Why Mr Rich might just be Mr Right
The recession is pushing many women to look for a little more in their men -- or at least a little more in their men's bank account, writes Chrissie Russell
Like many 20-somethings, Áine (not her real name) loves getting ready to go out on a date. "There's always that mix of excitement and wondering where it could go," she says smiling. "I get that feeling in my stomach, wondering if I could meet someone really brilliant."
Sitting at the bar, immaculately groomed with blonde hair cascading down her back, the Dublin girl looks like any other single girl ready for a night on the town -- but the date she's waiting on is likely to be twice her age and most definitely wealthy.
After the Celtic Tiger died, Áine (28) took a look at her last dismal relationship and decided she could do better.
"I'd been in a long-term relationship with a guy my own age and it ended badly," she says.
"He was terrible with money. I remember we were stood in SuperValu at the checkout with €100 worth of shopping in the trolley and he'd forgotten his wallet, again.
"Bills went unpaid and when the relationship ended I decided I didn't want to be involved again with someone who had nothing to offer."
Instead, the attractive blonde, who works in media, decided she needed a rich man who could provide her with a better life.
To cut through the undesirables she decided her best way to secure such a suitor was online, at SeekingArrangement.com, a specialist website designed to set wealthy, older men up with younger, attractive women.
Well groomed, chatty and fun, Áine felt sure she had plenty to offer the wealthy men logging on for love -- she was right.
"I got a lot of emails but one guy stood out," she says. "He was 49 and had his own IT company. I met him for a drink in Clontarf and we got on like a house on fire.
"Over drinks he told me he was lonely and would like someone to go to events with him and, if I was interested, he would pay me an allowance of €600 a week -- I nearly fell off my chair!"
She agreed and struck up what the website refers to as a "mutually beneficial relationship" that lasted three months.
After the arrangement ended amicably -- "he wanted to travel a lot and I couldn't always get away" -- she struck up a further two arrangements. One was with a 61-year-old and the other with a 56-year-old, both also in IT.
One paid a €2,500 legal bill for her while the other gave cash towards a new motor. She slept with all three.
"It felt the natural progression in our relationship or arrangement," she explains. "To me, Seeking Arrangement is a dating site, not an escort service.
"I made a connection with the guys. There have been dates that I've gone on with guys off the site but if there's no chemistry, I walk away.
"Coming from being in a relationship with a guy who didn't contribute and had no interest in providing me with nice things, I was delighted to be with men who were chivalrous and wanted to treat me."
She adds: "I only earned 30k in my job last year -- that's just getting by. I think now more and more people are realising that it's a necessity to have a man that brings something to the party."
Áine's not alone in her thinking. Since 2008, Seeking Arrangement (SA) has seen a 358pc increase in sign-ups worldwide with the site reporting 500 new Irish members joining every month.
In these recessionary times, there's an increasing need to be sure we're getting 'the most' out of everything -- and that includes relationships.
"When dating in the recession, women are looking for more than personality," says SA's founder and CEO Brandon Wade.
"Women are looking to date financially stable men, to avoid financially inspired conflicts in a relationship and avoid carrying dead weight.
"Luckily, the majority of our members haven't been hit too hard by the recession," says Wade.
But run-of-the-mill dating websites have also noticed finance is up there with GSOH for those looking for love in a time of austerity.
"The financial security of a partner is definitely high on the list of priorities for most women whether they admit it or not," says Ger McFadden from FirstDate.ie.
"Women will usually try to work this information out indirectly by asking what the guy does as an occupation or asking what area they live in.
"Generally the majority of men who are financially secure have no trouble letting their date know they're well off because they know it's an attractive selling point!"
New research from dating site Parship.ie shows that one third of women like the idea of a partner whose career is well paid.
One quarter of women surveyed said they'd like their partner to provide an upscale standard of living, while 19pc admitted they were actively on the lookout for a date that earned more than them.
When glamour model Danica Thrall recently appeared on Big Brother, she faced an onslaught of abuse from fellow housemates and viewers after telling them she used her charms to persuade guys to buy her expensive gifts -- a practice called 'rinsing'. She was branded a 'prostitute' and 'gold-digger'. But is such a set-up really so wrong?
In his book, Decoding Love, which takes a scientific look at attraction, Andrew Trees found men are generally genetically programmed to seek a partner who is younger, more attractive, less educated and lower earning.
"It's really disheartening and I wish there was a better answer but culture changes more quickly than evolution and it's healthier to be aware of this," says Trees.
Ultimately Áine's dream is to meet a good-looking, wealthy man and settle down, something she feels might be better achieved by striking up an online relationship with the site's American members.
But she knows her approach isn't one that everyone will agree with, which is why she can't talk openly.
'It's crazy," she laughs. "My dad's always saying things like 'you should go out with so-and-so, he's got a load of property' or my friends will talk about guys in terms of how much 'road frontage' they have.
"But if anyone knew I was online dating wealthy guys they'd go mad. "Dating someone with money is encouraged in real life, but as soon as the internet is involved people think it's sleazy and wrong."