Local life

Navigating dating in dense Denver metro area

Locals, professors give advice on heavily populated region

Posted 10/30/18

Along with traffic and housing costs, the population boom in the Denver metro area can affect a less obvious part of residents’ lives: navigating the dating world. “While that doesn’t make us …

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Local life

Navigating dating in dense Denver metro area

Locals, professors give advice on heavily populated region

Posted

Along with traffic and housing costs, the population boom in the Denver metro area can affect a less obvious part of residents’ lives: navigating the dating world.

“While that doesn’t make us different from New York or San Francisco, it is a change here,” said Dr. Tracy Bacon, a sociology professor at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton. “It makes dating a lot harder because dating is expensive.”

From deciding when to move a relationship under one roof to the types of people in the dating pool, Bacon said, a changing population can make the nerve-wracking process even more complex. Added obstacles among young people can affect looking for marriage, too.

“Most people do still get married eventually, but I feel like with millennials, the difficulty with finding financial stability, finishing education and having all these student loans can make a long-term marriage commitment seem kind of far off,” Bacon said.

But singles can also benefit from a wealth of ways to meet people in the metro area — and it goes far beyond sitting awkwardly in a bar or swiping through faces on a phone.

Young and crowded

Many people are moving for reasons like tech-industry jobs or education, and young professionals may have a large dating pool in the Denver area, Bacon said.

For people who aren’t as educated or have lower income, dating may be difficult here, Bacon guessed.

“Theoretically, anyone can fall in love with anyone,” said Bacon, adding that people can find love across educational divides. “But realistically, we end up with people who are a lot like us.”

The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan statistical area — which includes Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Gilpin, Jefferson and Park counties — was ranked by Forbes as the sixth-best metro area nationwide for young professionals based on factors like the unemployment rate, job growth and other factors in 2017. People age 20 to 34 made up about 23 percent of that metro area in 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

That metro area also had the 10th-highest percentage of college graduates among people age 25 to 34 in large metro areas nationwide, according to a February report by the Brookings Institution based on 2015 numbers.

For out-of-state residents moving to the metro area, meeting people can be difficult, particularly if they have jobs where they work remotely in their apartments, said Dr. Mary Ann Watson, a clinical psychologist and professor emerita at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

And when young people do meet, housing can become a challenge, Bacon said.

“Younger people are living with their parents more,” Bacon said. That’s not a deal-breaker, but “it’s a little harder to date if you’re living at home as an adult. You might see people moving in together before they want to because it saves money — more of a financial decision than a good relationship decision.”

Online and face to face

Despite the popularity of dating apps like Tinder, many people in their 20s often continue their “college kind of dating experiences” — namely, in bars, Watson said.

“I’m not sure that’s a very good setting,” Watson said. “In a bar with 200 people there, there might be one or two people more compatible with you.”

Watson contrasted that with volunteering or attending a meetup, a group activity organized online. Meetup.com has options throughout the metro area — from Castle Rock up to Thornton and in between.

People age 30 and up commonly take part in meetups, centering around interests like dogs, cooking, tennis and “all sorts of opportunities,” Watson said. “I find that’s usually much more helpful. Particularly, volunteer opportunities are a good way to meet people.”

Craig Barber, a Littleton-area resident who runs meetups on the 5280 Singles, 5280 Singles Over 40 and 5280 Singles Adventures groups, said young singles should stop relying so much on technologies.

“Social media isn’t even social,” said Barber, whose meetup groups boast more than 10,000 members combined. “Social is talking.”

But online dating can have its upsides, and it’s much less stigmatized than it was years ago, Bacon said.

“When online dating came out, people were like, ‘Oh, what’s wrong with you?’” Bacon said. But “in some ways, it makes it easier — you can weed people out. When you’re in a city with so many people, it’s much more efficient.”

Gender and age

The nickname “Menver,” given to Denver because of a perceived gender imbalance, dates back years and has caught on in local media — and the statistics appear to back it up in the dating world.

In the metro area — the broad Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, 10-county definition — males outnumber females roughly 224,000 to 183,000 among ages 20 to 34 for people who have never married, according to 2017 Census Bureau data. That gap remains wide all the way up through ages 55 to 59, according to the data.

For LGBTQ singles, gay bars sit in central Denver — people in places like Aurora, Highlands Ranch and the outskirts of the metro area are “kind of restricted to coming into town,” Watson said.

Other options include LGBTQ choruses and even LGBTQ issue-based groups, given the current political climate, Watson said. Many meetups are geared toward LGBTQ residents in the area.

For older singles in their 60s and 70s, existing friends can be a road to new connections, Watson said.

“Let them know you’re open to meeting new people or dating new people,” Watson said.

Meetup groups are successful with older singles, too, said Watson, who encouraged them to rekindle activities and interests they haven’t taken up since earlier in life.

Celeste Tarantola, an Arvada resident who said she’s middle-aged, was looking to get out and interact with people after a relationship ended. She doesn’t believe in dating sites, she said, but meetups “got me out of my apartment.” She sat at one such event Oct. 26, watching people learn steps to a country-style dance at Stampede, a country bar and club on the west edge of Aurora.

Barber, who organized the event and sat next to Tarantola, said in an area with such an influx of outsiders, people will encounter different viewpoints, and it’s important to listen and be caring. But in general, his dating advice boiled down to having fun.

“Go out and do the things you like,” Barber said. “Live life, because life is short. That way, at least you’ll have something in common.”

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