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The Short version: As one of the oldest dating services for gay and lesbian singles, Options continues to offer a refreshing alternative. The company provides matchmaking packages and introduces clients to daters hand-picked by professionals. These daters also understand that building a long-term relationship with an ideal match is likely to take more time than simply chatting with someone online. Thus, Options has a more committed dating pool than the average company. Its members are focused on finding life partners or spouses, not merely short-term fun.
When Options was founded in 1994, it was one of the first dating services for gay and lesbian singles. Today, it holds an even more prestigious spot in the gay and lesbian community.
“We are the nation’s oldest gay and lesbian matchmaking service,” said Rene Robinson, Director of Member Services at Options. “Years ago, there were few services for gays and lesbians. It was revolutionary for its time.”
In the nearly 25 years since, Options has seen the market become overrun with dating services, apps, and sites. Options has changed with the times, though, moving its in-person matchmaking services online.
But the company has remained highly relevant because it retains its commitment to matching clients using real, well-trained individuals. This human touch gives Options an edge over the one-size-fits-all algorithms used by most dating sites.
“We do not use computer algorithms. Instead, we have a full-time staff of matchmakers who put the matches together by hand,” said Rene. “Everyone is screened and vetted. We contact them to make sure they qualify for membership, that they are single, emotionally available, gainfully employed, and seeking a long-term monogamous relationship.”
Using such an arduous screening process allows Options to quickly weed out daters who may not be serious about finding a serious match.
“This is not a place for people just to come and date, and we can determine that early on. It is for people looking for life partners,” Rene said.
The process doesn’t stop once daters are introduced to their matches. Options continues to encourage daters to take their matches seriously and be on their best behavior on dates.
“After we match a member, they don’t receive another match until they submit written feedback,” said Rene. “They get a feedback form and have to critique the date. We give them categories like intelligence, attractiveness, and sense of humor, among others, so we can provide everyone with constructive critiquing.”
Because Options has such a rigorous screening process, some daters think they should be picky about the matches they’ll accept.
“People think they’re on Amazon, shopping for a mate; they have this insatiable shopping mentality,” Rene said. “They often want something that’s unrealistic. If someone has unrealistic dating expectations, a fantasy match, we usually steer them back to online dating.”
Still, most daters continue to bring specific preferences to the table.
“A lot of people fail in dating because they’re choosing people based strictly on how they look,” Rene said. “We don’t show clients photos. People rely on us to match them on physical attributes and compatibility factors that make them a good couple.”
Though daters’ impulses may be to seek the perfect partners they can find, Options encourages them to expand their perceptions of who that is. Matchmakers encourage daters to consider partners who may not meet all of their criteria.
“A big part of our job is making people think outside the box,” said Rene. “The reason they’re with us is to find a partner. True love is height-less, ageless, and race-less.”
That advice holds so much weight with daters because of the Options matchmakers themselves. The team of trained professionals works hard to create dates between potentially suitable partners.
“Our matchmakers have backgrounds in psychology,” Rene said. “And they must have at least a five-year relationship under their belts or be in a current relationship.”
In the end, the advice to expand their preference isn’t to discourage daters, but rather to help them see suitable matches they may be overlooking.
“If you find the person who moves your heart, what are you going to do, reject them?” Rene said.
Options is also widely popular, with more than 100,000 users from throughout the United States. Its clientele is evenly split between women and men with ages ranging from their late 20s to late 60s.
While Options does guarantee matches, it doesn’t guarantee a timeline within which these matches can be identified. The pickier the dater, the longer it will take the matchmakers to find suitable matches, and some daters are not accustomed to waiting to find love.
“With online dating, people often become accustomed to instant gratification,” said Rene. “When we tell people it will take 60 to 90 days to get a match, that may turn some people off, but it’s all about quality over quantity.”
If someone enrolls and it takes Options a year to find their life partner, they’re thrilled, Rene said. Options matchmakers won’t match clients without a chance the pair can make a future together, and the service only takes on daters who understand that it can take time to find their dream partner.
“We provide constant coaching to our members. Online dating has encouraged people to form bad habits — like texting instead of calling. One of our policies is that, for the first contact, you must pick up the phone.” — Rene Robinson, Director of Member Services at Options
“As long as we can take a little longer, we’ll take you on,” Rene said. “It may be the first match out of the gate, or it may take several years. This is an investment, and the other person has made an investment, too. We don’t paint a picture that it’s going to be raining perfect matches.”
Options also helps daters project their best selves by providing data-driven coaching.
“We provide constant coaching to our members. Online dating has encouraged people to form bad habits — like texting instead of calling,” Rene said. “One of our policies is that, for the first contact, you must pick up the phone and give that person a call. You can get to know someone better by hearing their voice and listening to other nuances.”
Once a match is made, the couple meets in person instead of chatting online.
“We encourage people to meet because nothing’s going to happen if you don’t meet,” Rene said. “When people fall in love online without having met face to face, it boggles my mind. They can fall in love with the profile the person has created, not the real individual.”
Options is for clients who are serious about finding love, and discerning gay and lesbian daters seek the matchmaking service because they want to find a partner who takes commitment just as seriously.
“People are supposed to treat each other courteously, and we’re the old-fashioned matchmaker. We try to put respect and dignity back into dating,” said Rene.
These satisfied customers also impact the matchmakers, whose goal is to find love for their daters.
“There’s nothing better that you can do for someone than introduce them to the person they’re going to spend the rest of their life with,” Rene said. “You’re not only impacting the individual; you’re also impacting their friends, relatives, and co-workers. There’s a huge ripple effect.”