Modern love isn’t so romantic anymore. Can we swipe ourselves happy?

Modern love isn’t so romantic anymore. Can we swipe ourselves happy?

Dating apps have become an integral part of our lives. Yet only a quarter of the Tinder users find a relationship. Do we still need a “happily ever after”?

Beeld: cottonbro / Pexels

Two people staying together for life? It has not been obvious anymore for a long time. Last year, 8.6 out of every 1,000 marriages ended in tears. Most of them lasted five years, but not ten years.

The taboo on divorce is much less pronounced these days, which is a positive development, says associate professor of social psychology Tila Pronk. “In the past, getting divorced often wasn’t an option because of reputation but also from a practical point of view. A woman usually had no income of her own, so purely for a roof over her head she would have to stay married.”

Still, Pronk does not think the idea of always being together is unrealistic: “People can stay together for life. That’s also really something to strive for. Research shows that a long stable relationship is very good for us.”

Humans are social animals, but is a love affair crucial for us to be truly happy? Pronk doesn’t think so: “We are pre-programmed to live together but it doesn’t have to be in the traditional way. Whether you experience it in a love relationship or in a friendship, as long as there are a few stable figures around who will walk with you almost all your life. As long as you experience that unconditional love, care, and commitment.”

The chance of casual sex

Thanks to dating apps it has become much easier to find partners, you can almost endlessly swipe from the toilet in search of your “prince charming,” but those endless options can also cause doubts. Pronk explains: “The decision to stay together is partly determined by the alternatives you have. Dating apps can make single life look rosier than it is.”

But Tinder is less romantic than it seems. Research by Elisabeth Timmermans (Dutch only) shows that the chance of finding casual sex on Tinder is greater than the chance of finding a partner. Of the thirteen reasons to use the app, “love” is only number four. It is also remarkable that 22 percent of the Tinder users are already in a relationship. Whether these are all open relationships is not known.

In addition, not only Tinder but also our mobile phone in general causes less real contact. Pronk says that people in public spaces are often immersed in their mobile phones, making it a bigger step to make contact with each other. “People seem to have become wary, they don’t want to run the risk of talking to someone and being rejected. At least through the matching system in the apps you know for sure that someone is interested in you.”

The unhealthiest people

People who are worried about the coronavirus, have a greater fear of being single, Timmermans’ research shows. Pronk confirms this: “Some people now seem to realize that they do want a relationship. Especially in the lockdown period, if you were single then that can be a bit of a shock.” 

Before the coronavirus period, it was possible to do all sorts of things and go from one party to another. Now there are not many activities left, so we have to focus on the people closest to us. Pronk: “We are focusing very much on the ‘inner circle’, for example, there has been a baby boom, and many took a pet to still have the feeling of ‘being together’.”

Yet it is more often the men who feel the need for a love affair compared to women. Pronk explains that both men and women need to connect with others, but that women are just a little better at it. “Women are more likely to have close friendships with girlfriends that feel unconditional and deeper. They have a caring relationship together.”

So, unlike men, women can already get many important needs out of a friendship. Pronk: “The unhealthiest people are widowers, because these men often not only lose their wives but also the whole social network that the their wives maintained.”


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