Finding love on dating apps


I started using dating apps in 2013 when I was in poly, so I’d consider myself an online dating veteran of sorts. Name all the mainstream dating apps off the top of your head, and I’ve tried pretty much all of them. From the age of 18 onwards, I swiped up a storm in the hopes of finding love. And in the process, met all sorts of characters – the good, the bad, and the downright toxic.

As you’d imagine, I’ve also been through a whirlwind of dating misadventures, from being catfished multiple times to getting ghosted by a “situationship” 1 week before my birthday – and subsequently spiralling into an emotional breakdown.

Having found love in 2021 – shoutout to OkCupid – I’ve officially retired from the online dating scene. Here are some pearls of wisdom I’d like to share with singletons out there with whom I used to be in the same boat. 


1. Be upfront with what you want so you don’t bark up the wrong tree


The flexibility and lack of restrictions when it comes to dating apps could also be the greatest bane. Users can freely look for whatever they desire, from lifelong love to a casual fling.

Young me used to have flimsy, almost non-existent standards when it came to expressing what I wanted. The answer was: a proper boyfriend, and to experience my first love.

But I allowed myself to be okay with casual dating relationships, faux-mances – essentially providing girlfriend-levels of companionship without the commitment, and even became guys’ “texting buddies”.

Tinder Messages - Finding Love On Dating Apps
It was a common occurrence to be filled with glee and excitement when a new match sends a text, only to realise that they’re just after a hookup and nothing more.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

This led to time wasted and emotions invested into guys I was never going to build something serious with. Plus tears and heartbreak when they inevitably broke it to me that my feelings of attachment weren’t reciprocated in the slightest.

Tip: State on your profile what type of connection you’re seeking, so you only attract those who are on the same page. If you find that a lil too serious and fear that it might scare potential matches off, make sure to bring it up in the initial stages of texting or – at the very least – during the first meet-up.

That way, you and the other party are both aware of what direction the connection is blossoming towards, and there won’t be misaligned expectations along the way.


2. Playing “the game” to protect your pride will only drain you


In modern dating, almost everyone is on self-preservation mode to make sure their heart doesn’t get broken, and that they don’t lose face. Compared to bygone days of romance where it was admirable to wear your heart on your sleeve, people now play a game of who can appear more disinterested, even when they’re actually keen on the other party. 

Crying While Using Phone - Finding Love On Dating Apps
Overthinking minute details like how long they’re taking to reply to a text will wreak havoc on your psyche over time.
Image for illustration only.

This leads to petty acts like having to wait a set number of hours before replying so you don’t seem despo, or not expressing things like, “I’m really looking forward to our first meet-up tonight!” – ‘cause you think it’ll make you seem overeager.

Being so guarded is a disservice not only to our own feelings, but to the other party as well – who might very well wind up being a genuine love connection.

Tip: Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”. Someone who you’re likely not to cross paths with again if y’all don’t end up dating, wandering around with the knowledge that you actually liked them? 

Even if they do go around telling people that you were too into them, it accomplishes nothing except making them sound like a cocky A-hole, and you would’ve dodged a bullet.

On the flipside, consider how many potential love connections you may have missed out on ‘cause you wanted to appear cool and aloof – leading the other party to think that you weren’t that interested.

Life’s too short to worry endlessly about unwritten rules and whether you have “the upper hand”. Feel freely, love strongly, and if the other party doesn’t reciprocate it, at least you’d have clarity and will be able to move on with #NoRagrets.


3. The right person won’t require you to bend your boundaries


I used to be guilty of downplaying my matches’ shortcomings, focusing only on positioning myself as someone who’s Ms Right for whoever I was messaging at the time. I even convinced myself that I could like things that I wasn’t interested in, just to have more in common with the other party.

Or, even more tragically, that I could bend my boundaries to suit their ideal type and dating style. This meant dressing a certain way just so they’d find me more attractive, or claiming I’m not big on texting when in reality, I would love to have sweet little text convos with my partner throughout the day.

Tip: Being 100% authentic acts as a wonderful filter to weed off matches with whom you are simply not meant to be.

For instance, I used to heavily suppress expressing my love for kids out of fear that guys on dating apps would think that I were some baby-obsessed psycho who expects them to fertilise me ASAP. But with my partner, it was one of the first things we bonded over and it allowed us to identify a common trait from the get-go.

Bonding Over Love For Kids
For the record, that is not our kid, but my boyfriend’s nephew LOL.
Image adapted from: Renae Cheng

If I were to conceal that fact about myself, I might have ended up attracting other dudes but at what cost? Finding out somewhere down the line that they don’t like kids, and never wish to have any? In the wise words of a certain Ms Grande, Thank U, Next.


4. It’s better to be single & happy than attached with the wrong person


As crude as it sounds, my years of online dating experience have led to a firm belief in the saying: “Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably sh*t.”

Throughout my young adulthood, I was so desperate for love and companionship that I’d deem every new dating app connection to be The One. This meant making them the centre of my universe even though we’d only just met, fantasising about our picture-perfect love story, and doing foolish things in an attempt to make them “want” me. 

Modern Dating - Delusional Over Red Flags
A truly sobering experience: reading old texts between me and my confidantes where I was delusional to the point of no salvation.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

They say hindsight is 20/20, and looking back it’s crystal clear that the intense infatuation I felt for various dates I met online was one-sided. My wake-up call was when the nth situationship cut me off with no rhyme or reason after a seemingly normal, and even sweet date.

For the uninitiated, a situationship is in between friendship and a relationship, where you’re dating but not necessarily official yet. We did all the things a couple would do, and certainly acted like boyfriend and girlfriend throughout a period of several weeks.

When he ghosted me a week before my birthday, I was shell-shocked and went into an emotional spiral, spam-calling him and pleading for answers over text. Despite the cruelty of cutting me off at the height of my developing feelings, I foolishly believed that it’s something I could forgive him for, and wanted nothing but to “get back together” with him. 

Emo Instagram Breakup Post
Emo IG posts were part and parcel of the “breakup” recovery process…*cringe*
Image credit: Renae Cheng

Only when the fog lifted did I realise that it wasn’t him as a person whom I liked and wanted a relationship with – but the mere idea of finally having a boyfriend.

In fact, even before the near-sociopathic act of ghosting someone out of nowhere after treating them like you were in love with them, he already exhibited red flags galore. Being verbally abusive when I didn’t respond to his texts immediately, demanding to know of my whereabouts 24/7, guilting me for having male interactions – the whole nine yards.

Tip: It’s easier said than done, but you do not need to have a boyfriend/girlfriend. I know exactly how unbearable it can get, especially when the loneliness creeps in and you want nothing more than to have a special someone to share everything with, and experience all the magical aspects of love that they write pop songs about.

However, remind yourself that being single may be lonely, but at least you’re in control of your own life. This will allow you to be more stringent with your dating app connections, and not expect every single match to end up being “The One”. Remember, if someone is bringing you more grief and misery than joy, it’s hardly worth allowing them a spot in your life. 


5. Don’t overthink your physical insecurities


I’ve encountered my fair share of catfish experiences, from strategically angled profile pics to create optical illusions, to guys straight-up claiming they were someone that they’re clearly not. God bless Google’s reverse image search function.

Mirror Selfie Guy Flexing
Image for illustration only.

In dating apps where profiles are presented one after the other like cattle at an auction, it’s natural to feel fixated on appearance. Not to bombard you with too many clichéd quotes, but “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Would you really want to forge a future with someone whose only criteria for choosing a mate is whether they look hot?

As someone who had gone out with fellas in all shapes, sizes, and appearances, rest assured that most people are not as preoccupied with looks as you’d think. I, too, used to be insecure about things like my facial structure, and less-than-toned physique having been an overweight teenager prior to a K-pop weight loss transformation.

HardWareZone Forum Bashing Tinder Account
In terms of insecurities, it doesn’t get more confidence-crushing than to see your Tinder profile getting bashed on a forum, unprovoked.
Image credit: HardwareZone

Have I been made to feel crummy by guys who found me unattractive based on their own ideals? Yes. Did I proceed to hate my own appearance and vow never to show my physical self on dating apps for fear of being forever alone? Nah, not really.

Tip: Present yourself as you are, and people can choose to take it or leave it. Even if you’ve been traumatised by nasty comments or rejections in the past, don’t project it onto future potential matches.

As they say, different strokes for different folks. For all you know, there could be throngs of people out there who find you drop-dead gorgeous.


6. When someone is right for you, you won’t have to look for signs


After all the dating app mishaps I’ve shared with you, you might be wondering if a silver lining even exists amidst all these perils. As someone who has found someone online whom I undoubtedly want to spend the rest of my days with, I’m here to tell you that good guys/girls do exist on dating apps.

Now, the question begs: how will you know whether they’re right for you?

Not to get all abstract with you, but based on my years of experience, heartache, and countless nights sobbing into my pillow, my answer is: “you’ll just know”. Meanwhile, if you’re grasping at straws trying to conjure reasons as to whether they’re a good fit, chances are – you already have your answer.

Bojack Horseman Red Flags Quote
Facts. Also, a little ironic that the show that this quote is from was recommended to me by a guy I met through a dating app, who ended up smashing my heart into smithereens.
Image credit: SineHub

My gal pals have served as agony aunts and confidantes throughout my innumerable failed dating attempts. They’d be quick to tell you how ridiculous I’d get when trying to ignore red flags, or make excuses for clearly intolerable behaviour.

In comparison, meeting and getting to know my partner gave me a sense of security and assurance I’d never felt before. He was also open and authentic, not hiding any part of himself nor expecting me to change who I am to fit some preconceived mould.

Couple Selfie - Finding Love On Dating Apps
A photo taken on our first “monthsary”. We made things official just 3 weeks after matching online, which may be controversial to some – but it just seemed right.
Image credit: Renae Cheng

I used to scoff at people in love who dreamily shared that “when you know, you know”. But just like how all parents always say you’ll never understand how it feels till you have a kid yourself, it’s really something you have to experience to believe.

Tip: Whether it’s talking to new matches or going out with your online dates, be honest with yourself when looking for signs that someone is a good fit for you. Are you trying to force a connection out of nothing? Because if it really works, it shouldn’t be that difficult, and you most certainly should not be filled with doubt.

Sometimes, the signs pointing towards no are there all along, it’s up to you whether you want to heed them.


Relationship advice from someone who used dating apps for 8 years 


Dating app success stories are getting more and more common. Especially in Singapore, where it’s kind of hard to meet people other than through school, work, religious institutions, and mutual intros.

Dating app horror stories may be aplenty, and it’s understandable why some people are so averse to it.  But keep in mind that at the end of the day, good and bad people can be found everywhere, and the toxic dates aren’t lurking exclusively online.

Deleting Tinder Account - Finding Love On Dating Apps
Deleting your online dating account and clearing the apps from your phone ‘cause you’ve found love = one of the best feelings in life, I reckon.
Image adapted from: Vpn Mentor

If you’re weighing the pros and cons, consider the fact that dating apps open your options up way wider, and you can sift through potential matches at your convenience. Just look at me, I used various dating apps on and off from my poly and uni years all the way into proper working adulthood.

Through my suffering – or what I like to call character development and racking up XP so I can level-up in love and life – I hope you get some insight that can be beneficial in your dating and relationship adventures; whether you meet that special someone through a fateful swipe, or the old-fashioned way.

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Cover image adapted from: Renae Cheng