Not prepared to cede the potential of a better love life to youth, older singles are also logging on to dating sites in growing numbers.

More than 45 million Americans visited online dating sites last month, up from about 35 million at the end of 2002, according to com Score Media Metrix, a Web tracking service.

Spending by subscribers on Web dating sites has soared, rising to a projected $100 million or more a quarter this year from under $10 million a quarter at the beginning of 2001, according to the Online Publishers Association.

And despite the Web's reputation as a meeting ground for casual sex, a majority of the leading sites' paying subscribers now say that what they are looking for is a relationship. Many online daters turn out to be married, and it is taken for granted that everybody lies a little.

But they are more often trumped by a pervasive dissatisfaction with singles bars, dates set up by friends and other accepted ways of meeting prospective mates. Eddy when she saw a picture of him with a shaved head.

''My brother told me to join a canoeing club or something stupid like that,'' said Dan Eddy, 28, who met his fiancée, Sherry Sivik, 27, of North Ridgeville, Ohio, on She refused to meet him for weeks, afraid he would be ''some kind of lunatic.'' But after hearing that Mr. Sivik's friends, who had a long-running joke about trying to find her a bald guy with a Jeep, knew it was all over.

As word spreads of successful matches, the stigma of advertising for a romantic partner online rather than waiting for friends and fate to conjure one is fading.

''I really don't think there's anyone under 35 who would think twice about it,'' said Sascha Segan, 29, who has persuaded several friends to try online dating since meeting his fiancée, Leontine Greenberg, on

Correction Appended Of the 120 men she traded messages with online in her first four months of Internet dating, Kristen Costello, 33, talked to 20 on the telephone at least once and met 11 in person. Costello dated four several times before realizing she had not found ''the one.'' It is one of the first lessons learned by many in the swelling ranks of subscribers to Internet dating sites: soul mates are harder to come by than dinner and a movie. Costello, a fourth-grade teacher in Florham Park, N.

J., remains convinced that the chances of finding her life partner are better online than off.

''The difference is there's a huge number of people to draw from,'' said Ms.

Costello, who is getting divorced and tried on the advice of a friend who met her current boyfriend through the site.