A look back at dating in 2022

dating relationships trends new year 2022
The realities of dating in 2022Klaus Vedfelt - Getty Images

As we look towards the new year, many of us are starting to make dating-focused resolutions. It’s been an interesting year in the world of dating and relationships. We’ve seen the hard-launch of lots of new celebrity couples from Zoe Kravitz and Channing Tatum to the reunion of Jenifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Important conversations about inclusive sex education were had, and plenty of memes and TikTok trends abounded. Sex parties too were back in a BIG way.

Yup, there’s been a lot going on this year, and with the looming cost of living crisis we’re sure to continue seeing shifts in the way we think about and value our love lives. The resurgence of in-person dating post-pandemic has also meant that whether we’re keeping it casual or looking for something more serious, dating has become a lot more intentional.

But whether you’re deleting the apps for good, brainstorming next year’s profile prompts, or jumping on the viral end of year Dating Wrapped trend – let’s first take a moment to reflect on the last year in the search for love.

Back to the 1950s…

A TikTok video by divorce lawyer Justin Lee sparked a lot of debate online early on in the year, when he stated that men should always pay on the first date to test if a woman is “entitled” or “appreciative”. Lee also clarified that whoever pays and how the check is divided up is ultimately not important. It’s the initial gesture of the man covering it and how the woman responds to it.

And he wasn’t alone. There were a lot of similar videos circulating social media that reinforced how outdated gender dynamics around dating persisted in 2022. The hashtag #menwithpodcasts went viral on TikTok in February, where women went on the app to critique and make fun of the male podcast host archetype and their rampant misogyny. Good Bro Bad Bro was one of the podcasts referred to by TikTokers as “alpha podcast hosts”, after going viral for asking their viewers if women had hobbies. Sigh.

Sadly, these silly and traditionalist views were not in the minority. According to a survey Bumble commissioned with YouGov, 74% of adults surveyed agree that when it comes to romantic relationships and dating, different behaviours are expected based on your gender identity and are even accepted in dating. 52% of those polled believe men are expected to take the lead in both asking someone out and initiating the first kiss while only 8% expected the same from a woman. Almost half (47%) say the impact of gender roles and behaviours makes dating more difficult (surprise, surprise).

Some women leaned into this approach, with the Trad Wives trend still going strong and a younger cohort coming to the fore: the “stay-at-home girlfriend”. Blowing up on TikTok in August, the trend saw self-declared stay-at-home-girlfriends like @skinbyhelen saying that they’re performing “wifey duties” as the “girlfriend package”.

Healthy dating mindset

When it came to singles, 2022 saw people dating on their own terms. The “consciously single” movement saw people reject the notion of needing to settle down and fight back at with a single-by-choice narrative.

For those who did want to settle down, dating apps noticed a focus on waiting to find the right person, with Bumble noting that 61% of users prioritised emotional availability in their romantic interests while 23% said they care less about physical appearance. Meanwhile, over on Tinder, users turned situationships into a legit relationship status this year.

According to Tinder's survey, over 1 in 102 surveyed young singles said they prefer situationships as they enabled them to develop a relationship with less pressure. Tinder also launched Healthy Dating Guides to help encourage a healthier dating mindset. We love to see it.

Exploring new dating options and buzzwords everywhere

Exploratory dating was the theme this year and Plenty of Fish coined the term “hesi-dating” to describe how 58% of their users were unsure if they wanted to date seriously or casually due to how uncertain life is in general. It led to some really creative ways to manifest our love interests on TikTok from “vabbing” - rubbing our vaginal juices on ourselves like perfume (yes, really) - to the "honey spell" viral videos where people would draw a cross in honey on their tongues in hopes of attracting a partner who is obsessed with them.

There was also a rise of “half-masting” in the dating scene, a term coined to describe being in a dating limbo where you’re not totally committed but you haven’t decided to end things either. Confusing right? Hayley Quinn, dating expert for Match, breaks the trend down as: “deliberately taking time to assess whether a relationship is right for you, by taking a step back.”

And as we can’t get enough of romantic portmanteaus, the term “wanderlove” arose, to describe daters who were more open-minded when it came to their potential new beau’s location. According to a study by the dating site Seeking, 39% of singles are open to travel when it comes to online dating.

Elsewhere, thanks to a rise in sober-curiosity, more people opted for “dry dates”, with Bumble finding that 34% of people now consider going alcohol-free on dates. “Power PDA” was having a moment again – Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker’s PDA-packed relationship was rubbing off on us - as 68% of Bumble users worldwide said they were more open to PDA post-pandemic.

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Luis Alvarez - Getty Images

Money talks

The cost of living crisis has also made us more money conscious when it comes to our dating habits. This year, a lot of singles couldn’t date as often as they used to because of financial pressures. A study by dating platform Match found that the decrease in disposable income has led to singles spending more time establishing a connection with someone before agreeing to meet in real life, with 13% of daters using voice notes and virtual dates to judge compatibility before they meet in real life.

It's estimated that the average date this year costs £233.90, with the biggest expenses being a new outfit and food. It's no wonder 28% also said they planned their dates around payday to make sure they could afford it. eHarmony even found that 47% of daters have passed on a date due to their financial situation.

We’re going to therapy

All the psychoanalysis and relationship advice on social media is showing us that singles are more clued up on all aspects of the dating experience than ever before. According to Hinge, 91% of users want to date someone who goes to therapy. Daters are not only identifying toxic and narcissistic behaviour but digging deeper to reconnect with their inner child and understand the role love languages and attachment styles play in forming romantic connections. According to Tinder over half (58%) of singles said they were confident they could identify a green or a red flag.

We all went in on our dating icks

As always, singles continue to be vocal about dating icks - remember the viral “He’s a 10 but…” TikTok trend? People rated an imaginary love interest based on potential dealbreaker traits. TikTok users also got very specific with their lists of turn offs from sniffing loudly to the sound of their date breathing. According to Badoo, a whopping 82% of singles experienced the ick while dating this year and 35% of people also admitted they were feeling the pressure to find the right person free of icks.

Dating apps continue to evolve

Dating apps have been revolutionising the way we date online for some time now. This year has made it a decade of swiping on Tinder. Remember when dating was once seen as IRL meet-ups or getting set up by your friends? Dating apps have become such an integral part of our lives. Can we even imagine a time before they existed?

You can meet a lot of potential partners from the comfort of your sofa in today's hyper-connected world. The convenience of dating apps does come with its own set of unique dating challenges from dating burnout to one-sided conversations that never make it past the texting stage.

However, a new wave of dating apps this year gave daters new options to find compatibility with interactive ice-breaking questions, Q&As, and games like Smitten.

According to research for BBC Three's Dating's Dangerous Secrets, 37% of dating-app users have reported someone for inappropriate behaviour while 63% of people have felt uncomfortable on a date initiated through an app. On these dates, 33% have experienced harassment or abuse. So, dating app safety prevention became a major focus this year, Bumble teamed up with to prevent the sharing of non-consensual intimate images online while ToDate eliminates catfishing and boosts online dating safety via ID verification and AWS photo recognition software.

It’s safe to say daters have been very busy this year. As the year comes to an end it’s not surprising that dating app Match found that December is the time of the year when daters “give up” on finding a partner, preferring to wait until the new year to start their journey all over again.

And after all that we say… bring on the new year!

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