How to find love in Victoria, where single women outnumber men

Finding love in Victoria can be as challenging for men as women, despite what statistics show, says a local author.

“There are all these myths about men and women,” said Sarah Kittensmittens, whose book Life After Dating was published in 2016. “But when I wrote my book, I started to get all these emails from men looking for advice on how to expand emotionally and work on themselves.”

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According to Statistics Canada, in the 2011 census, women outnumbered men at 52 per cent of the population over the age of 15 in Greater Victoria. Of the 133,000 single residents, 56 per cent were women. Divorced, separated and widowed women also outnumbered men.

However, there were more men who had never been married or in a common-law relationship. Statistics Canada provides numbers for only two gender categories.

“In Victoria, some people believe it’s hard to find a good guy,” said Aviva Shtull, 34, who met her fiancé four years ago through an online dating site. “I expected to meet a lot of guys I didn’t like after hearing nightmare stories from girlfriends.”

Shtull met her fiancé, Eban Tomlinson, on the Vancouver-based website plentyoffish.com, which has about four million active users worldwide. She had just come out of a long-term relationship and created a profile with the help of a friend and decided to message men who piqued her interest.

“But it was the exact opposite. I ended up with the first guy I went on a date with,” said Shtull, who owns a dog-training business.

Tomlinson, 35, dated online for several years before meeting Shtull. “I went on dates, but it was hard to find the right person,” said Tomlinson, a project manager for a tech company. “Aviva was exactly who she said she was [online].”

Honesty is key to online dating, said Tomlinson, who has helped several of his single friends with profiles.

“A lot of the great men are hard to find because they no longer have the self-confidence to put themselves out there. Rejection is so normalized for men, but it can wear you out,” said Tomlinson, adding women might want to make the first move to find these gems.

Shtull said she’s glad she did, saying she feels incredibly lucky to have found someone like Tomlinson. “I knew I deserved someone like him, but I didn’t think that I would ever find a guy that could have every quality I wanted in a man and in a partner. Being with him has taught me how to be in a truly supporting, loving and respectful relationship.

“I had no idea that being in a relationship could be so fulfilling, so fun and so healthy.”

Kittensmittens’ book evolved from funny stories she shared with friends about her own dating experiences but also the intense therapy she was in after the break-up of her marriage. The 38-year-old left her 10-year marriage after her husband suffered a brain injury that severely altered his personality. She uses a pen name, based on her favourite childhood book, to protect her whereabouts for safety reasons.

“We were madly in love. We held hands every day,” said Kittensmittens, who owns a software application company and works from home. “When I started dating I didn’t know what I was doing. I did everything wrong.”

As she shared her stories and insights online, and through her book, she was surprised to get more followers and queries from men. Her initial goal was to provide women with a resource for self-exploration in looking for love.

“[Men] want to know how to be more receptive on dates, send clear signals and how to respect a woman’s safety when approaching her in a public space,” she said. When she launched her book at a dating event and had to turn people away, she realized Victoria needs more in-person spaces for people to meet.

“It’s a conservative city in a lot of ways, and with so many in tech, a lot of people go online,” she said. “But it can be very impersonal and hard to know someone.”

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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