Fed up of wasting time with incompatible partners? 2022’s biggest trend – “hard-ball dating” – could be the key to your relationship woes.
Whether you were single throughout lockdown, experienced a break up or went through a string of weird situationships, according to Bumble, 2022 will be the year that many of us get clear on exactly what we want from our love lives.
According to the dating app’s research, almost half of single people (46%) globally are looking to ‘reset’ their dating lives in the new year. A study conducted by another dating site, Badoo, corroborated this, finding that 78% of daters say they feel stress and burnout from consistently going on incompatible dates.
So what’s the solution for singles to finally crack the dating code? It’s a trend called “hard-ball dating,” according to Bumble.
Put simply, hard-ball dating is about being more open and honest with potential partners about exactly what it is we want from the relationship. Bumble found that more than half of the people using the app reported that they are now more upfront with dates about what they want.
“Modern dating can be notoriously confusing: you can see someone regularly, message every day, be physically intimate, but in no way be in a committed relationship. With such a lack of clarity it’s unsurprising that some women are choosing a much more direct approach when it comes to expressing what they want,” Hayley Quinn, a dating and relationship coach, tells Stylist.
“The benefit of hard-balling is clear: figure out whether someone is open to the same things as you faster.”
Angelica says that the pandemic has definitely made her more direct when it comes to dating. “We lost out on two years of relationship opportunities, so coming out of it, I think a lot of people are making up for lost time and don’t want to waste any more of it,” she tells Stylist.
“Life is so busy that it feels really precious. People who were single during the pandemic and are looking for a partner don’t feel like they have time for that ambiguity of weird situationships. And those who experienced break ups over lockdown are now clear on what they want from future partners.”
Emma* also embraced the principles of hard-ball dating after joining the app Feeld following a break up. “I’ve found that people are more upfront about what they want in a traditional sense, stating whether they’re open to a regular hook-up or a relationship,” she explains.
“There is no jealousy, no conversations around exclusivity, and no pondering about the future of the relationship. You enjoy the time you spend together, for as long as you choose to see each other.”
The app, which allows for individual, as well as couple and group accounts for polyamorous people, promotes its users being “ honest with themselves while being responsible towards others”.
“I’ve truly never dated men who are so aware of consent, boundaries, and making each other feel at ease. You can look for anything you want; there is no pressure and no judgement,” Emma continues. “Everyone is direct about their desires and what they are looking for, including people who are in existing open relationships. It is so mature and open and has shown me that sex is always a meaningful part of learning about yourself, even when it is casual.”
However, hard-ball dating does come with understandable reservations for some.
Badoo’s study found that around 31% of its users found it difficult to express their intention on dates and what they’re looking for, for fear of what the other person would think of them.
But despite this, 82% of daters surveyed still said that they wanted to be more open and honest about their intentions as it would benefit relationships down the line.
Angelica says that the reactions she’s had from potential partners when she’s been honest about her intentions has been mixed. “I had a date where I was really upfront the first time we met about what I wanted, and he messaged me afterwards to say that it was really off-putting,” she shares.
“So I don’t think you have to be so direct that you bring it up on the first meeting, you can take your time to get into the details. But equally, I dated someone over the summer where we were both really honest about what we were looking for and it was really healthy. It was great that we were able to have those conversations in the early days, even though it didn’t work out long term.”
“Everyone will have a different sense of when is the right time to be direct, and will take longer to work out what they want,” agrees Quinn. “They may find hard-balling abrasive and overwhelming. Ultimately though this is about compatibility, and you not only want to find someone who wants the same things as you, but who responds to how you like to communicate.”