July 09, 2009— -- In tough economic times, what do women expect from a potential mate?
One woman, Monique DiSalvo, 38, said that man's job is "definitely a factor."
"I feel that a job is an important factor," said another participant, Marissa Clarke, "but how ambitious you are is an even bigger factor for me."
Clarke added that she expects the man to pay on a first date if he asked her out, and other women agreed.
When asked if she would date a man who was unemployed, DiSalvo said no.
"I guess it depends too on your stage in life and where you're going, how quickly you want to get married and be serious with someone," she explained.
But in difficult economic times, opinions about dating someone who is unemployed are evolving.
"If you would have asked me this last year I would have said no, but ... today it's a completely different question," said participant Maria Keeler.
According to a recent survey by Match.com, of 2,700 members, 71 percent said they would still date someone who just lost their job.
That's good news for 38-year-old Mark Ruggiero, a single man who lost his job at a hedge fund approximately seven months ago. He admits he tied his self-worth to his successful career, making dating now an intimidating proposition.
Dating While Unemployed: Confidence and Creativity
"In a date I think women want to get to know you, but they also want to know that you're a secure, stable ambitious guy and when you don't have a job that doesn't really scream ambition or stability," he said.
"And then you find you have anxiety when you try to explain yourself and then you try to explain yourself even more and now you're all, just a mess. You're done."
"When a gentleman loses a job in this economy, yeah, it is psychologically damaging," said Christie Nightengale, the owner of Premier Match, which has 10,000 members. "But, I mean, dating doesn't have to be difficult, it's about coming up with a game-plan and then putting it to work."
Nightengale gave Ruggiero advice on maintaining an active dating life despite being unemployed.
The first step, she says, is to be confident. Dating is a two-way street, and she advises men to take command of the conversation and ask questions. If the topic of employment comes up, she suggests saying you're in between opportunities.
Nightengale's second tip is to be creative. Anyone can spend a lot of money on a date, but you can't put a price on creativity.
Possible budget-friendly activities include wine tastings, art galleries or a book reading.
Finally, she says, relax. Dating should be fun.
'Don't Use the Word Unemployed'
Armed with that advice, "Good Morning America" introduced Ruggiero to Monique DaSilva, who explicitly said she would not date an unemployed man.
"Yeah, I did say that," she said. "What am I supposed to say now?"
She said that "there's more to it" than just a job" and "you have to see the personality of the person," but maintained that if Ruggiero approached her in a bar she "might turn him down" if she found out he was unemployed.
"I wouldn't use the word unemployed, maybe," advised Maria Keeler. "Maybe try to avoid that word, because it's a scary word."
Other women suggested he focus on his great personality and be himself.
After his advice from the women and from Nightengale, we set up Ruggiero on a blind date with a woman named Courtney Minor. Who never asked him what he did for a living.
"We haven't even gotten there," she said. We talked all about me," she added, laughing.
When the subject did come up on a date with another woman named Heather Palmer, Ruggiero put a positive spin on it. "I was working in a hedge fund," he said, "but now I'm looking for my next assignment."
Palmer didn't have a problem with that. "Everybody has transitions," she said.But for men out there who are employed? Don't go quitting your jobs just yet.
When asked if she would offer to pay for dinner, Palmer laughed, "Maybe not that."