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Young singles putting themselves first when dating; more open to cheaper dates: Surveys

SINGAPORE — When Sebastian Wong created a profile on a dating application for the first time early last year, he did not expect his search for a partner to take such a toll on him. 

Young singles putting themselves first when dating; more open to cheaper dates: Surveys
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  • Surveys by dating platforms Bumble, Tinder and Lunch Actually found that young singles are prioritising their mental health and boundaries more when it comes to dating
  • Some actions youths are taking include being more upfront about whether they are looking for a serious relationship 
  • The surveys also found that they are more open to cheap or free dates amid a tough economic environment
  • Young singles interviewed by TODAY however expressed mixed views, with some saying that inflation should not have an effect on spending while others said that they try to spend less 

SINGAPORE — When Sebastian Wong created a profile on a dating application for the first time early last year, he did not expect his search for a partner to take such a toll on him. 

The 23-year-old financial consultant said that several experiences of being "ghosted" were painful. "Ghosting" refers to the act of suddenly ceasing all communication without any explanation, commonly used in the context of online dating. 

But Mr Wong said that after speaking with friends about his experiences, he has learnt that it is important to prioritise his mental health and not let these negative incidents have such a hold on him. 

"Things come and go, it is just part and parcel of life. Sometimes it’s good to experience these so that in the future you can be more careful,” he said. 

Since then, he has become more selective and careful about who he opens up to on such dating apps. 

Mr Wong is part of a growing group of singles here who are becoming more focused on putting themselves first, with separate surveys from dating services Lunch Actually and Bumble showing that a significant proportion of respondents are prioritising mental health while they navigate the dating world. 

This includes communicating their emotional needs and boundaries clearly and being more thoughtful in how they put themselves out there. 

Apart from mental health, concerns about finances also weighed on people’s minds. Findings from the same Lunch Actually survey showed that about a fifth of respondents plan to spend less on dates amid an uncertain economic climate. 

Similarly, another survey by Tinder found that most respondents were happy with simple dates such as grabbing coffee or taking a walk. 


A Bumble survey on dating trends among 14,300 of its users from Oct 12 to Nov 1 found that among the Singapore users:

  • 46 per cent have established more boundaries in the past year. These include being more upfront about the fact that they are looking for a serious relationship or setting aside enough time for themselves apart from dating
  • 75 per cent are now more thoughtful and intentional in how they put themselves out there, such as taking the time to figure out what they are looking for in a relationship
  • 68 per cent are clearer about their emotional needs and boundaries
  • 60 per cent have chosen not to overcommit themselves socially

A similar survey by Lunch Actually of 2,390 singles across Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan in November found that: 

  • 45 per cent say inflation has no impact on date spending
  • 20 per cent are more likely to suggest free activities for dates 
  • 20 per cent will try to spend less on dates
  • 30 per cent say that during the dating process, they prioritise their mental health more since Covid-19 started

Additionally, a Tinder survey of 500 Singapore residents in April showed that 64 per cent of respondents cited simple hangouts such as “taking a walk” and “grabbing coffee” as some of their favourite first date activities this year, compared to dinner and drinks. 


Ms Lucille McCart, Asia Pacific communications director for Bumble, said that based on her observations, young singles are setting more boundaries such as being more upfront about the fact that they are looking for a serious relationship. 

This was the case for Mr Wong, who had made a similar mistake of not being clear from the start that he was looking for a long-term relationship and ended up being "led on". 

"Now before meeting a girl, I will try to find out what she really wants and see if it's similar to the goals I have," he said. 

Another single who is placing greater priority on her personal boundaries is 24-year-old showroom executive Erlynna, who declined to provide her full name. 

She recalled dating a person who was still in National Service. As a natural “giver” in relationships, she had agreed to pay for their dates, meals and even his transportation. 

It was only a while later that she found out that he had been dating other girls behind her back. 

“When I really like someone, I tend to give my all without hesitation. But it’s sad how the other party took advantage of my kindness and naivety as a weakness,” she said. 

Ms Erlynna added that she has learnt from the incident and will not hesitate to cut off contact with someone who she thinks is “taking advantage” of her. 

Ms Violet Lim, the chief executive officer of Lunch Actually, also noted how the pandemic and its related challenges such as anxiety about health and not being able to meet with friends and family, have caused singles to prioritise their mental health during dating. 

“As a result of these challenges, singles become more selective and mindful about who they swipe on, chat with and meet in person…They are also more likely to set boundaries in order to protect their own mental health,” she said. 

For instance, they may be less willing to meet in person unless they are more sure about a person after assessing them through chats on dating applications. 

Indeed, for 23-year-old Chin Shao Yang who is currently serving National Service, the extended period spent alone during the pandemic in 2021 gave him time and energy to be more introspective. 

“I realised there’s a lot of things I want to do (in life) and I realised that as much as you want to date someone or have a relationship with someone, I feel that it is important to value your own time,” he said. 

Mr Chin added that he would usually set “time boundaries” by being upfront about his schedule and letting his date know that he would need time to himself. 

On how young singles can set healthy boundaries during dating, Ms McCart suggested taking time to reflect on one’s needs. 

“Before you step into a relationship, carve some time alone to really tune in to your feelings about dating. Once you’re able to satisfy your own needs, you’ll have more energy and space to nurture your relationship,” she said. 

She added that it is important to create a safe space during dating where each individual feels empowered to vocalise their needs and both parties are mutually respected. 


As the effects of the pandemic waned and normalcy gradually resumed around the world, another issue weighed on many young people’s minds — the increasing costs of living. 

Ms McCart of Bumble said: “Hearing about interest rates and inflation every day, that puts stress on every aspect of our lives and dating is no exception.”

For some singles such as Mr Chin, this meant cutting back on spending during dates and opting for casual or free ones instead. 

Mr Chin is a firm believer of keeping dates affordable, and spending more on dates only after getting into a more serious relationship with the other party. 

“There’s no point in advertising that you are going to get a Ferrari and then get a Toyota later,” he added. 

For 24-year-old student Brendan, a memorable “cheap” date was simply hanging out in the corner of a shopping mall eating instant noodles.

Mr Brendan, who declined to provide his full name, said that it was an interesting change of perspective for him. 

“I have been led on by the notion that dates cannot operate that way or cannot be done that way for the girl to like you…So it was quite interesting that she was willing to do that,” he said.

Indeed, Ms Lim of LunchActually said that singles are now more open to creative dating activities that are free or low cost. 

These include grocery shopping and cooking together, doing volunteer work together and visiting a public garden to chat and take pictures. 

However, other singles such as Cassandra Stephanie and Mr Wong said that rising costs have not had an effect on how much they spend on dates. 

Ms Stephanie, a 24-year-old auditor, said that she feels that it would be good to be “wowed” on a first date, which preferably would be a sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant. 

“Inflation should not affect how much we spend on a date. As long as I am interested in that person, I don’t think it should be a problem,” she said. 

Mr Wong agreed: “If you have to spend this amount to create certain memories, I will gladly spend it.” 

Related topics

dating mental health Inflation

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