Valentine's Day: Here are six new trends that will change the way you navigate your love life

From the rise of ‘situationships’ to shared interests in social issues leading to stronger bonds, the rules of dating are changing

Sonali Shenoy Published :  10th February 2023 07:00 AM   |   Published :   |  10th February 2023 07:00 AM

Pictures: We caught up with Rubaru Mr India 2022 winner, Gokul Ganesan and model Amisha over a fun shoot at Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park for our Valentine’s Day cover | Photographer: R Satish Babu

The dating scene is undergoing a major transformation, with new trends emerging to challenge the traditional norms that most of us grew up with. From a growing acceptance of ‘situationships’ to exploring ethical non-monogamy and an emphasis on intellectual intimacy, the world of dating has never been more diverse or dynamic. Whether driven by changing societal values or the influence of technology and social media, these trends are changing the way people approach relationships and the need for genuine connection. But before we dive in, let’s flashback to 2022 which was a formative year in many ways, given the return of travel, busier social lives and a large section of the populace giving up their WFH status to return to the office — all of which had a substantial impact — on singles looking for love. 

“This post-pandemic shift left some people feeling not in control and exhausted,” says Samarpita Samaddar, a spokesperson for Bumble. She elaborates, “In response to this, we’ve seen that people are now prioritising identifying and clearly articulating their boundaries. These boundaries can be emotional, like being upfront about what they want or recognising red and green flags or physical, like ensuring they don’t overcommit themselves.” According to her, these shifts are changing the way people think about relationships, what they’re looking for in their partners and how to better balance relationships, work, and life. Samarpita says, “Looking ahead, there is a sense of optimism and excitement with 81 per cent of Indians feeling positive about dating in 2023. As we head into 2023, we are encouraged by various ways single people are challenging the status quo and taking control of defining what a healthy relationship means for them.” Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we delve into six dating trends that might surprise you, what’s driving their popularity and what this means for the future of love and romance.

Owning the situationship: According to Tinder’s Year in Swipe Report, young singles were down to play the field last year, but they opted for a high-quality roster where everyone was on the same page. More than a hookup, but not quite a traditional relationship, the ‘situationship’, a casual — yet clearly defined — relationship came to rise in 2022. The dating app saw a 49 per cent increase in members adding the new relationship intention to their profiles and over one in 10 surveyed singles said that they prefer situationships as a way to develop a relationship with less pressure.

The dinner date could soon be dead: It seems the activities we took to during the pandemic are here to stay. Mentions of ‘picnic’ (15%), ‘stand up’ (10%) and ‘coffee dates’ (26%) in Tinder India bios all increased in 2022, suggesting that singles are meeting for more than just dinner and drinks these days. They’re opting for less traditional, more authentic and sometimes sober ways to get to know one another. Camping, barbecues, yoga dates, trying new things and street food all made it into the top 10 trending global interests on Tinder.

Stances on social issues could make or break a match: Three-quarters (75%) singles were looking for a match who is respectful of or invested in social issues. In fact, so many Indian Tinder members mentioned LGBTQIA+, the environment, mental health, Ukraine and feminism in their bios last year that they all rank in the top five local issues. Sumeet, 25, for instance found a match on Tinder and they quickly found common ground over their love for coffee and Bollywood music, but it was when he learned that they had both experienced heartbreak because of society’s homophobic norms, that their connection really deepened. “He told me: ‘Sumeet, we have a voice, use it till nobody has to think twice before loving anyone, but only do it after you know what love is, and that comes from loving yourself.” Sumeet tells us, he hasn’t stopped using his voice against homophobia ever since.

Guardrailing: With the return of office culture and busy social schedules, the majority of people are feeling overwhelmed right now. This has forced us all to prioritise our boundaries and more than half (52%) of users on Bumble have established more boundaries over the last year. This includes being clearer about our emotional needs and boundaries (63%), being more thoughtful and intentional about how we put ourselves out there (59%), and not overcommitting socially (53%).




Modern masculinity: As Indian society evolves, conversations about gender norms and expectations are coming to the forefront, especially among Gen  Z and millennials. Over the last year, three in four (74%) of men say they have examined their behaviour more than ever and have a clearer understanding of ‘toxic masculinity’ and what is not acceptable. This is even more pronounced in India where 47 per cent of men on Bumble have indicated that they are actively challenging stereotypes that suggest that men should not show emotions, for fear of appearing weak. Twenty nine per cent of men on Bumble in India now speak more openly about their emotions with their male friends, and more than half (52%) of Indian men agree that breaking gender roles in dating and relationships is beneficial for them too.

Dating renaissance: One in three (39%) people on Bumble ended a marriage or serious relationship in the last two years. In fact, this is more prevalent in India, where people are now jumping into their second chapter with 42 per cent of Indians using dating apps for the first time, learning to navigate new dating language and codes.


Tinder’s latest Year in Swipe Report  reveals zodiac signs were one of the most popular descriptors added to Tinder bios, with the term ‘zodiac’ increasing by 75 per cent in bios globally. With young people becoming more intentional about who they spend their time with, it’s not surprising that many are seeking
guidance from astrology.


Stay sober, stay curious
Meeting for drinks has been a first date go-to, however, a growing number of Gen Z and millennials in India are now embracing ‘mindful drinking’, being ‘sober curious’ and going on alcohol-free ‘dry dates’. And a recent Bumble study reveals that a majority of single Indians surveyed (52%) are likely to go on alcohol-free, dry dates in 2023. It is heartening to find out the top reason was wanting to get to know the person with a clear mind (56%). Meanwhile, 45 per cent of respondents who consume alcohol are choosing not to drink on dates because they’re trying to improve their health and well-being. Tinder reported similar findings with 25 per cent of surveyed young singles in 2022 saying that they drink less on dates compared with the previous year. Aahana Dhar, spokesperson for Tinder India shares, “We’ve seen singles be incredibly intentional in both who they choose to date and how they choose to date.”

Beyond social drinking, alcohol is also a part of the dating narrative because according to the study, almost one in two (47%) millennials who were surveyed admit they turn to alcohol on a date to settle their nerves, whereas almost one in three (31%) Gen Z respondents who consume alcohol said they choose to drink on a date to give their date company. That said, navigating dates when one person drinks and the other abstains doesn’t need to be awkward — and it’s certainly not a relationship deal-breaker, according to Bumble’s Relationship Expert, Shahzeen Shivdasani, who gives us a list of fun options to consider including taking a run in the park, yoga, heading over to a concert or exploring street food together.


Flag, you’re it!
Dating flags, or warning signs in relationships, are crucial to assess the compatibility of a potential partner, says Ruchita Sud, a relationship expert at House of Aisle. Generation Z, in particular, should prioritise finding partners who respect their boundaries. However, there are several red flags to watch out for, including GPS tracking, negative behaviour, exes who are too close, unequal financial responsibility, and emotional baggage. “A deal breaker is a deal breaker, it doesn’t matter if the relationship is new, old, a situationship or even a budding bromance,” says Ruchita. “The point is, knowing how to identify these signs is important.” Beige flags, such as a lack of personality or compatibility, and pink flags, like social media habits or flaky behaviour, should also be watched for as potential warning signs. It’s important to be aware of these flags and avoid settling for someone who sets off alarm bells in your head.



Chemistry experiments
Bumble’s latest study in India shows that daters are rethinking dating norms and embracing a more open-minded approach in 2023. 86 per cent of Bumble users believe that chemistry is important in a relationship and 94 per cent consider intellectual intimacy important. A new trend, ‘ethical sex-ploration’ is on the rise, with over 50 per cent of Indians embracing a more open approach to sex and intimacy and discussing their sexual needs early on. The concept of ethical non-monogamy (open relationships) is gaining popularity, with 61 per cent of single Indians being more open to it than before and 60 per cent believing it to be the future of dating. However, 67 per cent still consider monogamous relationships to be hard work but worth it.  

“We’re seeing a rise in openness in young millennials and Gen Z, in particular, to explore ethical non-monogamy despite the taboo it comes with. No matter the kind of relationship you are in, it requires hard work to sustain it and is especially based on mutual respect and emotional connection,” says Shahzeen. Meanwhile, for those who are going through the process of transition, shedding old relationship defaults and navigating new territory, she advises, “Consider asking if you both feel safe and comfortable speaking up, seeking support and being open about where your boundaries lie. Open and honest communication with your partner(s) will help in navigating, prioritising the needs of other people involved and help strengthen the foundation of the relationship you choose to be in.”


Dictionary date 
You’ve heard of ghosting and gaslighting. But in the age of social media, the potential to expand your dating vocabulary is ever-evolving. Here are a few fun terms for situations you’ve likely experienced but never had a name for:

Haunting: When the ex you no longer interact with is still keeping tabs on your social media and liking your posts.

Kitten fishing: Coined by the dating app Hinge, ‘kitten fishing,’ the seemingly harmless younger cousin of ‘catfishing’ is when a person tells a white lie in their profile in order to appear more desirable. Think height, age or even posting out-of-date profile pictures.

Zombie-ing: When someone who ghosted you suddenly decides to come back into your life after a long time as if nothing ever happened.