Cupid’s narrow arrow

Can’t find Mr or Mrs Right? Maybe you need to find your niche, writes Kerry-Ann Augustin

I BLAME my unrealistic teenage expectations of love on Disney’s animation Snow White. Her Prince Charming was tall, handsome and regal, had the voice of an angel and wore blue tights. Throughout my teenage years, I refused to date anyone who fell short of the criteria listed above. Of course, my list of ‘”must-have-qualities” in a partner has since become more realistic (or it could mean I have abandoned my high standards, which is most likely the case). But having a check-box of qualities you want in your future sweetheart is human nature. Now, we have more choices than we’ve ever had; the Internet is like a fruit tree blooming with potential partners ripe for our plucking. But there’s only one problem with this, the more options we have, the harder it is to narrow down what you may be looking for.

The online dating industry rakes in a whooping US1.25 billion (Rm 4.04 billion). The figure is an indication of just how many lonely hearts are looking for that special someone. “Some are very, very fussy,” Christine Foo of Malaysia’s online dating portal iMatch tells me.

“And that’s why we talk to them about everything; we get to know their personality, lifestyle and ask about what kind of partner they are looking to settle with,” she says, adding that compatibility and chemistry are key.

But compatibility is exactly what may have conceived a growing trend in looking for love online: Niche dating.

In 2005, a study which surveyed 65,000 online dating users revealed that people seek out partners who have similarities to themselves. Psychologists found that those who shared the same or similar attitudes, values and attractiveness “correlate positively with attraction” which later resulted in relationship satisfaction.

“Large dating sites can feel quite impersonal and do not provide confidence to the dater that the members they are meeting share not just their hobbies but their values or outlook on life,” says MaryBeth Goodwin, who is a spokesperson for “Niche dating services will continue to grow as online daters become more selective about the services they use.”

With over 2,000 niche dating sites online, it’s clear nudist are not the only ones inclined to feel a need for a niche. Others like salad eaters, Apple products enthusiast, vampire and goth fans, book-lovers, people who love smoking, potheads, crazy cat ladies and farmers have dedicated dating sites for people who enjoy the same things. And don’t worry, even if you haven’t found love but know you have STD. You can share your sorrows (literally) with others who have STDs on one of the most popular niche websites on the planet,

“I started Singles with Food Allergies, because I found myself challenged socially,” explains Matty Thomas, founder of the dating websites that caters to people with food allergies. “Divorced and ready for a new relationship, I wondered how I would find a guy who would be comfortable in my dairy-free, shellfish-free, and nut-free household,”

Lidia LF, a blogger and co-founder of a vegan social networking site in Toronto, says sites like Singles With Food Allergies offer those with dietary restrictions a safe way to meet others with the same needs. But how does having the same preference for food change a relationship?

When it comes to love and food, dating coach Ryan Clauson spills the beans. “It is a huge issue that few people ever want to talk about because we tend to feel extremely judged when it comes to the way we eat,” he says. The author of The Nine Rules of Attraction also stressed that compatibility food choices can make or break a couple.

Steve Urow, CEO and creator of kick-started the site because he believes vegetarianism is more than just a diet; it is a way of life that meat-lovers don’t understand. Prior to, Urow says vegetarians did not have a space to connect. “It’s important to be on the same wavelength,” he observes referring to that special connection. Since its inception in 1999, the site has more than 13,000 members, many of whom have tied the knot.

But niche dating is more than agreeing on the same food.

“The best advice a doctor’s wife gave me before we started medical school was: “have NO expectations”. This, she told me, would ensure that I would “never be disappointed,” writes Liz, who runs the aptly named blog Thoughts of a Doctor’s Wife., and are some niche sites created for people in medical professions. “It’s definitely easier to date a doctor,” says Kuala Lumpur-based Dr Aishah Hamdan who has dated people from different professions. “They understand the demands of the job — long hours, being on call, knowing that we’d be stressed out with difficult days at work, being tired and wanting to just sleep post-call.”

Dr Hamdan, who is currently dating another doctor, explains that having that understanding of “patient comes first,” makes a difference in the level of understanding.

As Oscar Wilde says, variety is the spice of life. And Christine Foo agrees. Having run iMatch since 2008, Foo observes that Malaysians are more open to variety. “Malaysians are a bit more open-minded, in the sense while they may want certain things, they are also willing to compromise.”

I tell her about and she explains that clients with specific needs would say “I’d prefer if this person is vegetarian, but if she /he isn’t that’s fine too.”

“In Malaysia it’s the opposite of niche dating — people come to iMatch because they want to meet people outside their circle, and given our hectic life, online dating is a great way to do that,” she adds.

Dr Aishah tells me she wouldn’t mind dating online, but he certainly won’t log on to any of those dating sites dedicated to doctors. “Sure it’s easier, but just because she is a doctor too, doesn’t mean we will have chemistry or be compatible, right?”

So even if you narrow your niche, you will still have to find that spark? Finding the one just got harder. Here’s the website I’m going to start:

Care to sign up?


“People come to iMatch because they want to meet people outside their circle, and given our hectic life, online dating is a great way to do that.“
Christine Foo