Sex + Dating

At What Point Should New Couples Delete Their Dating Apps?

Dating Apps
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

How soon into a new relationship should you delete your dating apps?

As a dating coach, I'm a big believer in going on lots of dates with lots of people to see who’s out there. But once you're coupled up, it's pretty well-understood that it's time to scale back your online dating life in favor of ramping up your offline dating life.

But here's the rub: It's not so easy to know when that moment exactly happens. And compounding the question is the issue of when/if your new significant other is also dropping out of the dating game -- and how to handle it if you figure out they haven't. But don't worry; there's a strategy to all things.

Hint: Do it before vacationing together

My friend Heidi met a guy several months ago on Hinge. They had great chemistry, great sex, and quickly coupled up. They've also already taken weekend trips away to Arizona and Montreal without killing each other; and this honeymoon phase has been nonstop bliss for Heidi.

Except for one thing. On the couple's Arizona excursion, Heidi’s new beau asked her to get some directions on his phone. As she did, a slew of texts and notifications filled her boyfriend's screen… including one from Bumble announcing a new connection.

Her mind raced: Was this cheating? Were they even exclusive? Was she supposed to still be using these apps too? Was he a jerk?

None of us is a mind-reader

Heidi and her new boyfriend had already discussed that they weren't seeing other people. So after her initial shock dissipated, she took a very controlled approach.

"I saw you're on Bumble," she said. "Are we still doing that?”

His response? "No, we're not." Apparently he just hadn't gotten around to deleting his dating apps; and his verbal agreement was the final confirmation Heidi needed. In her mind, the case was closed -- and the two are still happily together.

By being so direct, Heidi saved herself the torture of spending the rest of her vacation in her own head, trying to figure out what was in his. Of course, my professional advice from the get-go would have been to roll the dating app talk into the "are we exclusive" convo so all bases were covered before these two went away together. Doing so would have prevented Heidi from feeling blindsided -- either because her boyfriend would have already deleted the app(s) in question, or because she would have had a clear sense of where they were in their relationship so she could deal with the inconsistency appropriately and with clear boundaries.

Hedging bets prevents true intimacy

For the person in a relationship while still using dating apps (or at least not deleting dating apps), there's a simple, albeit highly problematic, rationalization.

Dating apps are overly saturated. And in this fast-paced, competitive meat market, a missed opportunity might never be available again. A lot of people feed into this by keeping their options open even after entering monogamous relationships.

One might think, "Well, if I don't check the dating apps, it's fine that they're still on my phone!" That's like saying, "Well, if I don't eat the rocky road ice cream, it's fine that it's still in my freezer!" I don’t know about you, but I don't have enough self-restraint not to eat the ice cream (though I'm more of a butter pecan gal myself) or check the dating apps if they're constantly pinging me every time I have a match.

Is that weak? No. It's human.

You're incapable of fully investing in the relationship you're now in when you keep part of yourself available to other people. Instead, you're constantly reassuring yourself other people are out there just in case -- and you might even be casting harsher judgment on the person you're with, looking for things to be wrong or not diving in to repair issues as they arise.

Then when things don't work out, you pat yourself on the back for not deleting those dating apps. Little does your subconscious realize, you sabotaged the relationship from the get-go by not immersing yourself fully in this new person.

If you're exclusive, it's time to forego Tinder

There's of course no hard-and-fast rule for when to delete all the dating apps you've used in the past. But there is a point when the people we're dating kind of fall away and we focus in on one person we're developing serious feelings for. When you feel that happen, it's time to sit the other person down to see if they're in the same spot.

Gaining this level of clarity with one another lets you both determine whether it's time to let your online dating identity die. This prevents either of you from acting like a crazy person by spying on the other, accidentally discovering an active account like my friend Heidi did, or jumping to conclusions about the state of your relationship.

We could speculate day and night, but the reality of it is that we often don't know where the other person stands unless we ask. Even if you use the words "exclusive" or "in a relationship" or "together," it's still necessary to say the words: "Let's take our profiles down."

If you get the response you want, excellent. And if you're told this person isn't ready to quit online dating, then it's time to address what this means for you.

Most likely, that translates into finding a new person who can't wait to use the app on their phone… to make dinner reservations for the two of you.

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Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, an online dating consulting service, and the author of the book Love at First Site: Tips and Tales for Online Dating Success from a Modern-Day Matchmaker. Her company offers services to guide people through all aspects of online dating, from first click to first date, and her book takes all of her tips and combines them with anecdotes to make for an educational and fun read.

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