Thanks to the hundreds of dating apps in existence, we live in an area with an oversaturation of potential romantic partners. We can swipe endlessly, always on the hunt for someone “hotter” or “better.” While it’s great that we have the opportunity to meet more people than ever before, the sheer number of people available through apps has led many of us to have multiple shallow connections. Instead of investing in one (or a few) people, we spread ourselves thin by talking to, dating, and in some cases, sleeping with everyone.
Recently, there’s been a push to break free from how many of us have grown accustomed to using dating apps. It’s why more people are engaging in what’s commonly called “slow dating.”
“Slow dating is not a new phenomenon but may feel radically different for people who have been using dating apps intermittently or vociferously over the past years,” says Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., founder of Modern Intimacy.
“Slow dating interprets this fast digital process,” she continues. “At its core is a focus on getting to know fewer people at the same time, so you can stay present with them—and more importantly, yourself—and thoroughly evaluate the quality of the connection.”
To learn all about slow dating, we spoke to Balestrieri and Tiana GlittersaurusRex, polyamorous educator and co-founder of The Sex Work Survival Guide. Here’s what the two relationship experts had to say about it.
“For many, the decision to risk transmission of coronavirus was enough to practice more discernment in who we spent time with physically or digitally,” Balestrieri says. Pre-vaccine, people couldn’t just go on a casual date with someone they didn’t know. You needed to trust this person, so you took more time to get to know them. You also wanted to see if they’d be worth the risk to meet up IRL.
“Also, even though people are doing less socially, emotionally this has been a busy year,” Balestrieri says. “The combination of stressors and less community-based activity has led to some social atrophy, and people may be more conscious of how they spend their time, and with whom.” In other words, we’re all exhausted from the pandemic, so we might not have the energy to chat with multiple people at once.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t been everyone’s experience during Covid. “Some people have been swiping with such fervor that they are likely in a somewhat dissociated state and not paying attention to who the people behind the avatars are,” Balestrieri says. For these folks, avatars have become digitalized objects, picked up and put down, to help remedy the ails of loneliness, inadequacy, or hopelessness. “Swiping incessantly gives them an escape, and the fantasy of the person online is far more potent than the reality of their humanity.”
The most significant distinction between slow dating and other forms of dating is the ability to remain mindful in assessing the quality of the connection you have with another person. “The more people you are talking to, swiping on, hooking up with, or dating simultaneously, the less of your full and present self you can connect to being in the moment with them,” Balestrieri says. “Presence and mindfulness give us pause to stay true to ourselves, stay regulated, stay aware of who and what is really good for us.”
Slow dating is ideal for demisexuals, or folks who need “emotional and intellectual attachment for sexual attraction,” says GlittersaurusRex. “It’s an opportunity to get to know the layers of someone else as you reveal your own.” In this vein, there’s also less pressure to have sex quickly since slow dating isn’t about random hookups and more about seeing if a person could be a long-term romantic partner.
“It may be frustrating to slow down and see fewer people with more intention because if it does not work out, you may feel like you’ve wasted time,” Balestrieri says. “This is a bit of a false dilemma, though, because if you are not ready to really be present with someone, you may end up wasting time with someone (or many people) with fast dating before you really realize that they are not a good fit.”
On a deeper level, it may also force you to reconcile some feelings you’ve been trying to avoid with fast dating and compulsive swiping. An appeal of fast dating is that we get to check out a little bit and live in the fantasy of the experience, not the reality.
“If you have been using dating to mask uncomfortable truths about how you relate to yourself, or how you feel about your worth as a partner, slow dating may bring all of those insecurities to the surface,” Balestrieri says. “Although it may be uncomfortable at first, leaning into it can help you reframe how you see yourself and how you date. Moving from a scarcity or FOMO mindset to one of discernment and abundance can change the dynamics of who you let into your life and set the stage for more rewarding and healthy relationships.”
It depends on exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more in-depth connections and a romantic partner, then absolutely! But if you’re recently vaccinated and trying to go wild this summer, meeting and sleeping with as many folks as possible since you’ve been cooped up for the past year, then now probably isn’t the time to slow date. If you reach a point where you’re looking for more depth in your relationships, then you can give slow dating a try.
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