THREE in four online daters have never found love.
And no one knows this better than Emma Shuter, who is still single after meeting up with 398 men.
She spends up to four hours a day looking for “The One” on 12 different apps and websites, and says: “It’s a full-time job trying to keep on top of it all.”
After forking out £3,500 on membership fees and getting just 30 second dates in ten years, Emma says she is the UK’s unluckiest dater.
But she has not given up hope of finding love.
Emma, 37, a housing officer from Cheshunt, Herts, says: “When I wake up, the first thing I do is check my phone. But unlike most people who go straight to social media, I log on to Tinder.
“I check my messages to see if any men have replied and if they have I send a quick flirty message back.
“Then I see if I have any new matches. I get a real buzz if it’s someone attractive.
“Then I start swiping. I’m quite picky and know exactly what I’m looking for.
“If I see someone I like, I check his age — between 26 and 38 is perfect — then his job. I like a man with a trade, so if they profile says they are a plumber or builder, I’m interested.
“If their hobbies are sports or exercise, I get excited. I swipe right and hope for a match.”
Emma repeats this routine for apps Bumble, Hinge, Happn and her other eight dating profiles before she gets ready for work.
She says: “It takes about an hour, but I do it again at lunchtime then again in the evening for a few hours.
“It’s a jungle out there but I’m determined to find my perfect man.”
What Emma's looking for
‘HE ASKED IF I'D SLEEP WITH HIS FRIEND’
Having been single for a decade, Emma has had a number of dating disasters.
She recalls: “Some dates go really well but others are far from it.
“On one I thought we’d really connected but when he came back from the bar he told me he’d run into his ex and was going to have a drink with her. I left immediately.
“Another said he wanted a serious relationship but wondered if I could ‘do him a favour’ and sleep with his best friend first.
“One asked if he could be my slave and be led around on a lead. I assumed it was a joke. It wasn’t.
“On more than one occasion guys have asked me to pay for everything, claiming they don’t have any money. Usually I don’t mind but one guy had ordered a £60 bottle of champagne.”
While looks are not Emma’s top priority, she was shocked when a date turned up to a bar with tattoos . . . on his face.
She recalls: “Some of it was bleeding and he told me he’d had it done the day before and hoped I liked it.”
And Emma has had a few lucky escapes after dates revealed they weren’t even single.
She says: “One guy told me he was trying to work out whether to leave his wife by testing his potential on the dating market before he made the decision.
“I laugh most of it off, but when I think about how many hours I’ve spent on dating apps I do feel I’ve been very unlucky in love.”
Emma’s friend Niki MacCormack, 40, a photo studio owner from Harlow, Essex, is so desperate for Emma to settle down that she has taken matters into her own hands.
Emma says: “My friends feel bad for me. Niki has even started posting dating ads for me on her Facebook page advertising her ‘single friend’.
“I have three local pubs which I rotate for dates. The ladies behind the bar love my latest stories. They’ve even tried setting me up with men.”
Juggling so many profiles can be confusing, Emma admits.
She says: “Sometimes I will accidentally ask a guy a question I’ve already asked him. And when he says, ‘You’ve already asked that’, I have to apologise.
“It’s happened to me too, with men calling me the wrong name or telling the same joke.
“I immediately delete them if this happens.”
After so long on the dating scene, could Emma be suffering from the-grass-is-greener syndrome rather than be unlucky?
She admits: “The trouble with online dating is you know if one date isn’t perfect, you will have another one waiting on the app.
“Having so many men at my fingertips has made me really fussy and I won’t settle if there isn’t an immediate spark.
“The problem is I see the best version of the men on their profiles. All the pictures are their best angle and their descriptions are funny and interesting.
“So when I eventually meet them in person and they aren’t quite as attractive or as funny, I immediately feel deflated.
“I’m definitely obsessed with my dating apps.
“I’d say I’m addicted to finding The One and I see the apps and websites as how to find him.”
Emma hasn’t always struggled to find love. When she was 17, friends introduced her to Joshua, now 38, and they had daughter Ellie, 17.
She says: “After a year I fell pregnant and in October 2002 I had Ellie. But we split after six years.
“Over the next four years I watched as my friends started getting engaged and it hammered home that I was still single. I’d go out to bars and speak to the guys at work but I couldn’t believe how hard it was to find someone on my wavelength.
“After a year of trying, I hadn’t had a single date.
“Niki suggested I try internet dating and set up a Plenty Of Fish profile for me. It was exciting when I started getting messages.
‘INFLUX OF MEN’
“I’d log on every few days and it took a month to find a guy I liked.
“He had blond hair, muscly arms and tattoos. We spent three weeks messaging.
“When we met up for a drink he looked nothing like his picture — he was older, shorter and fatter.
“I spent an hour politely chatting before I made an excuse to leave and we never spoke again.”
Emma continued to use Plenty Of Fish, while expanding her options with match.com.
She says: “I wanted to see if there were different types of men on other sites — and there were. I soon registered on websites OkCupid, EliteSingles, Single People and eharmony.
“Every time you sign up to a new site you get a sudden influx of men matching with you because you are fresh meat.
“I used to spend weeks messaging a guy before going on a date, but after 50 first dates and only two second dates I realised I needed to fast-track my dating.
“I started agreeing to dates after a few days of messaging so not to waste time.” When apps appeared on the scene, things escalated.
She says: “I first heard of Tinder in about 2013. It was totally different to online dating, as you didn’t have to bother with writing paragraphs about yourself.
“When I began swiping for the first time I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get through so many profiles so quickly. I was instantly hooked.
“Unfortunately, because it was so easy to sign up, it was also easy for guys who were not looking for serious love to log on too.
“I started receiving sexual messages and d*** pictures.
“I’ve lost track of the number of men who have demanded naked pictures in their first message.
“Tinder wasn’t about hanging around, and my dates went from two a month to one or two a week. I’m now on Badoo and Zoosk too.”
With so much of her day spent looking for love, does Emma consider cutting back to just one or two dating profiles?
She says: “If I cut it down to a couple of apps I might miss out on the perfect guy.
“Each app or website attracts a different type of man.
“There’s so much competition out there that you have to spread the net wide. I’ve spent nearly £3,500 on memberships and I see it as an investment towards eventually finding a husband.
“I’m a pro dater now so I know what I want.
“When I find him, I’ll finally delete all my profiles and sign off from the single life . . . for good.”
MUM IN A MILLIONI fostered a 15-year-old girl at just 22 - then made her my bridesmaid
TIGER MUMMum-of-21 Sue Radford ‘disgusted’ after pregnant daughter Millie, 18, is trolled
JUST LIKE JAQJacqueline Jossa’s In The Style range launches today
LIGHT UP HER DAYYankee Candle slashes the price of its Mother’s Day gift set to £24
BABY BOOMERExpectant mum-of-21 Sue Radford announces daughter Millie, 18, is also pregnant
CHEST OF FLAWSWoman snags bargain drawers - but is bitterly disappointed when they arrive
‘Hooked on fantasy of perfect partner’
ONLINE dating has the massive advantage that it widens the pool of potentials but it does nothing to help us understand and tackle the issues that may get in the way of us developing happy, stable, long-term relationships. And we all have some issues like that.
So we can get hooked on the buzzy fantasy that somewhere out there is the perfect Mr (or Miss) Right and keep trying the next and the next.
But of course, no one is really 100 per cent ideal, especially if we are setting fantasyland standards. When people reminisce about love at first sight they really mean a strong initial attraction which worked out well in the end after weaving their way through a few tricky issues.
Some keep turning the page because they feel they should be in a relationship but are terrified of the reality.
Either way, counselling can help us understand our own drivers.
My e-leaflets on Counselling and Love Online can help. Email [email protected] for a copy.