This content originally appeared on Mashable for a US audience and has been adapted for the UK audience.
Most seasoned singles know that dating culture can be broken up into hookup culture and something much more serious. Most online dating sites are a mix of both, and after living with online dating as an increasingly ubiquitous option for the past 20 years, the general public tends to see dating sites as a normal means of finding casual dates or a hookup.
But what if you’re looking for a serious relationship that lasts? What if you just don’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day ever again? What if you’re over casual dating and just want someone consistent to hang out with? What if you have no idea where to start? Big names like match and eharmony likely come to mind, but they’re not interchangeable — nor are they your only options.
Can you find something serious with someone online?
The long-term potential of online dating is still met with a cloud of doubt. However, new evidence is proving that relationships that started online might have a stronger foundation than those that started offline. A 2017 study cited in the MIT Technology Review found that people who meet online are more likely to be compatible and have a higher chance of a healthy marriage if they decide to get hitched. If marriage is your goal, you’ll be glad to know that another more recent study found that heterosexual couples who met online were quicker to tie the knot than couples who met offline. Either way, online dating seems to be a good recipe for a satisfying, long-term relationship whether it involves marriage or not.
No one is saying that online dating is the variable that changes everything, but the research does point to the fact that people who sign up for dating sites that require thoughtful responses are more ready to settle down. Plus, an uptick in dating app sign-ups — due to sheer boredom or the forced realisation that it’d actually be pretty nice to spoon on a nightly basis — mathematically upped your chances of meeting someone special.
It’s important to note that Covid has changed dating forever. Communication skills were forced to evolve in the year that most human connection was facilitated through a screen. People learned to voice their boundaries and have serious talks (like about social distancing) early on. Coronavirus anxiety became a natural conversation starter and universal way to bond. More single people may now be more comfortable with delving into deeper subjects with someone they met online — a great thing for serious relationship hunters, if true. Tinder thinks the honesty will carry over when things are back to normal, and hopefully the aggressively horny people will continue to weed themselves out. At the very least, isolation may have simply forced more people to realise that they do, in fact, crave more company than a booty call. Tinder says that more daters are open to “seeing where things go” than they were before the pandemic.
We should also remember what we learned while dating in the era of social distancing: You’re never required to meet up with a match in person immediately. Someone’s willingness to date you via texting or FaceTime is a pretty clear sign that they’re genuinely interested in learning more about you. Even if and when social distancing isn’t as believable of an excuse as it was at the start of the pandemic, someone who pressures you to hang out before you’re ready probably isn’t long-term material.
Divorcees and single parents have particularly high untapped potential on online dating sites, too. True, being in the over-60 group may mean that more people your age are already off the market — but online dating can prove that the mature dating pool isn’t as bleak as you think, even if your local one is. People over 50 actually have an advantage over the younger crowd: Many people in their 20s and 30s just aren’t ready to settle down. Developing a crush on someone is more likely to end with an awkward “situation-ship” rather than something serious. Most older folks have been figuring this whole “love” thing out for longer than millennials have been alive. With life experience and possible previous marriages under your belt, you know the red flags and you know what you want. If you want commitment, a site with a high barrier to entry — like eharmony, match, or Elite Singles — could help to weed out people who aren’t about to pay a high monthly price just to mess around.
What makes a dating site good for serious relationships?
Do we even need to get into why Tinder is a long shot? Is being introduced to nearly every person in a 10-mile radius worth the cliché bios or how they’re “not looking for commitment?” Sure, Tinder has its fair share of those lucky success stories, but it’s also the dating app where ghosting, breadcrumbing, and every other disheartening dating trend flourish.
Singles looking for something serious might get frustrated with sites that only give a limited number of matches per day. But choosing sites that force you to be selective really heightens the focus on what you’re truly looking for in a perfect match — and gets you closer to cuffing status.
For online daters who want the power to peruse the dating pool, you need to seek out detailed, high-energy profiles that give a well-rounded idea of who you’re messaging. Swiping is guided by the compatibility ranking that most sites offer, which predicts how well you’ll get along with other daters based on how you both answered questions. Plus, you can tell how much other daters care about the process by how much effort they put into their profile. If a single sentence about being drama free is the extent of someone’s bio, you can assume that they’re not taking this seriously and that they almost definitely create drama.
What should you include on your dating profile?
On its face, it makes sense to question the legitimacy of a connection with someone who is only showcasing their best self. But how much more information are you really getting from the tipsy person hitting on you at the bar aside from what they look like in reality? The dating sites that let users express themselves with prompts — from favourite movies to where you want to retire — are setting you up for success by avoiding an unnecessary argument six months in.
The best way to attract genuine people? Be authentic yourself. That’s easier said than done when your biggest worry is that a truthful answer — like the fact that you might not be as good of a communicator as you would like — will deter “the one” from swiping right. But deep down, you know that lying on a compatibility questionnaire probably won’t lead to a healthy relationship. It’s crucial to remind yourself that people who get freaked out by your honesty aren’t ideal potential partners, anyway. We’ve left out the dating sites that get torn apart in reviews for being ravaged by scammers and fake profiles, but asking to video chat before meeting up in real life is a smart way to confirm that the photos match the person behind them.
What is the best dating site for finding a serious relationship?
There are dating sites for hooking up, dating sites for women, dating sites for men, dating sites for satisfying every kink, and everything in between. What we’re saying is that there are a lot of options out there, so we’ve tried to make your life that little bit easier by shortlisting the best options for finding someone who’s in it for the long haul.
We’ve lined up a selection of top dating apps and sites, including big names like eharmony and Match. We recommend taking your time and properly considering all of your options, and then picking a favourite. Then you’ll need to actually start dating, but we’ll leave that to you.
These are the best dating sites for finding a serious relationship in 2023.