Anyone who’s been doing the online dating thing for a while knows that there’s hookup culture and then there’s long-term relationship dating culture. Most online dating sites have a mix of both, and after living with online dating as an increasingly ubiquitous option for the past 20 years, the general public (mostly) sees dating sites as a super normal means to find casual dates or a hookup.
But what if you’re looking for a serious relationship or even something long-term? What if you just don’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day ever again? What if you’re over casual dating and just want someone consistent to come home to? What if you have no idea where to start? Keep reading.
Can you really fall in love with someone online?
The long-term potential of online dating is still met with a cloud of doubt. However, new evidence is proving that relationships that started online might have a stronger foundation than those that started offline. A 2017 study cited in the MIT Technology Review found that people who meet online are more likely to be compatible and have a higher chance of a healthy marriage if they decide to get hitched. If marriage is your goal, you’ll be glad to know that another recent study found that heterosexual couples who met online were quicker to tie the knot than couples who met offline. Either way, online dating seems to be a good recipe for a satisfying, long-term relationship whether it involves marriage or not.
No one is saying that online dating is the variable that changes everything, but the research does point to the fact that people who sign up for dating sites that require thoughtful responses are more ready to settle down.
What makes a dating site better for relationships than others?
Do we even need to get into why Tinder is a long shot? Is being introduced to nearly every person in a 10-mile radius worth the shitty bios about The Office or how they’re “not looking for commitment?” Sure, Tinder has its fair share of those lucky success stories, but it’s also the dating app where ghosting, breadcrumbing, and every other disheartening dating trend flourish.
Have I ever told you that I hate tinder? pic.twitter.com/SwMy7OfkVj
— Eliza✨ (@strictlyswift) November 5, 2019
Singles looking for something serious ASAP might get frustrated with sites that only give a limited number of matches per day. But choosing sites that force you to be selective really heightens the focus on what you’re truly looking for in a forever partner — and gets you closer to that cuffing status.
For online daters who want the power to peruse the dating pool, you need to seek out detailed, high-energy profiles that give a well-rounded idea of who you’re messaging. Swiping is guided by the compatibility ranking that most sites offer, which predicts how well you’ll get along with other daters based on how you both answered questions. Plus, you can tell how much other daters care about the process by how much effort they put into their profile. If a single sentence about being drama free is the extent of someone’s bio, you can assume that 1. they’re not taking this seriously and 2. they create drama.
OkCupid has a particularly strong red flag game: The site has found that personal politics are a major deciding factor for young people choosing a partner, and profile building revolves around make-or-break stances on things like women’s issues or whether they bother to vote. Aside from a compatibility percentage, OkCupid shows what issues the person gives a shit about (or not) so you don’t get stuck on a first date with someone who’s on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Potential dates will analyze your profile so make sure it does you justice
On its face, it makes sense to question the legitimacy of a connection with someone who is only showcasing their best self. But how much more information are you really getting from the tipsy person hitting on you at the bar aside from what they look like IRL? The dating sites that let users express themselves with prompts — from favorite movies to where you want to retire — are setting you up for success by avoiding an unnecessary argument six months in.
SEE ALSO: 6 ways to make your dating app profile stand out from the crowd
The best way to attract genuine people? Be authentic yourself. That’s easier said than done when your biggest worry is that a truthful answer — like the fact that you might not be as good of a communicator as you would like — will deter “the one” from swiping right. But deep down, you know that lying on a compatibility questionnaire probably won’t lead to a healthy relationship.
Until a smarter AI can read minds and simply ban hookup seekers from serious sites, these are the best datings sites for serious relationships:
Your best option
Largest user base of all • Lets you choose dealbreakers • New emergency features and AI photo verification coming soon • More laid back profile building than eharmony
Constantly bombarded with notifications • Recent legal issues with FTC • Prices change too often
Match’s proven success rate over the decades and evolving mobile adaptions keep it a go-to for all ages.
The OG dating site reigns supreme with a proven algorithm and more users than the population of NYC. Free version: Yes Three months: $25.99/month Six months: $22.99/month One year: $19.99/month
Match continues to solidify its spot as a well-rounded choice for all ages because it refuses to get lost as an antiquated, corny dating site.You’re at least tediously scrolling through people Match thinks you’ll like based on shared interests like volunteering or clubbing, pet preferences, whether you want (or have) kids and more. If something like smoking cigarettes is a deal breaker, you can indicate that, too.
Match has so many online daters in its arsenal (more than the population of New York City, in fact) that it’s hard to avoid the notification onslaught even if you live in a less-populated area. However, it should slow down once the algorithm starts learning about your swiping behaviors.
Most of us would like to believe that anyone paying $20 per month is genuinely looking for a seriously relationship, but Match has had its fair share of extreme catfishing (like the guy who claimed to be a millionaire and then scammed $80,000 from the woman he was talking to). But they’re working to make this better. In fact, Match.com is set to follow Tinder as the second Match Group app to utilize location-based emergency services via Noonlight as well as photo verification to authenticate users and ensure that they’re the same person that’s in their profile pictures.
Best for dating a liberal
Queer friendly and inclusive • Lots of users • Expands compatibility to those with similar social justice views • Modern redesign that’s genuinely fun to navigate
Not great in small towns
Millennials who follow current events will enjoy OkCupid’s Tumblr-esque design and the focus on multi-faceted matching.
Singles who will only get serious with woke people will appreciate OkCupid’s liberal matchmaking. Free version: Yes One month: $9.95/month Three months: $7.95/month Six months: $4.95/month
Don’t let OkCupid’s cheeky ads about being “left-leaning” (like politics, but also…you know) make you put it in the “hookup” category. The focus on such weighted issues and profiles that require thought are a pretty big deterrent for people who aren’t taking dating seriously, and you can tell that most users are putting effort into finding lasting connections. Users can illuminate the issues they hold dear and weed out people they’d want to argue with by answering deal-breakers like “Would you date someone who keeps a gun in the house?” or “Should the government require children be vaccinated for preventable diseases?” Liberal ladies found that this worked to their advantage, as OkCupid’s own statistics found that liberal-leaning answers made users 80% more likely to find love on the site.
Politics aren’t the only compatibility factor here. OKCupid has in-depth user bios, but profile building isn’t long or tedious at all — the questions are smart and dive into your dating style without being too mushy. You’ll even get to see the percentage of how much you have in common with other daters based on the questions you both answer. It’s an algorithm that OKC has been perfecting since their launch and we love them for that.
Best for those dating to marry
High success rate speaks for itself • Questionnaire makes you think about what you need to work on • Super user-friendly
Historically not super friendly to LGBTQ+
If you’re laser-focused on hetero matrimony, this is the dating site you’ve been waiting for.
Casual daters and liberal folks will feel smothered here, but conservative, marriage-minded people will love the focus on settling down. Free version: Yes Three months: $54.95/month Six months: $36.95/month One year: $22.95/month
As you might expect from a site that’s all about settling down and getting married, the sign-up process is a doozy. eharmony uses a comprehensive questionnaire with 29 dimensions to match you with people based on your long-term compatibility. You’ll rate yourself on prompts like “I’m an honest partner,” with sliding scale responses. There’s also a lot about church. (Pro tip: If finding someone who loves church as much as you do is really important, then eharmony is a good option.)
On paper, asking deep questions like these right off the bat makes total sense when pairing two people together — but they’re so basic. Then again, eharmony promises to pay for three months if you’re not satisfied after those three months, so they’re clearly pretty confident that all of those questions work.
Profiles also look really nice, like a fancy résumé designed by a graphic designer. You even have the option to put your favorite TV shows, music, sports, and more on your profile.
It should be noted that eharmony hasn’t always felt like a welcoming place to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Following a 2010 lawsuit, their gay and lesbian spin-off site Compatibility Partners has been folded into eharmony’s overall site, but users on Reddit as recently as 2019 say that it still seems geared more toward straight people.
Best serious swiping app
Rapidly-growing user base • High statistics for second dates • One of the first swiping apps to actually use an algorithm • Informative bios with unique criteria like stance on weed
Filtering by height no longer a free feature • Have to pay for unlimited matches
A trendy, more serious Tinder alternative, Hinge wants to find you a relationship so you can delete the app all together.
Millennials finally have an algorithm-oriented swiping app that’s less “Wanna bang?” than Tinder. Free version: Yes One month: $12.99/month Three months: $6.99/month Six months: $4.99/month
Despite the fact that we’re actively seeking out new dating apps and feel a rush every time a cute contender swipes right back, no one looking for something serious wants to be on these. The whole point of online dating is to find your person so you can stop looking for your person. That’s the whole idea behind Hinge’s 2019 rebrand to “the dating app designed to be deleted.” But catchy slogans mean nothing without real-world success. Thankfully, these Hinge statistics offer a vote of confidence for anyone who’s skeptical about whether dating behind a screen can actually foster serious connections IRL. Beta trials of a feature called “We met” asked Hinge users how the first date went. Some 90% said the first date was great and 72% said they’d be down for a second date.
There’s a common understanding among users that Hinge isn’t just for sex, but there’s no pressure to rush into a relationship either. Instead of extensive cheesy questionnaires and spam emails about the 50 winks you were sent, Hinge uses your personal prompts, ethnicity, religion, education, and more to find you anywhere from five to 15 matches per day. Prompts range from “The most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done” to “Two truths and a lie.” Seems like a good recipe for a first convo that’s not about sex, right?
Best for career-oriented people
High price weeds out people who don’t take dating seriously • Low chance of getting catfished • Recent update makes questionnaire more fun
Subscription prices are ridiculously high • Distance filter starts at 50 miles • Might get suggestions that don’t match your filters
You can speak your love language *and* money language here, but it takes a high disposable income to justify these prices.
5. Elite Singles
A place for career-oriented individuals to connect and who don’t have the time to swipe right. Free version: Yes Three months: $69.95/month Six months: $53.95/month One year: $39.95/month
EliteSingles loves to brag that 82% of their members are college grads, and with most of its members between the age of 33-50, we can pretty surely say you won’t have to worry about accidentally coming across a fresh college graduate. College kids wouldn’t be down to pay $50 per month on a dating site anyway, and neither would people who are only looking for a friend with benefits situation. They can do that on Tinder for free. That high subscription price is just another giveaway that EliteSingles is targeted toward serious folks with a disposable income who are ready to focus on someone with an equally-mature lifestyle.
Mixed online reviews make it difficult to justify that price point, though. Matches might be further away than you indicated in your mile range and, unfortunately, it’s hard for EliteSingles (or any dating website) to verify that someone makes the amount of money that they claim to make. However, it’s comforting to know that all profiles are manually verified and that your money is going toward an upscale fraud detection system.
Some 29 different matching algorithms mesh together to find singles that complement your attachment style, selfishness, and more important personality type stuff. Strewn throughout the mundane sections are laid back questions like “Do you like sleeping with the window open?” and “Which of these foods would you like the best?” It’s no five-minute signup, but at least it covers all your bases.
Best for people 50 and over
Clear and easy to navigate • Made for older people who want to meet older people without fishing through eharmony
The site doesn’t reveal premium prices until you sign up • Expensive
SilverSingles is a good option for those with limited internet experience who only want to meet people their age.
Instead of fishing through eharmony’s age filters, SilverSingles is dedicated to finding romance later in life. Free version: Yes Three months: $44.95/month Six months: $34.95/month One year: $24.95/month
You’re not alone here: 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce. It’s no surprise that many men and women are finding themselves in the online dating world during their golden years. Because SilverSingles wants to ensure that your next relationship is your happily ever after, the sign-up process and questionnaires will take a good bit of time to asses the type of partner you are. The site will use your info to send you five of its best matches per day.
A sister site to EliteSingles, SilverSingles uses the same intense compatibility system that EliteSingles does, bringing in the popular big five personality traits to assess five levels of your being: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. If you’ve heard of Senior Singles Meet in the past, SilverSingles is that same site with a rebrand — so they’ve actually been working on mastering the five factor model in tandem with senior dating for about two decades.
If you were worried about online dating because of the whole “technology” thing, don’t worry. The site is easy to navigate and clearly lays out the path to a premium membership, which will get you unlimited messaging with matches among other convenient features. Creeps are weeded out by a high-end verification process and you can report any user who’s acting suspicious or inappropriate.
Best for gay men who hate Grindr
Can choose to only see users who are also looking for commitment • Safer space than Grindr • Has a “friend mode” • Users must verify identity on Facebook
Less than half of Grindr’s user base • No real compatibility algorithm
Grindr’s aggressive atmosphere has some men turning to Chappy, a respectful space where you can indicate intentions.
Gay men who want something real can use the app’s toggle button to indicate that they want a relationship. Free version: Yes
Chappy offers a safe space for users who aren’t quite ready to be thrown to the wolves. The site’s whole ethos is built around “The Chappy Pledge,” which asks users to vow to be respectful and to not shame or demean others based on looks. It also requires users to verify their identity through Facebook to avoid catfishing.
To ensure that no one’s intentions are getting mixed up, there’s a sliding bar at the top of the app where you can indicate whether you’re looking for Mr. Right (a long-term relationship) or Mr. Right Now (a hookup ASAP). Aside from that, the functionality essentially mimics Tinder swiping through nearby people who are usually showing their face rather than their abs. There’s no real algorithm to up the chances of compatibility even if you opt for Mr. Right, but at least it helps avoid the “What are you looking for?” talk.
Men who aren’t looking for commitment but rather just want a gay gym buddy can use “Friend mode.” The feature was launched in partnership with the Trevor Project (the leading nonprofit in preventing suicide and providing supportive communities for LGBTQ youth) to cultivate supportive, platonic friendships within its user base.
Best for lesbians who hate Tinder
Chance to get involved in local queer events • Facebook verification confirms that the girls are actually girls • Special place in bio for sexuality and pronouns • Four million users and growing quickly
Not as successful in small towns • Full of users complaining about being single • Only shows matches based on age and location • Occasional biphobia
HER is a rapidly-growing safe space for queer women to make meaningful connections, but there’s no real algorithm.
A queer-women-only app that connects you with girls who *aren’t* straight women looking for a threesome with their boyfriend. Free version: Yes
The app that wants to “introduce you to every lesbian you’ve ever wanted to meet” is growing rapidly: HER has ballooned to 4.5 million users since its rebrand in 2015, and according to Statista, that’s pretty damn close to what Bumble is working with — and they’re ALL. WOMEN. If you tried HER a few years ago and were discouraged by swiping through the same people, your experience will be much different this time around.
In summer 2019, HER revamped its minimalistic profiles to let users get more creative in categories like gender, sexuality pronouns, diet preferences, and star signs, as well as a “What does this mean?” field in the sex, gender, and pronoun categories to create more well-rounded understanding of identity. There’s also a space for a text bio where you can showcase your sense of humor or describe what type of relationship you’re looking for.
The lack of any real science behind the matches past age and location is a bummer, but unlike Tinder, this doesn’t mean you’ll be suffocated with a hookup vibe. Searching #wemetonHER on Instagram should be all the beautiful, adorable success story proof that you need.
Dating sites that are better for booty calls post-breakup
So things didn’t work out with the person you thought you’d be with forever? Give yourself some space to heal before looking for love again — but by all means, do the hooking up that you couldn’t do while you were in a relationship.
Pick your poison: Lack of an algorithm, lack of bios with any meaningful information, or lack of users who care what your face looks like as long as they have more explicit photos. These are the dating sites to steer clear of if you’re tired of people who only want sex.
Best for finding a friend with benefits
Easy and instantaneous • Massive nearby user base • Extra fun during traveling
Way too much swiping • Next to no filters • No actual matchmaking algorithm • Only two gender options
The OG swiping app where you’ll find everyone you know, a ton of people you don’t know, and a date in under 10 minutes.
The OG swiping app where you should be able to find a hot date in under 10 minutes. Free version: Yes One month of Tinder Plus: $14.99/month Six months of Tinder Plus: $10/month One year of Tinder Plus: $6.67/month
Why it’s awesome: Let’s just get this one out of the way. If you’re thinking of dating apps, you’re thinking of Tinder. They pioneered the now-ubiquitous swiping function, revolutionizing the world of online dating and boasting 1.6 billion swipes per day. What started out as strictly a hookup app has turned into one of the biggest matchmakers in the world. As you’re served a series of photos, swipe right if you like what you see and left if you don’t. When you both indicate interest in each other, you’ll get a notification that it’s a match. I mean, “Tindering” is just as much of a verb as swiping at this point.
Tinder may not want to advertise as such, but we all know what it’s mostly used for. You’re quite literally deciding if you want to interact with someone based on nothing but profile pictures and a quote from The Office, so yeah, you can see how getting laid would be the main goal of most users — but hey, we all know those couples who met on Tinder and have been together for years. It’s fast, easy, and if there’s one app that even the shyest, most skeptical people will be on, it’s Tinder. Hell, even celebrities can now have verified profiles on there (meaning yes, you could match with one of the Hollywood Chrises if you’re really lucky). You may get carpal tunnel from swiping so much, but I guess that also means that it’s nearly impossible to not find someone who’s DTF.
It’s free for general use, but Tinder does offer two upgrades: Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold. These include extras like undoing a left swipe (bless), send “Super Likes” to people you’re really into, and in the case of Tinder Gold, see which users have liked your profile. Sign up here.
Best hookup site
Massive user base • LGBTQ friendly • Tons of features for max satisfaction • Chemistry questionnaires are actually decent
Outdated and unattractive layout • Entire site looks like a virus-ridden porn ad • Best features get pricey
If you can get past the fact that it looks like an ad for a deserted strip club, you’ll get the satisfaction you were looking for and more.
Live videos and more monthly visitors than eharmony makes AFF great for finding a down-for-anything fling. Free version: Yes Dating app compatibility: Technically yes, but it’s complicated — just stick to the desktop version One month: $30/month Three months: $20/month One year: $15/month
With over 25 million monthly users (that’s more than eharmony) as well as live video options, chat rooms, groups for ultra specific kinks, and more, you can probably assume how wild this site can get. But there’s such a large and diverse group of potential matches, you’re very likely to find other like-minded people, which does wonders when all you want to do is connect with someone who’s on the same page as you. The part that you wouldn’t expect is the fact that they do offer tons of compatibility questions and matchmaking services, because they’re that intent on finding you a good lay.
Another bonus is that AdultFriendFinder is like the dating site version of New York City (AKA it never sleeps). You’ll find people who work the regular 9-5, people who work the night shift, and people in other time zones, so it’s nearly impossible to log on and not have people to talk to. AdultFriendFinder is like the booty call that’s always awake when you text them.