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From farmers to Trekkies, niche online dating sites narrow the search for romance

Updated: 2014-02-21T05:00:59Z

By RICK MONTGOMERY

The Kansas City Star

Online dating services have found their niches. Hundreds of them.

Each cuts right to the chase to connect users with that special and very specific someone.

Ranchers romance on the Country Passions dating site. Vampire buffs post profiles on Vampire Passions. Lovelorn fans of Star Trek boldly go to Trek Passions.

Yoga Passions, a different crowd altogether. And Short Passions might be the ticket “if you just feel more comfortable dating people shorter than average,” the site says.

Those were all created by New Yorker Michael Carter, who oversees more than 240 niche matchmaking sites.

The next one? “Maybe Gluten-free Passions,” said the founder of Passions Network Inc.

Too late. GlutenFreeSingles.com beat him to it.

Missouri livestock producer Chris Matthews found his fiancee, Connie Iman, through yet another niche outfit, FarmersOnly.com.

He had tried generic matchmaking sites such as eHarmony and filled out profiles noting how much he liked being around animals. But, invariably, he’d be paired with a city slicker with a houseful of kittens.

A newcomer to rural Stover, Mo., the divorced Matthews, 40, was lucky last year to come across the FarmersOnly profile of the widowed Iman, 41, who lived just 10 miles away. And she was thrilled by the prospect of raising dairy goats with him.

“I just fell in love with the goats when I got to meet them all,” Iman said.

Niche matchmaking does have its practical side: Raising goats could be a deal breaker for many lonely hearts, so why bother casting a wide net?

Diet restrictions because of gluten intolerance, food allergies or lifestyle choices also may complicate relationships.

Amy Bates a few years back met future-husband John Daly on the general-interest dating site OKCupid. But given the commitment they’ve since made to eating all-natural foods, she said she understands why niche matchmaking is gaining a wide audience.

“It’s definitely helpful to be with someone who supports you,” said Bates, a founder of the Overland Park Gluten-Free and Paleo Lifestyle Group. “Nothing’s worse than to not eat certain things while someone’s eating a loaf of bread right in front of you.”

Serious pet lovers likewise may wish to limit their dating pool to those selfless enough to sign up for DateMyPet.com. And people with sexually transmitted diseases can opt for full disclosure by joining STDFriends.com.

Let us count the ways that some other niche sites narrow the field:

• Sea Captain Date: Claiming to be legitimate, this dating website bills itself as “the only place for Sea Captains to connect with men and women who share a love of the ocean.”

• Geek2Geek: “I never thought I’d fall in love with a gamer,” reads the testimonial of a satisfied female user.

• The Atlasphere: For “objectivist” fans of the late novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, it boasted almost 17,000 profiles as of this month, “connecting admirers of ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ 

• Cupidtino: A dating website and iPhone app only for lovers of Apple products.

Niche or not, online dating is keeping Cupid busy.

A new study out of the University of Kansas finds that 35 percent of Americans who got married between 2005 and 2012 had met online, primarily through dating sites or social media networks.

“And they’re just as apt to be happy,” if not a bit happier than couples who met at work, grew up together or fell in love at college, says the study’s author, associate professor of communications Jeffrey A. Hall.

Carter of Passions Network Inc. said his niche sites — Hipster Passions, Nudist Passions, Dance Passions, Atheist Passions, Smoking Passions for nicotine addicts — “don’t necessarily speak to me, personally, but each one really does speak to the members.”

“There’s a whole subcommunity online that’s all about bushy mustache love,” he said later, explaining the inspiration for Stache Passions.

But Web romantics shouldn’t get too hung up trying to customize the Perfect One based on their own favorite things, cautioned Brian Heydon, a Kansas City family and relationship therapist.

It’s natural to gravitate to “someone we can look at and see some of ourselves,” Heydon said, yet opposites can still attract: “On millions of subconscious levels, you’re also looking at that person and realizing, ‘You’ve got something I need.’ That’s when we can really reach toward one another.”

Many niche sites offer free limited access or, for $5 or $10 a month, will connect users with a full slate of like-minded members. It’s $25 a month at BeautifulPeople.com, where members enforce a “strict ban on ugly people” by voting on the physical attractiveness of aspiring users.

FarmersOnly.com doesn’t cater much to looks.

Ten years ago, Jerry Miller of rural Ohio launched the site after recognizing the often-bitter realities of small-town life and love.

“When marketing livestock, I worked with farmers who married young and then divorced, afraid they may never meet anyone new again,” Miller said. “They worked all day on the farm and already knew everybody in town.

“I saw there was a serious need for this site ... and now it’s spreading like crazy.”

Just in the past year, membership to FarmersOnly.com has doubled to more than a million, Miller said.

Among those signing up was Shawn Brandt, 26, of Blue Rapids, Kan. Never married, he had dated women who “couldn’t understand why I’d need to be up at 5 in the morning, seven days a week, to feed the cattle,” he said.

Until he met Kari Behm of Fontana, Kan., online. They’re now engaged.

Brandt drove 200 miles for their first date at an Applebee’s in Ottawa. He was an hour late because he had been chasing down a missing cow.

Behm understood, and they later fell asleep on her couch, watching TV.

“Next morning she’s up early and putting on grungy clothes to get out and feed the farm animals,” Brandt recalled. “That’s when I knew. She was for me.”

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send email to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

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