Foster says. “And it never would have happened without online dating.”

A patient pursuit

Angela Chandler, 56, of Harrison, says her online dating experiences have been mixed.

“After intentionally being out of the mate-finding loop for 13 years to raise my daughter, I bravely ventured into the confusing, insane world of online dating,” she says.

“While there have been some frightening examples of males on the prowl, there were moments of loveliness and connection,” Chandler adds. “One man was so sweet and I had high hopes for something more; but, he kindly and gently informed me that someone else had beat me to the punch.”

But she remains cautiously optimistic.

“I haven’t given up - yet. Where else can you find such a variety of shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and experiences? Certainly not at the local pub.”

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