17 September 2015 – BBC News by Barbara Balfour
Before she was diagnosed with coeliac disease, Pia Strobel never thought she’d be so scared of breadcrumbs on the counter, so afraid of putting a knife down in the kitchen, or so thrilled to fall in love with someone who felt exactly the same way. Ms Strobel, 48, was searching for gluten-free restaurants online when she stumbled across the niche dating website that changed her life.
It was on GlutenFreeSingles.com that she met Dale Graff, one of 25,000 members on the site who not only look for love but also share information on health and wellness, recipes and resources for the gluten-free lifestyle. While Ashley Madison, the niche dating site catering to the seven-year-itch, may have attracted all the recent headlines, there’s a growing number of more respectable matchmakers, focused on meeting very specific needs from dietary requirements to a weakness for a British accent.
For Ms Strobel, a hairdresser, using a specialist site was a huge success. Within two years, she had moved from Connecticut to Montana to live with Mr Graff, 46, a land surveyor. The blissful couple say they can’t imagine having the kind of relationship they share, had one of them not been gluten-free. “Food is such an important part of everyday life and complicates things no matter how hard you try,” says Ms Strobel. “We love to cook together, and we love to eat out when we’re on vacation. That would have been a worry rather than a hobby if we weren’t on the same diet. “We’re in this together – it’s not a case of one person getting irritated because they can eat anywhere and the other worried about spending the next week on the toilet.”
Based in San Diego, California, the site was launched in January 2013 by Marcella Romaya, who is also coeliac, and Sheri Grande. Monthly membership costs $23.99 (£15.60); about 57% of members are female and 43% are male, and it currently covers only the US and the UK. “On the big traditional sites, I maybe got one date in a year who understood my gluten-free lifestyle,” says Ms Romaya, 48. “You run into so many issues – choosing the restaurant, ordering the right meal…. the embarrassing bad reaction you get if you ingest gluten by accident. You worry that you’re coming off as too high maintenance and wonder, are they even going to ask for a second date?
Niche Dating Sites Taking Off!
When a mainstream site can’t deliver the best qualified matches, a specialist site is the answer, says Trish McDermott, a private dating coach who was on the Match.com start-up team in 1995. “For a niche site to be successful, it must be about quality over quantity. It’s not about competing with the big guys and should go beyond a matching algorithm. It’s about people, experience and connection,” says Ms McDermott. It seems there is something for everyone!
- Bristlr.com for beard enthusiasts
- OneGoodCrush.com for the LGBTQ community
- Ashley Madison (now defunct) for those experiencing a seven year itch
- Have you used an online dating service to find love? Or did it lead to folly?
- Is gluten-free a feature that you look for when choosing who you like to spend time with?
- Are you and your partner both gluten-free?
- Have you experienced food-related difficulties when dating a ‘gluten-eater?
- What is the most romantic gluten-free-friendly dining experience you have enjoyed – in Victoria, Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands?