3 Ways to Get in a Relationship without Dating Apps

Once upon a time, falling in love online was the "weird" way to meet. Now, when two people meet IRL, hit it off, and begin an honest-to-goodness relationship, it's practically old-fashioned — not to mention rare.

"I was recently at lunch with a group of women, when one mentioned that she and her wife had met offline," Maria Del Russo writes at The Cut. "'How did you do that?' another woman asked."

Many of us are so accustomed to app life, we've forgotten how to interact in person. According to a 2017 report by Statista, 61 percent of Americans aged 18-29 and 44% of Americans 30-59 use a dating site/app or have used one in the past. But in a 2018 survey by The Tylt, 84 percent of millennials said they'd rather find love in real life.

It makes sense. While apps offer ease — just as they do with grocery shopping, food delivery, and everything Amazon — they also delay the discovery of crucial information about compatibility and chemistry.

"While meeting people as potential partners, or even just as friends, is possible on digital applications or social media, meeting people in person tends to yield better results," Amie Harwick, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told The Cut. "When meeting someone in real life, you have the benefit of eye contact, viewing nonverbal cues, and judging a connection."

"Meeting people 'in the wild' makes conversations more organic and easygoing," Maria Avgitidis, founder of Agape Match, a matchmaking service, told Business Insider. "More significantly, you're not hiding behind a screen and turning a soulmate into a pen pal," she said.

And as many have found, it can be difficult to suss out a love connection on a platform built for superficial swipes.

"Your filters aren't set for love," writes Alex Baker-Whitcomb on Wired. "They're set for lust, and their equation for it is faulty at best."

If you're ready to step out of the blue light and look up, here's how to go about meeting in the real world.


Tevas aren't the only 90s trend making a comeback. Back then, speed dating was the Tindr equivalent of an embarrassment of riches on the dating scene, but for many what's old feels thoroughly appealing again. Speed dating is also a great IRL conversational boot camp for those of us who feel wittiest communicating by gif.

"I went speed dating for some face-to-face conversations, and it changed everything," Baker-Whitcomb wrote. "I could gauge my interest within 30 seconds of talking to each person, and didn't have to make plans and text awkwardly all week just to get to there."

Therein is the draw for many, who actually find the convenience and ease of the apps to be a bit of a time sink.

"Speed dating's biggest sell is its immediacy," writes Rohan Banerjee at the New Statesman. "If four minutes isn't long enough to tell if you want to see someone long-term, it is usually long enough to tell if you don't."

One speed millennial speed dater found it also shook up her expectations and reminded her of the oldest dating rule in the book: Don't judge a book by its cover.

"The most traditionally attractive males turned out to be a) stoned b) not 'technically' single c) in recruitment," writes Chloe Law at FGRLS. "The men I'd typically skip on the usual apps were the ones I had the best time with."

Do What You Love

Emphasis on the word do. Let what interests you in life — the arts, indie rock, literary advocacy, local food — get out into the world. When you do what you love, it brings you into the path of others who share your passion, values, and interests.

"Schedule at least three social activities per week outside of work activities," advises dating coach Rahid Yosef. If that seems like overkill, just take the first step. Love reading? Mix up your nights on the couch with the latest New York Times Bestseller with a night out at a local reading series each week.

"I meet girls at the gym — which is a healthy habit anyway — and it works out great," Chris, 29, told Business Insider. "I feel in my element there, and that is where your self-esteem is most high, in your element or place or expertise. I highly recommend it."

Baker-Whitcomb found herself seeing a ton more shows when she gave up dating apps, and found the nights, compared to a dud date, were actually good for her — even when they didn't result in meeting someone.

"When I showed up to the online dates I wasn't interested in, I had wasted a night. But if I didn't meet someone while my favorite musician bathed me in a searing guitar solo? It's a win-win."

Be Bold

In our favorite act of everyday bravery, we'd like to nominate Sarah, 34.

"Sometimes I just give my number out to men I meet at coffee shops or grocery stores."

If we've got our heads in our phones everywhere we go, we miss those most basic of interpersonal cues, like the guy smiling at you in the alternative milks aisle.

"Make eye contact," Harwick says. If someone returns your gaze and smiles, smile back. Try saying — gulp, we know — hello. Turns out you don't need any lines about angels flying close to the ground, and that a conversation can continue with surprising ease.

Be experimental in your social choices, too, Harwick advises. "If you go to the same bar with the same friend all the time, you're less likely to branch out and meet more friends or meet a potential partner," she says. "Studies show that increasing the variety of both your social scenes, social partners, and social places results in an increased opportunity to meet both romantic and platonic partners."

While it's fun to go where everyone knows your name, make a point of trying that new Japanese vinyl-and-whiskey bar or the art openings on First Friday.

"If you go to a variety of different styles of places with different groups of friends," she says, "you are much more likely to increase your potential to meet somebody romantically."

That's the goal, remember, but so too is living your life to the fullest. And look at that: Even if you don't make a love connection your first time out of your digital comfort zone, you're already doing living a life too big too fit inside that little screen.

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