Youth Blog—Ask an Expert: Should I Use Dating Apps in a Relationship?
In our “Ask an Expert” blog series, researchers from the IMPACT Program answer questions from LGBTQ youth. This month’s expert is Dr. Kathryn Macapagal, Research Assistant Professor with IMPACT.
Question: I met my partner on a mobile dating app and now we’re getting serious. Is it okay for us to keep using this app? How do I talk to my partner about it?
Answer: Great questions! Location-based dating apps like Grindr and OkCupid are a fairly recent addition to the LGBTQ dating scene. While more and more couples are meeting each other this way, what happens after you get in a relationship? Do you stop using the apps or keep using them? It depends! Couples can handle this in a lot of different ways, but what’s important is that you figure out together what makes sense for you as a couple.
First, ask yourself (and your partner) how you use the app. Did you both stop using it after you got serious? Do you both use it to socialize, but you’d never dream of using it to look for other partners? Or, do you secretly (or not so secretly) look at it to check out other possible partners?
Then, think about how your app use fits into your relationship agreement. These are the rules about whether you and your partner are allowed to date or have sex with other people (non-monogamous) or not (monogamous). If you’re monogamous, you can consider deleting the app from your phone, or keeping it only to socialize. If your relationship is non-monogamous, you might want to keep the app to meet other partners together with or separately from your partner.
If you decide to use these apps in your relationship, it’s important to discuss with your partner what kind of app behavior is in-bounds and out-of-bounds. This is so you are both on the same page and to protect you both from emotional and sexual risks. For example, if you’re just using it to socialize, should you change your relationship status and profile picture to show that you’re partnered? Is flirting (but not meeting people from the app in person) okay? Or, if your agreement is non-monogamous, do you want to use the app to meet partners together? There are lots of factors to think through, and what those are depend on your relationship.
Not sure how to approach this conversation? Try to bring it up when you’re alone together. Say something nice about your relationship first, and then talk about how using the app impacts you as a couple, rather than making a demand. For example, “I really like where our relationship is headed. Now that we’re serious, would you be willing to talk about whether having Grindr accounts still makes sense for us?” is better than, “Don’t use Grindr anymore, or else!”
How you use dating apps when you’re in a relationship is a decision that you and your partner should make together, and how you use them can change over the course of your relationship. What’s most important is that you talk to each other honestly about whether using these apps fits in to your relationship at this time.
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