How To Use Dating Apps When You Don’t Know WTF You Want

If you don’t know what you want in a relationship or partner, you might be inclined to skip the thought of downloading dating apps altogether until you figure things out. There’s no rush, obv, but what if I told you that using them could actually lead you to the clarity you’re seeking? Yep. Although it might seem like a waste of time to sign up for Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge when your wants and needs are foggy, a little uncertainty shouldn’t stop you from dating. Believe it or not, there are *so* many benefits of pushing past that feeling and putting yourself out there. 

The pros (according to the pros)

“[A dating app is] a great tool when you’re dating and unsure of what exactly you’re looking for because it provides a visual, somewhat tangible way to organize your dating thoughts,” says sex and relationship expert Gabi Levi. “Rather than sitting in a pile of ‘what ifs’ in your mind, it’s a way to lay your own dating questions out right in front of you and swipe into the answers.”

For example, if reading ~hookups only~ in someone’s bio turns you off, now you know to add purely physical situationships to your collection of relationships to avoid. Similarly, you might find that you suddenly want to live a life of minimalism with that beautiful stranger who’s traveling the country in a converted RV. Same.

Relationship coach Nicole Moore, who met her husband on Tinder, adds that you can easily learn what your preferences are by jumping into the dating pool without clear intentions. “The benefit is that you gain access to way more potential dates than you ever would any other way,” she says. Before meeting his current partner, Dan, 26, confirms that he’s met plenty of folks on the app who he wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise. “I’ve gone on dates and had way more one-on-one time with lots of people I wouldn’t have talked to if I never signed up,” he says. “This really helped me learn what I do and don’t want in a partner.”

According to relationship expert Denna Babul, other perks include the opportunity to sharpen your flirting skills, get comfortable with accepting rejection, save time spent dating IRL, and the ability to meet a potential partner from the comfort of your own couch (which is perfect for folks looking to date without leaving home during the pandemic). 

When you *finally* feel ready to download a dating app despite your hesitation, don’t panic! Try these tips from relationship experts to help you effectively navigate the world of online dating when you don’t quite know what the f*ck you’re looking for just yet.

Prioritize honesty on your profile and when messaging matches. 

When you’re unsure of what you’re looking for, it’s important to be open and upfront about this with potential matches. Avoid leading anyone on by clearly stating your (foggy) intentions in your bio. “Transparency goes a long way in the world of online dating,” says Levi. 

Take it from Monica, 28, who started online dating without any expectations when she moved to a new city after a breakup. “Being clear in my bio helped [to make those intentions clear]. It mentioned something like ‘looking for someone who would let me take a bite of their ice cream even though I’m lactose intolerant.’” Witty and to the point. 10/10.

Moore adds to “keep your profile free of words that indicate you’re looking for something specific at first, see what you attract, and adjust your profile from there as you get more feedback.” 

Also, remember that your needs are allowed to change – so let them. As time goes on, you can always edit your profile to better reflect (and attract) what you want out of using the app.

Be yourself to connect with like-minded people.

If it’s challenging for you to pinpoint what you want from a partner, dating expert Cheryl Muir says the next best step is to be clear on your own values. If you value achievements, she recommends somehow featuring your career on your profile. If you value an active lifestyle, upload a photo of yourself biking or standing on top of a mountain you recently hiked. “All of these clues show who you are and will attract a partner with similar values,” she says. 

Focus on showcasing your unique personality, too. According to Levi, you can do this by stating your interests and adding photos where you’re being your most authentic self. “That way, the people who are drawn to you will be folks who vibe with what you genuinely like,” she says. 

This strategy ultimately helped Monica match with the person she’s been dating for two years now. “Although I didn’t know what I wanted from the app, I knew what I wanted for myself,” she adds. “I just wanted some sort of connection who could mesh well with my lifestyle and interests. Photos of heavy drinking? Left. Crude messages? Unmatch.” 

Sometimes you just know when you’re compatible (or incompatible) with someone from the jump based on what they decide to share on their profile, like how you (read: I) might immediately swipe left on a person who posts hunting pics. This makes the job of attracting the right match amidst a lack of clarity *much* easier. 

Keep your options open.

Maybe you know the type of relationship that you want but you don’t know who you want to share it with. NBD. If you’re questioning your sexuality or which gender(s) you’d like to date next, simply keep your options open and avoid boxing yourself into a preference in the app settings.

“Take gender out of the equation and focus on what profiles attract you for other reasons,” Levi suggests. “By removing the pressure in ‘choosing,’ you allow yourself to just be attracted to who you are attracted to.” In other words, go with the flow and follow your heart to whoever it leads you.

Given the number of potential benefits, using a dating app even though you’re unsure about your intentions is totally worth a shot. Who knows? By doing so, you might just find exactly what (or who) you didn’t know you were looking for all along.

Image: Bruno Dias via Pexels

About Author

Morgan Mandriota is the founder of Highly Untamed and a freelance sex and wellness writer. She regularly writes for Betches, Cosmopolitan, Tinder, Health, SHAPE, and your other favorite websites. She loves traveling, hiking, eating tacos, and training Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Follow Morgan on Instagram and Twitter @morganmandriota.