We couldn’t help but wonder… what on earth is going on with dating these days? Louise Ramsay speaks to the experts to find out more.
From looking for your lobster a la Rachel and Ross in Friends to looking for fun, dating has taken on a whole new realm in the search for something real. This year makes ten years for Tinder, the dating app that took the word by storm by offering the chance of love by swiping right. But after two years inside, what does modern dating look like now?
Dating expert Haifa Barbari, the founder of self-coaching app Be What Matters and host of Love & Stardust podcast, believes self-discovery during the height of the pandemic has changed the dating landscape.
She says, “The attitude is very much ‘me first’ and for good reason. The height of the pandemic forced us to look at ourselves, our relationships, our lives and our futures. As a result, those who went through break-ups, shake-ups and even make-ups all had one thing in common. They all went on a self-discovery journey to really pinpoint the needs, wants, desires, deal breakers and must haves. Think of it – we all had so much time on our own that we were almost forced to look inward and check in to see if we were happy.
“And now we have the impact of that time shaping how we view relationships. Like prioritising the need to feel authentic, connected and not settling for anything that feels imbalanced or down to a social expectation. We’re all looking for real love, not half-heartedly done. We’re looking to feel connected and wanted, be it in a long-term love match or a short one.
“Many of my clients and app members went through the self-love coaching to re-discover self, grow self-love and confidence and re-set their relationship visions before getting back out there. It’s important to check in with yourself.”
And we can all agree ensuring we’re looking after ourselves can be the foundation to a solid relationship with others, be it romantic or platonic. But that isn’t to say all flirty, feel-good connections are healthy – they can even be indications of more unhealthy behaviour.
Haifa says, “An uncommon red flag is over-flattery. Be careful of too much too soon. You often hear of the love bomb red flag of expressing love too soon – maybe within a few weeks, or rushing to relationship status too soon. What you don’t often hear is the red flag that precedes them, and that’s showering you with compliments non-stop from pretty much the moment you meet. E.g. you are the most beautiful, smartest, you are so incredible, I can’t believe I’ve met you….things like this constantly and consistently.
“You can’t believe it, it almost sounds too much but you might like it. After all, who doesn’t like a compliment? Especially if you’re looking for a long-term, real love. Just watch out, because if the love bomb gets dropped three weeks in and you’re in relationship territory, just pump the breaks and take it slower to really get to know someone better before any form of commitment. Don’t get swept up in a moment that could lead to long-term hassle.”
The pandemic saw a sharp spike of divorce inquiries, as Leading British law firm Stewarts logged a 122% increase in enquiries between July and October 2022. But what’s the best thing to do when re-entering the dating pool after many years? The answer may be simpler than you think.
Haifa says, “Flirt. There is nothing quite like getting the spark back into your love life with little fun flirting. A flirt a day will help nudge you out of despondent energy and see that there is a whole new world out there with many potential options. Take the time you need to heal, if you can afford it, see a therapist or counsellor to help you let go of the past, and then bounce back by starting off with baby steps. Flirt, use an app, video date then go on a real life date.
“Remember that while separation can be difficult, this is your time to go after what you want. So have fun with it!”
Post-lockdown dating trends have high-lightened this change of desire and ‘me first’ approach.
Haifa says, “People dating multiple people for months due to the rise of options with dating apps and needing to have an exclusive conversation.
“But I’ve also seen dating app fatigue. Using apps too much, dating too much and generally getting tired of swiping without enough responses. There are many bots and fake profiles on apps and it can be tiring to filter through this. People are tired of trying, as it can be hard to build relationships via dating apps. If you’re feeling fatigued, take a break from the apps are re-centre yourself. Love is meant to be a joy for life, not a hard slough, especially at the start.
“There is also the activity and no drinks date/sober dating. Following the height of the pandemic, people are valuing quality time and prioritizing getting to know someone better without distractions or a vodka haze,” Haifa says. “Dates where there’s an activity to get more insight into how you are together and even no drinking is trending. Opting for coffee, juices, and sparkling fruit water so to remember the date and focus on whether you can have a conversation and enjoy the date sober.”
The best step you can do when dating right now? Come up with a strategy – but don’t worry, you don’t need excel spreadsheets or game plans here. A simple strategy can make a massive difference, as Haifa points out.
“You need a dating and self-care strategy not only to navigate modern dating, but to maintain your wellbeing,” she says. “Dating apps have been designed to keep you hooked and on one hand, the dopamine spark in the brain after a swipe with a match back is fantastic, the same feature can trigger the same part of the bran as processing physical pain, the somatosensory system when you don’t get a match or response back.
“My 333 strategy is based on dating three people, at the same time, for three months, and giving them three chances if something bothers you comes up. A chance to talk about it and see if you can work through things together to help break out of falling into disposable dating traps too. Limit your time on dating apps to 30 minutes a day and remind yourself daily of your worth, and standards. There’s an entire healthy dating strategy in my app to help people go into the new world of dating with eyes wide open, along with self-care sessions.”
Like everything in life, love can feel like it’s hard to find and in an increasingly digital world, it might feel like it’s becoming impossible. But, like everything in life, love can be found in unexpected times and unusual places. The key is to not give up in the face of smaller tribulations, as love will always find a way to sneak in.
And while you search for romantic love, take time to notice the other forms of love around you. The family and friends you’ve built your life with, who are always at the end of the phone. That was the love worth finding – and your next real connection will be too. Now go forth and flirt!