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Swiping as a Single Mom: Navigating Online Dating in My 40s

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Tired of attending events and parties solo, Christina Rinken-Fabianich decided to try an experiment: one month of consistent online dating. 

By Courtney Runn

From ghosting and sexist comments to conversations that never go beyond the screen, dating apps aren’t for the faint of heart. Adding kids to the mix can introduce a whole new set of obstacles. In our new series Swiping as a Single Mom, we’re talking to single women living in Austin about the highs and lows of using dating apps as moms.

Every day, Christina Rinken-Fabianich’s inbox is flooded with messages from men. They want to know about her job, compliment her or just say hi. After a 48-hour stint on eHarmony years ago, Rinken-Fabianich decided to try online dating again. She committed to consistently swiping and matching and messaging for one month. She started on Zoosk then switched to Match. 

“Match is more expensive, so you tend to have someone that’s more serious, more professional,” she says. “If you’re going to pay $60 a month to be part of something, you’re [committed.]” 

Lots of men were interested, but she still experienced common pitfalls of online dating: ghosting, unwanted sexting, conversations that quickly fizzled. With a 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, Rinken-Fabianich, a sales executive at Austin Woman, also encountered the difficulties of navigating dating when your time is limited and you have to look out for the safety of more than just yourself.

Here’s her story of navigating online dating in your 40s as the mom of tweens. 

The mom: Christina Rinken-Fabianich 

The dating bio: “[I didn’t write a bio because] I wanted to test out online dating a different way. When you initially get on, they ask you a series of questions. … I felt like, at least on Match…answering those questions alone was enough insight to who I am as a core person and that I didn’t need to then give a full…paragraph about who I was. … I’ll get some that say, ‘You didn’t write a bio,’ and then I’m like, ‘OK, so they’re paying attention to that.’ And then they’ll ask me questions.”

The apps: Match and Zoosk  

The mindset: “All of my friends are happily married or happily dating someone, and so, I think I got tired of always being by myself, like showing up to events on my own or going to this gala or going to this couple’s party or not being invited to a party because I [wasn’t part of] a couple. … Being a single mom, it is nice to have someone that you can talk to at the end of the day and recap your day and get their opinion and their advice. I had a couple friends say, ‘You should really try [dating online],’ and they had tried it and been very successful, so I was like, ‘OK, I guess I’ll give it a shot.’ ”

The strategy: “I look at it kind of like a horse race because you’re like, ‘Who’s in the lead? Who’s the lead horse?’ They do kind of jockey. They’re on this track and you’re looking at them and they all come out of the gate. This person gets ahead because they have a relationship with Jesus, and they talk about that and that’s so important to me. … So, they pull ahead a little bit. But then someone pulls ahead because they have that and kids my age. It layers like an onion: It just keeps peeling back.” 

The obstacles: “I don’t have enough time to schedule a babysitter then be stood up, which has happened. Once you’re in that situation, our time is valuable and I don’t want to take time away from my kids unless I really feel like that person’s worth my time. … I have a 13-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter and they’re very opinionated and they are very protective. It’s just the three of us. I have them 100 percent of the time. I started speaking with this one man and he very quickly was like, ‘Oh, you have your kids 100 percent of the time? I have my kids 50 percent of the time,’ which is very normal for a divorce. And once I told him that, he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m out. I want to build a relationship with someone, and you’ll never have the time for me.’ [That was] very selfish, I thought, but…you have to be tough. You have to have the thick skin to get out there and put yourself out there.”

“I don’t have enough time to schedule a babysitter then be stood up, which has happened.”

The good: “The good right now is that there is this gentleman, and his kids are…one year older than my daughter and one is one year younger than my daughter and then his oldest son is older, so he’s got this balance himself. I just know his life is very similar to mine. He’s a [widower], so he’s doing it all on his own, 100 percent of the time. So, for him, if I’ve got kid stuff, he’s like, ‘I completely respect the fact that you still pour into your kid time and that you fill their love tank as a mom.’ … Yesterday, I got all excited that he called me, and I was like, ‘Oh no, what’s happening to me? Oh no, I like him!’ ”

The bad: “Middle of the road is ego-driven men. Again, you can spot them pretty quickly. I had this one man who said he loved all my pictures and…I only had one picture, so I knew he was copying and pasting the same messaging. … I’ve [had] more than one guy say that if I didn’t respond to them quickly on a message, they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, you didn’t respond.’ And I’m like, ‘It’s only been five days. I don’t even have time.’ … Someone that can’t show decency is not worth [my]time and that’s not what [I] want anyway.” 

The ugly: “I think the ugliest thing that men can do to a woman is to immediately start asking to basically have sex with them. It’s not even physical; it’s this whole fantasy land that men live in. I have found this with the 55-plus men. It hasn’t been as much with the younger end because I look from a 48 to a 58 because that’s a 10-year frame. But [some] those that are about 55-plus have this kind of sick fantasy of women and they want to go to a place of really disregard for a female. … [One man] sent pictures of his private area, thinking that somehow, I would find that to be…attractive. ‘Yeah, let’s get together.’ The days of going to a bar and drinking and having a one-night stand, I think, [have]  now become…‘Let’s have a one-night stand by FaceTiming someone, texting someone or shooting back and forth pictures.’ And I think that’s because it’s easier and it’s not as personal because you’re not physically with that person, but it can be very hurtful, and it can be very degrading and make you feel lousy the next day. Women need to realize that. It might seem like it’s fun, but a few days after it, it’s pretty appalling and it’s kind of disgusting. And if you have kids, again, and somebody’s sending you those kinds of things, how do that protect your children if your phones are connected, your iPads are connected, your computers are connected? Once it’s out there, it’s out there. … It is now a felony. If you have someone’s name and last name and…all of a sudden, they send you that, it’s pretty easy to call your local police and be like, ‘I was on this dating site. I was talking to this man. Here are the pictures,’ and they can find you like that. … Be smart as a woman.” 

The advice: “Be smart about dating someone who’s never had kids. They don’t understand it. They will tell you they get it, but they will never because they don’t understand the selflessness. Everything becomes about those kids and you have to drop something when they’re sick. You’ve got to drop something when they’ve got a performance in choir or dance or soccer or whatever it is.” 

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