The last time I was on Tinder, I was new to Melbourne, single and ready to try out all the restaurants and kiss all the babes. This was back in 2016, so it was before other dating apps like Bumble and Hinge had come on the scene. Tinder was IT.
When I think back on that time, I have (mostly) really good memories. Though I never met my ‘soulmate’ or even dated someone for a lengthy amount of time from Tinder, I did meet some amazing people who I’m still friends with today. Not to mention that I absolutely had my fair share of unexpected adventures and juicy one night stands.
Back in 2016 when I was an avid Tinder swiper, everyone was a bit more conservative with their other relationships and how they identified. To think that in 2016, same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in Australia yet, really just shows how far we’ve come.
This got me thinking… how has online dating changed? I was curious to see how Tinder had evolved alongside our growing confidence in who we are and what we want sexually. So naturally, to find out, I downloaded Tinder again.
Let me just say, a lot has changed. But firstly, I completely forgot how difficult it is to choose the appropriate photos for your Tinder profile! You don’t want too sexy or too posed, but you also want to look kind of effortlessly hot and show off your body… it took a few gos for me to get an array of photos I was happy with.
Once I got my profile up and running, I began swiping. I identify as bisexual, so I set my ‘preferences’ to ‘everyone’, which means I get a relatively even ratio of men, women, and all other gender identities.
I was pleased to find that so many people put their pronouns in their bio. With this movement of creating dedicated spots for pronouns on social media platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn, pronouns have become a no-brainer when it comes to introducing yourself via the internet, and it’s amazing to see. I love that we can embrace ourselves and others for how we identify and that we’ve found a simple and direct way to voice that to the world.
The thing I was the most surprised by, however, is just how many people are in open relationships.
I reckon that about 40% of profiles I’ve seen on Tinder so far describe themselves and “non-monog” in their bios, which, if you didn’t know, means non-monogamous. As I’ve come to find out, non-monogamous doesn’t necessarily mean polyamorous.
Let me explain.
Polyamorous defines the practise of being in multiple romantic and sexual relationships with the consent of all people involved. Rather than having an open relationship or a non-monogamous relationship, which typically allows you to chat and have sex with people outside the relationship, a poly person has multiple boyfriends, girlfriends or partners.
While swiping, I did notice a few people who identify as poly, but the majority were in non-monogamous relationships.
It’s amazing that we’re able to share that part of ourselves so openly. Compared to when I was first on Tinder five years ago, this feels way more upfront. Back in 2016, I did find myself on multiple dates with people in open relationships, but they’d often tell me in the middle of or after the date. Sometimes, strangely, just as we were about to kiss.
Personally, I’ve never minded how people identify when it comes to relationships. Different commitment structures work for different people and it takes a lot of soul-searching and self exploration to figure out what works for you. So, if you’ve found something you like, it’s totally empowering to engage in that openly moving forward.
In my own relationships (including the one I’m in right now), I’ve considered avenues such as non-monogamy and polyamory as an option.
There was a time when I was dating two people at the same time and though they’d both given me their consent, it didn’t work for me. Ultimately, those relationship styles never felt right for me. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t in the future or that they don’t for other people.
So, given that my curiosity seems to have no bounds, I found myself using Tinder to chat to a few cute people who are currently in non-monog relationships about how they find dating apps, particularly during lockdown.
“It’s really hard because I’m such a sexual person,” one girl told me.
“The whole reason my girlfriend and I are in an open relationship is because we’re both super sexual people and realise that we won’t ever be totally satisfied with one person.”
“In lockdown right now, it’s a bit difficult because we definitely prefer to just meet up with people rather than talk to them online. Talking to someone online takes up a lot of time and sometimes we get a bit jealous when one of us is on our phone all day, clearly talking to someone else.”
It seems that being in an open relationship always causes one person more difficulty than the other, which usually comes down to sexual experience and comfortability.
People that have experienced a lot of sex with lots of different people are more aware of themselves in that environment and are confident in their ability to separate sex from emotions. Whereas people with less sexual experience are still learning about themselves in sexual situations and aren’t always sure how they’ll feel.
“My boyfriend and I just recently became non-monog,” another girl told me.
“I’ve always been into women too, like I’m bisexual, but I haven’t actually slept with that many women, so I’m kinda nervous to start. I don’t know how I’ll feel, but my boyfriend and I agreed we’d trial it for a bit and I really want to explore a bit more and so does he.”
I think it’s exceptionally brave to give your partner the freedom to explore sexually. It takes a lot of courage and trust to resist that control we naturally feel over the people we’re in love with.
“My girlfriend and I have been non-monog for three years,” one guy told me about his relationship.
“We absolutely love it. We’re very open communicators and we’re both very sexually independent, so we don’t seem to struggle too much when it comes to hearing about each other’s sexual experiences. We actually kinda learn from them.
“Non-monogamy really opens the door for sexual exploration both outside and inside your relationship.”
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting Tinder to be so inspiring.
Although I’m not 100% sure that I’ll ever engage in a non-monog or poly relationship, it’s just incredible to know that you can engage with such open-minded and upfront babes on dating apps these days.
The more people who are willing to be open about what they need when it comes to relationships and sex, the more successful our relationships will be. People will no longer feel the need to go behind their partner’s backs to satisfy their needs, or feel ashamed for wanting things that exist outside the realm of monogamy.
We may have finally realised that honesty is always the best policy and boy, does that feel nice.