2022 dating trends: Prioridating, vulnerability, sober curious dating – Mashable

2022, you’re flying by. Join Mashable as we take a mid-year breather to look back at everything that’s delighted, amazed, or just confused us in 2022 (so far).
Folks, we’re nearly halfway through 2022. I know — some days, it feels like we’re stuck in 2020 purgatory. But no, that’s merely our “new normal,” if anything about the current state of the world could be called normal.
For two years, change has upended every aspect of life, including dating. Both 2020 and 2021 made way for an unprecedented slow-down, causing us to connect with others in new ways (like virtual dates) while also taking time to self-reflect. The result…isn’t half bad, actually. Here are this year’s dating trends so far, according to experts.
The pandemic forced us all to reevaluate our priorities. This isn’t a new revelation: From coming out to breaking up, COVID’s figurative or literal jolt to our systems made us rethink what we really want in life. 
“What was important to us two, three years ago simply isn’t anymore,” said OkCupid’s associate director of global communications, Michael Kaye. 
Considering all we’ve been through in the past two years even beyond the pandemic — like the threat to reproductive rights — we’re less concerned about superficial qualities like looks, and more concerned about values like where a date stands on climate change, Kaye explained.
During the brunt of quarantine especially, many of us had the space to reflect on who we are and what we want, perhaps for the first time in our lives. This caused daters to be both more honest and intentional when meeting new people.
Before COVID, dating coach and eharmony relationship expert Laurel House‘s clients had a laundry list of traits they wanted in a partner. Now, people are homing in on what really matters to them.
House calls this shift “prioridating.” She encourages her clients to go after a single priority with potential partners. This can be anything, but one House sees a lot is safety, whether physically, emotionally, or financially. 
This trend aligns with the data, as well. Eighty-six percent of singles want a partner of equal or higher income, according to Match’s latest Singles in America, a survey of 5,000 Americans aged 18 to 75. This is a jump from 70 percent who wanted the same back in 2019.
Shallow desires, meanwhile, are on the decline: More singles (83 percent) want an emotionally mature partner rather than someone physically attractive (78 percent) according to the same survey.
“Many [daters] are looking for someone who inspires them to be their best selves,” Kaye said. “Someone they are proud to date. It’s less about superficial characteristics and more about those deeper, more meaningful traits.”
Prioridating engenders the next trend: an increase in openness. This increased communication (or want for such) has occurred since 2020, when we had to be honest about our COVID preferences. Daters found themselves having deeper conversations quicker amid the pandemic. We didn’t have time for small talk or situationships; we got down to the nitty gritty. This is still true in 2022.
“People are having these real scary — historically scary — conversations,” House said. “Now it’s not scary because now it’s like, ‘Well, I know me. I know my needs. I’m confidently, vulnerably, unapologetically aware of my needs.'”
In an interview at the end of 2021, Hinge’s director of relationship science, Logan Ury, called this trend “hardballing”: being upfront about what you want out of dating. This can look like, say, telling your first date that you want kids someday and asking them what they want. 
In addition to vulnerability, prioridating is supported by mindfulness while dating. House suggests checking in with yourself while on dates. If your priority is safety, for example, and someone makes fun of a vulnerability, check in at that moment. House modeled how the thought process can look: “Does that make me feel safe? It doesn’t. OK, well, what am I going to do with that information? Either I’m going to say ‘thank you, goodbye,'” she said, “or I’m going to voice my priority and make it clear what my priority is.”
While you may want to know if your date wants kids someday, it’s not necessary to project into the future and dream up your whole life together now. Knowing you have the same beliefs and goals is valuable information, but you can focus on this one date, this one moment.
Another trend House noticed traces back to earlier in the pandemic: phone and video dates. These virtual dates have entered some people’s repertoire, especially if they still don’t feel safe dating in person. Another reason people may do this, House said, is saving time and money (getting ready, commuting, sitting there on the date).
“Now people are much more protective…of their time,” she said. 
If people are comfortable meeting in-person but still want to be close to home, House has noticed people having more dates at a nearby park or even in their backyard or patio if they have one.
Given the rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic, more people are now sober curious, a concept of limiting drinking but not going completely sober. This is in tandem with a rise of zero-proof mocktails. This has led to a rise in sober (curious) dating as well.
In 2022, daters are more mindful about their drinking: 74 percent of single daters restricted their alcohol use in the last year, according to eharmony’s 2022 Happiness Index, a survey of 3,000 adults over 21. A whopping 94 percent said “they’d be interested in someone who doesn’t drink at all.”
Like other facets of life, some people may have realized alcohol isn’t a priority anymore, so they’ve chosen to be sober (or curious, anyway).
Given these trends, House is optimistic about relationships. She believes this slower, more intentional dating will lead to longer relationships and marriages. The pandemic disrupted everything — but in terms of dating, it actually may have been for the better.
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