5 Ways to Turn Digital Dating into Mindful Mating:

How one can learn to become a more authentic, present-focused dating partner.


According to a recent Pew Research survey, 3 in 10 U.S. adults use online dating sites or apps or have at some point in their life.  Among people who have used dating apps recently, 44% of them are using the app to meet a long-term partner. Given that online dating has become more of an acceptable or expected method for singles to meet new partners, it is critical for those using this technology who are using it to meet a future committed partner to learn a more nuanced approach once one is matched with a potential new partner. How one shows up as a date can impact participants’ mental health issues including their: self-esteem, attachment concerns, trust in others, sexual health, body self-image, and intimacy needs.  

How Are Single People Using Dating Apps to Meet New Partners?

Source: karolina-grabowska/Pexels

According to a recent survey by Pew Research about 7% of all Americans met their current partner on a dating site or app. Dating apps are even more popular among young people with 20% of people aged 18-29 having met their current partner online. 

Given that there are fewer offline places to meet a partner if you identify as LGBTQIA +, it seems that queer people are turning to dating apps more often than their heterosexual counterparts. The 2023 Pew Research Study finds that 24% of LGB adults compared to 9% of straight adults met their partner online. But what are the common challenges that all singles and daters have to deal with? 

What is the Emotional Experience of Those Singles Using Dating Apps? 

In the early aughts, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman described the digital dating mode of mating as a type of “liquid love” since it made the traditional bonds between people and institutions (like marriage) to which previous generations felt more bound. Bauman wrote: “Dating is being transformed into a recreational activity, where people are seen as largely disposable as one can always ‘press delete’.” More recently MIT researcher Sherry Turkle added that “these days insecure in our relationship and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and to protect us from them at the same time.” 

Many singles approach online dating in general through the year and certainly as Valentine’s Day approaches with larger amounts of dread and less hope if they’ve been dating for a while.

Source: cottonbro-studio/Pexels

Many clients in therapeutic settings complain of dating fatigue, a sense of futility in the swiping and texting that never seems to result in an in-person date. Singles frequently describe the image in their mind’s eye of the perfect partner while expressing disappointment with the process and lack of progress in finding the ‘one’. Dating apps have negatively influenced the process of dating itself because daters can make quick snap judgments around things that don’t jive with the perfect requirement list they have crafted and tweaked over many months and maybe years of dating. 

One pattern that is observed in clinical practice is that when a client is on a date with someone new, and they find their date says something they disagree with, or has a part of their body that is not exactly keeping with their ideal in that moment that person gets ‘cut’ from the dater’s mind as a possible potential partner for missing an item on their requirement list. A clinician might call this perfection-seeking, but Bauman described digital dating as consumerist behavior replacing romance and seduction into a type of entertainment where users can date “secure in the knowledge they can always return to the marketplace for another bout of shopping”.  

There is another possible approach to dating that offers a less transactional networked intimacy where perfection recedes and mindful inquiry is utilized. Proposing a new framework for using dating apps, could in fact offer single folx renewed vitality and deeper authenticity in their experiences and their search for a committed monogamous relationship.

How to Become a More Present-Focused, Compassionate Date. What is Mindful Dating? 

As many people’s relationships are being formed online the latest popular approach, and recommended by a dating coach, is to focus more on how to be a present-focused dater instead of the checklist interviewer seeking the ‘perfect’ partner. According to the popular dating app’s annual survey, 2023 Tinder Year in Swipe, N.A.T.O.(Not Being Attached to an Outcome) is the 2nd most popular approach to dating online. Meditation teachers like Sharon Salzberg have been inviting people to practice mindful meditation for many years. Given that there is so much emotional energy expended by people on dating apps, especially if one is seeking a longtime mate, it can be healthier and more sustainable to approach each date as an experience to learn something new about someone else while being present-focused.  

Source: Ron Lach/Pexels

Instead of saying, “What am I getting out of it” we need to learn to think: How can I be fully embodied in the present moment and really be curious about this other person? I encourage clients to notice nuanced movements, the way they use their hands, how they laugh, and the way their eyes move. Just as a noticing inquiry practice, not as a data collection technique.  Finally, notice how one’s own body is feeling without judgment and with what Salzberg encourages; lovingkindness. This will enable a transition to become a more compassionate dater and will increase one’s energy and sense of fuller embodiment. 

Tips to Mindfully Date

  1. Get off the phone after matching and attempt to meet the person after a week of texting.
  2. Present yourself authentically while keeping certain intimate details private. 
  3. Try to enter the space with the mindset of just learning something about this person. 
  4. Ditch your mental checklist and use the gifts of mindful breathing and grounding to stay present and embodied in your own body, not chasing ideas in your mind. 
  5. Communicate your interests, and passions along with any boundaries that seem important for early-stage dating.   

As Valentine’s Day approaches, therapists and single people can invite their clients, or themselves to put aside mental checklists and learn the techniques to become mindful and compassionate daters.