Is it OK to lie about your age on your online dating profile?

May 15, 2023
Woman writing dating profile

A question I get asked a lot and one that came up in a recent call with a group of my clients going through the Dating Evolved program is the issue of whether it’s ok to fib a bit about our age on our online dating profile.


Frustrating but true: Hetero men online tend to set the range for age they’re willing to consider in an online match as younger than themselves, sometimes by a LOT. That’s in spite of the fact that they’d probably be a lot happier with someone they can relate to. Someone who was also coming of age in the 70s and 80s and loved Blondie, and the Dukes of Hazzard, and creamola foam.


And anyway, have you SEEN some of the older guys online! What makes them think they’re so flippin desirable that they can demand much younger partners!


So, we were having a lively discussion in the group call about this issue of whether it's ok to lie about age on your profile, basically because if we don’t, we can get cast aside, just for being on the wrong side of a watershed like, say, 50, 60, or 70.


My first reaction was to say, “No, don't lie, because our success with online dating relies on gaining people's trust.”


“Think instead about emphasising your 'youthfulness' and energy in your profile”, I said. “Playfully call them out on making assumptions about age, and talk about the benefits of "experience", maybe with a bit of humour”.


But then some group members pushed back on this and said they'd just miss out if they put their real age and give the wrong impression of who they actually are. A lot of the women in my groups are amazingly youthful and worldly and adventurous for their age, and don’t want to end up with someone they see as some old codger just because men of their own age don’t get matched with them online.


Pretty tricky issue then.


So when I’d put the group into breakout rooms for a chat, I went off to find my husband, Rob in the kitchen, to get a man’s perspective on this question – and actually his opinion surprised me.


He reckoned that it’s ok to fib as long as it’s just a little fib – so for age, a year or 2 younger… say 3 or 4 absolute max. He didn’t think this would be a problem for most guys, as long as you use up to date photos and tell him your real age as soon as you start communicating with him, or at least as soon as you meet him.


I guess whether or not lying is going to be acceptable will come down partly to the reason for doing it. Is it simply to deceive, or is it about increasing the chances of a genuine match that could be good for both parties?


Back in the days before I met my husband, when I was doing online dating, I must admit, for a while I lied in my profile about being divorced. Actually I was “separated”, and had been for years but hadn’t been able to get divorced for various reasons. I knew with rock solid certainty that hell would freeze over before I’d ever get back with my first husband, so it seemed to me that saying “divorced” in my profile was actually closer to the reality of the situation. I wasn’t trying to dupe anyone.


Of course if it’s ok for us to bend the truth a bit in our profiles, then we have to be a bit accepting of it for guys too. Sauce for the goose and the gander etc.


While men might be a bit unreasonable with their age criteria, we women are often guilty of the same when it comes to height. We get obsessed with finding a man who’s tall, or at least taller than us. There are good reasons why this preference has evolved, but in the modern world it really doesn’t matter.


But men are taking this height preference to heart big-time – I saw an article yesterday in GQ magazine all about the trend for surgery on men’s thigh bones to make them taller!


So, a guy might lie about his height - saying he's 6' when really he's 5'11''. It's not much difference but it might bring him into your orbit. If he said he was 6' when actually he's 5'8" it's going to be a different matter. It comes down to the reason for lying and is that reason acceptable or are they just wasting your time?


The alternative, of course, is that we all become a little bit more relaxed about the boxes we want to tick when we read someone’s profile.

Yes of course be fussy about the things that really matter – having aligned values and finding a partner who’s kind and has your best interests at heart. That’s the important stuff.

But whether or not someone can reach that bottle on the very top shelf… or how many trips round the sun they’ve had so far… nah, doesn’t matter nearly so much.

Mairi Macleod PhD