Deep down, you know the relationship is on the outs. It's been a month since you've fucked, you've both spent more and more time with friends and less and less time tenderly listening to each other complain about work, and you're not just feeling sexually neglected, but emotionally as well. Or maybe your relationship is fine, but you're just bored and kind of an asshole. Either way, it's Friday night, you're home alone, and you could totally at least think about fucking someone else.
With modern living, you don't even need to change out of your sweats for sparkly new human contact. With a flick of your finger, you download Tinder from the app store. You tell yourself you'll delete it later, that you just deserve a little excitement. Or you utter the biggest Tinder lie someone coupled in a monogamous relationship can tell themselves: "I'll just use it to make friends."
"You know, I feel like I just wanted a good friend," Aiden* recalls telling a trusted (actual) friend over drinks. He had just decided to stealthy re-join Tinder while coupled. "[My girlfriend] called me out, saying: 'You were on fucking Tinder! You weren't on it to make friends; you were on it because you wanted to get fucking laid!' And I was like, 'OK. OK, yeah, I was,'" Aiden tells Broadly. Being called out wasn't enough to get him to put down the cell phone. "First, I never closed my account, and [my girlfriend] asked me to remove it from my phone, and I did...but then I brought it back. Mostly for entertainment purposes, but there is a lot of ego in there. You want to know who likes you or thinks you're attractive. You want to see where you're at."
While morally questionable, it's a move that's undeniably human. Ignoring ethical non-monogamy—open relationship and polyamorous set-ups in which people are honest with their partners that they're still presenting as available and looking for new lovers—in the monogamous tradition, when times get tough, or the relationship is over, but we're not entirely ready to admit it, the availability of Tinder has made it shockingly easy to see what else is out there. "People are saying that they're doing it for friends, but that is extremely unlikely. What they're doing is checking out their plan B's, to see if they're still appealing to others, to see if they're still attractive," says psychologist and relationship therapist Dr. Barbara Greenberg. "It's both entertaining and ego-driven for sure," agrees Aiden.
There is a lot of ego in there. You want to know who likes you or thinks you're attractive. You want to see where you're at.
Aiden certainly isn't the only one to tell himself (or partner, if busted) that they're using the hook-up app to search for friendship. Relationship subreddits are full of accounts of boyfriends using the "just looking for friends and hangouts!" excuse—both written on their profiles in case the wrong person sees it and relayed in real life when caught by unsympathetic girlfriends whose bullshit alarms begin buzzing.
While Reddit evidence supports assumptions about straight men as the most likely to "download Tinder just for friends" while dating, they're not the sole perpetrators. I've done it. Some time ago I was in a long-distance relationship on its last legs. I was lonely. I was horny. And honestly, I did need more female friends.
I asked my ex if I could download Tinder to "meet some female friends and hopefully find us a threesome partner." He said OK, and I met someone. But then, we fucked—just the two of us. While I was honest about what happened with my partner, what I had proposed and what went down obviously did not align.
There are also conventions of Tinder to respect. While who I met was in a similar type of relationship so we could be on the same page, including "#hereforfriends" on your profile can be infuriating for those who are respectfully and honestly using the app to get laid or begin a new relationship. "I feel like most people on hook-up apps who clearly state they are in a relationship and are just looking for friends are probably just looking for an ego boost and validation outside of their primary relationship," says Jon, who swiped past a few of such profiles before ultimately realizing Tinder was not for him and deleting the app.
Making friends as an adult, while balancing career, a sex life, necessary Netflix binges, and sleep can be difficult. It makes sense that some people legitimately have tried to use Tinder to make friends, at a loss for other methods. "I did download Tinder one time to try and see if I could make platonic friends because I got that suggestion from somebody on Reddit," says Bianca. "But I am married; I didn't want people to see my profile and think I was on it for some other reason. It really isn't built for that." After finding Tinder not particularly helpful for making friends, Bianca too deleted the app.
Developers have tried to make Tinder-esque friendship apps, but it's easy to imagine those becoming a tool for hook-ups as well—look at what happens on LinkedIn. When I asked her what she would advise someone use to make friends in a new city, Greenberg suggested MeetUp.com.
My experience using Tinder while in a relationship certainly wasn't my most respectable moment, and I wasn't as transparent as I should have been with my former partner. Our relationship, inevitably, ended. While my Tinder match and I didn't keep seeing each other sexually, after some time passed and we both found ourselves in new relationships, we reconnected. It turns out I made a great decision in swiping right; she's the fucking best, and I now call her my best friend. Sometimes, secretly swiping through Tinder in the bathroom can get you exactly what you need.