Dating trends for 2022: How the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dating scene

In the era of physical distancing, face masks and COVID-19 Protection Frameworks, dating has arguably never been more difficult. Lockdowns have left lonely hearts bereft of late-night rendezvous, with app enthusiasts waving goodbye to Tinder trysts and Hinge hook-ups. 

And singletons (or, ahem, 'self-partners') searching for that special someone have seen a new set of challenges in their quest to find The One, with ongoing restrictions making it nigh impossible to meet new people. 

But after months of wallowing in the dating doldrums and back-and-forth banter with no endgame in sight, single people have had time to reassess what they really want - which one expert says has transformed the dating landscape for 2022. 

Lucille McCart, the Asia-Pacific Communications Director at Bumble - a dating app where women make the first move - spoke to Newshub about what singles can expect from dating in 2022 and what challenges they might face as COVID-19 continues to overstay its welcome (talk about clingy).    

According to McCart, one positive of the pandemic is that the last two years have given people the time and space for self-reflection, and as restrictions continue to ease, 2022 will be the year that all this self-discovery comes to fruition in the dating scene. 

"It's going to be the year that we put this all into action - we've all changed since the start of the pandemic and are looking for different things. It's time to throw out the rule book and start dating in a way that works for you," she says. 

"Many single Bumble users feel like they have been starved of IRL [in real life] connections. You can sense the hope and excitement as things start to open up. Now is the time to remember that dating is meant to be fun and is about your personal journey."

According to research conducted by Bumble last year, these are the top trends to look out for on the dating scene in 2022: 


Almost half of the Bumble community (49 percent) said they have recently reassessed their typical "type", with more than a third (34 percent) now describing their dating style as "exploratory". This indicates that the pandemic has made daters rethink what they're really looking for, with singletons now exploring new horizons and considering potential matches that previously would've been swiped left.

"The trends we've identified show how the pandemic and 18-months of lockdowns have made daters significantly reassess what they want and how they feel about themselves," McCart tells Newshub.

"The experiences of the last two years have afforded us a lot of time and space to reflect on past relationships and what we desire in new relationships. With this in mind, a lot of single people are recognising the fact that if they want to achieve different results romantically - whether that be finding a serious partner or simply having better dates - they probably need to try something new."

This could mean dating someone older, younger, or physically or intellectually different to the type of person you would typically go for, she says. It could even be as simple as broadening your distance filters so you are seeing a larger pool of potential matches. 

"Most of us have also done a lot of personal growth in the last two years, so it's possible we are just recognising that the idea of a 'type' is outdated," McCart says.

"Don't just go for the same old type. Think outside the box and you may find your perfect match."

Woman in bed on a dating app
Bumble has revealed the top trends to look out for on the dating scene in 2022. Photo credit: Getty Images


In 2022, daters will be looking for new sets of qualities in their potential partner. The pandemic has defined the last two years and many people feel differently to how they did at the start, McCart says, with almost a third of Bumble users (29 percent) saying the pandemic has drastically changed what they are looking for in a partner. 

According to the research, three in five (57 percent) are prioritising emotional availability, while a quarter (24 percent) said they now care less about a partners' physical appearance compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

"A third of Bumble users say the pandemic has drastically changed what they are looking for in a partner, so heading into 2022, we are going to see a shift in the way people approach dating," McCart says.

"Moving forward, it's important to acknowledge that we've all changed since the start of the pandemic. Many of us feel different to how we did at the start, and our priorities have shifted.

"The last two years have given us time to really sit with our own thoughts and reflect on what we're looking for in a partner. What we may have settled for in the past is no longer going to cut it, so singles are feeling empowered to throw out the rule book and date in a way that works for them."

Consciously single

The term "conscious uncoupling" has been part of the ex-lovers' lexicon ever since Gwenyth Paltrow and Chris Martin split in 2014 - in a nutshell, the decision to amicably separate while consciously resolving difficult feelings in order to fully end a chapter in one's life. But McCart says 2022 is the year of being 'consciously single' - in other words, not settling for anyone less than the elusive 'One'. 

Despite the research indicating that almost half of the Kiwis on Bumble are now looking for a relationship, the study also found the pandemic has made 47 percent of users understand that it's perfectly okay to be alone for a while. People are now consciously making the decision to stay single, with many attempting to be more mindful and intentional in how and when they date. 

"Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the rise of slow-dating where people are drawing out the courting process and taking more time to get to know each other, indicating that they are looking for more meaningful relationships rather than being desperate to settle. This in turn reduces the stress and anxiety that often comes with dating, knowing you are in control of your dating journey. It's about looking for the right person, not just any person," McCart explains.

"On the flipside, there are those who are choosing to be single post-pandemic, knowing that finding a partner isn't their top priority right now. People with this mindset are content in their single life for the time being and choose to be more intentional about how they date in the future. Words like 'mindfulness' and 'intentional' have also been a big part of the pop culture lexicon in the last few years, so it is not surprising that this is coming through in dating trends as well.

"However, deciding that it's okay to be alone doesn't mean totally hitting the brakes on your dating life. It's about being content in your single life and knowing that finding a partner doesn't have to be your number one priority. Having that insight and control makes dating a more fun and empowering experience when we do decide to get back into it."

Power PDA

Bumble also predicts that 2022 will be the Year of Public Displays of Affection (PDA). With vaccination rates increasing, restrictions easing and a sense of newfound freedom, PDA will be back in a big way, McCart says, with more than two in three Bumble users (65 percent) saying they are more open to public displays of affection post-pandemic. 

"Singles are excited to jump back into in-real-life dates and are feeling more comfortable with public displays of affection," McCart says.

Not only are we vaxxed, waxed and ready for sax (I'm sorry, I had to), dating trends also tend to reflect the latest developments in pop culture - and boy, oh boy, have popular power couples been packing on the PDA (à la Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker or Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox).

Celebrities and their significant others have popularised the celebration of sexuality on social media, where both partners are proud of their sexual connection and have no problem flaunting it. This dynamic differs from the more conservative social norms of yesteryear, where acts of affection were reserved for the privacy of your own home - and will undoubtedly influence mere mortals and their approach to dating, McCart says.

"Dating trends reflect social trends back at us - so if we are seeing the rise of power couple PDA on social media and hearing terms like 'conscious uncoupling', this will trickle down and is going to be reflected in how we approach our dating life, which is ultimately part of our social life," McCart explains.

"That said, I believe that all of these trends have the potential to have a positive impact on how we date, with more of an emphasis on being open-minded and trying new things."

The research was conducted by Bumble using internal data and polling in the second quarter of 2021, with a sample of more than 4500 Bumble users worldwide.