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Sean Ziph is fed up.
The 38-year-old Kansas City resident has been divorced for almost four years, and he can't seem to make sense of today's singles scene.
"Honestly, how women view dating is God's own private mystery, because I have no earthly idea," Ziph said. "It seems to me no matter what I do, it's always wrong."
On the other side of the gender divide, things aren't much better.
"I am a `Seinfeld' episode, pretty much," said Carrie Hickman, 30, of Kansas City, Kan. "I have the worst dating stories ever."
In the 21st century there are more ways for singles to meet than ever before - Internet sites, speed-dating programs, specialized dating services. Still, that can't disguise the basic fact: Men and women are often worlds apart when it comes to dating.
"Women by nature are more security-minded," said David Steele, founder of the Relationship Coaching Institute and author of the new book "Conscious Dating." "They're more aware of the consequences of getting involved and having sex. They take the whole thing more seriously, in general.
"Men tend to have a particular style of dating. They want to have fun first. And then they want to get involved in a relationship."
A poll done by Kansas City Star showed that men are more likely than women to say they are satisfied with their dating lives. Men also report going on more dates each month than women.
Part of that may be due to the venue of choice for singles to search for love.
"In Kansas City we meet in bars; that's what we do," Hickman said. "When men go to bars, they go to find a girl for the night. When girls go to bars, they go to find the man of a lifetime."
But Steele says bars are among the worst places to find a serious mate.
"If you go into a bar, that's what you're going to hook - barflies," he said.
Still, some success stories have come out of the bar scene. Amy Wicklander met her boyfriend, Eric Nash, in a bar.
"The girls at the bar aren't necessarily bad," Wicklander said. "When my friends go to the bar, it's for the specific purpose of having fun."
Wicklander, 33, and Nash, 26, met three years ago, but they've been together for only a year. Nash didn't want to be serious at first. Wicklander said they both went through the "I don't know if I want you, but I don't want anyone else to have you" phase.
"You're thinking something else might be better out there," she said.
Eventually, though, they both came around.
"It just felt right, maybe the timing, you know," Nash said. "I just kind of got older and wanted to stop (procrastinating)."
Steele says it's a common pattern for men to take a little longer to commit to a relationship. He sees the issue in biological terms.
"Research shows that girls mature faster than boys, so women are more relationship-oriented than men," he said.
"Men are wired to be hunters and warriors. We're wired to be doers, not feelers. This relationship thing is something we do. If we don't understand the nuances or larger ramifications, we're just going to do what feels good.
"To put it honestly, men are a bit backward when it comes to relationships."
Don't tell that to Ziph, though. He'd like to find a serious relationship, but his dating life has been pretty bleak.
"I have gone up to women in different places, said
Hi, I'm Sean,'" he said, "and they look at me like,Who the hell are you and how dare you talk to me?'"
Ziph has given up on the bar scene. He has tried online dating sites and a service for professionals called It's Just Lunch, but those have just caused him more frustration.
"There are a lot of really beautiful women in Kansas City, but I think everyone is kind of suspicious of each other, and it's very difficult to get past those suspicions," he said. "And there are so many people ... who are still hanging out with friends from high school and college and don't have an interest in meeting anyone new."
Hickman has faced many of the same disappointments as Ziph. She's had no luck with online dating, and the bars have little to offer.
"You can meet people, but you can meet people for the night. That's easy," she said. "But whenever you outgrow that, it becomes a problem."
Even with all the frustrations among singles, today's dating scene seems to offer more places to look for love than ever before. And some women are acting more like the stereotypical male - approaching potential mates and seeing more than one man at a time.
"In today's world, gender roles are blurred," Steele said. "We can choose our own style. Women can be aggressive and go for it. Men can be more soft and gentle and indirect."
Women, however, have the "Sex and the City" advantage: They talk about relationships and dating among themselves far more than men do.
"Women are always in charge of relationships, because they're smarter than we are about relationships," Steele said.
BY THE NUMBERS, BY THE GENDER
In a poll commissioned by The Star, we asked 600 singles between the ages of 20 and 34 their thoughts on dating. Here are some of their responses, broken down by gender, in percentages:
Are you satisfied with your dating life?
WHAT IS YOUR DATING GOAL?
Long-term committed relationship: Men 46 Women 54
To meet new people: Men 25 Women 19
To fall in love: Men 17 Women 23
To have sex: Men 8 Women 1
Other: Men 4 Women 3
HOW MANY DATES DO YOU GO ON EACH MONTH?
Men 23 Women 33
Men 31 Women 37
Men 23 Women 16
Men 23 Women 14
HOW LONG AFTER DATING SOMEONE DO YOU CONSIDER THE RELATIONSHIP TO BE COMMITTED?
Men 3 Women 1
2 weeks to one month
Men 18 Women 13
2 to 4 months
Men 34 Women 31
More than four months
Men 45 Women 55
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE A GOOD FIRST DATE TO END?
Men 5 Women 7
Men 22 Women 37
Kiss on the cheek
Men 22 Women 28
Men 33 Women 25
Men 5 Women 1
Men 11 Women 1
Men 2 Women 1
(c) 2005, The Kansas City Star. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.