Looking inside the relationships of millennials means examining a whole new dating dynamic.

What’s happening to dating in NYC?


Born between 1981 and 2001, millennials differ from earlier generations mainly in the way their lives were shaped by innovations in technology and communication.

Generation Y, born between the early 1980s and the early 1990s, grew up with personal computers, cell phones, and video games. Generation Z, born between the early 1990s and 2001, grew up with tablets, smartphones, and apps.

Technology profoundly affects how millennials relate to each other. And their customs define dating in NYC.

Dating in NYC: Change of the Game

For millennials, especially in New York City, “dating” as pre-millennials defined it is dead. No more does a prospective couple meet for dinner to discover shared interests or get to know each other over time.

Even the term “date” is outdated. Instead, millennials who are interested in each other romantically or sexually “talk” or “hang out.” Meaning, they text each other, then perhaps communicate in person, and/or have sex. Another way of meeting is “hooking up,” a sexual exchange with no commitment or exclusivity.

A “relationship” in millennial terms happens quickly, if at all. After talking or hooking up, provided both parties are interested and after a few weeks of unofficial togetherness, they become significant others.

How do millennials condense what used to take months or years into such a short time? Dating apps.

Single millennials plug into sites like Tinder, OkCupid, Happn, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, or Grindr to find a partner—or partners—for hookups, talking, hanging out, or even meeting for what used to be called a date.

Another significant factor of dating in NYC is the surplus of women compared to men. That combines with the impression dating apps give men (and some women) that they have thousands of potential mates, which shifts them to short-term relationships with no need for commitment.

Depending on technology for romantic and sexual communication and connection has an upside and a downside. It’s fast, and the options are very nearly endless. But websites, apps, and texting are often ambiguous, leading to confusion and misunderstanding.

Though it’s now acceptable for women as well as men to have casual sex, meaningless sexual encounters can lead to jaded feelings and isolation. Hence, all that instant gratification can leave you lonely.

Dating in NYC: Millennial Etiquette

Online discussions of dating behavior among millennials, especially in NYC, use phrases like “dating apocalypse.”

Some less-than-kind practices that explain that phrase:

  • Ghosting. Instead of telling someone you’re no longer interested, you simply stop responding to their texts or instant messages. (In most people’s book, that’s just rude.).
  • Duplicity. It’s hard to be honest about your intentions. You only want sex, but you imply you’re open to a longer-term relationship. (Dude, that’s not cool.)
  • Focus on Sex. The ease of endless, instant sex doesn’t give you time to get to know who your partner really is. So, you quickly move on to the next person.
  • Appearing Not to Care. Showing real feelings, like interest and affection, may send the other person running. So, you conceal your emotions.
  • Always Searching for Somebody Better. With too many options, you may not settle on anybody. You go from person to person, looking for the perfect mate. Even when you find someone compatible, you don’t stop the search.
  • Not Caring About Another’s Feelings. You feel it’s not your fault if your behavior hurts someone. You excuse your cruelty, never apologize.
  • Trusting No One. Hooking up values sex, not love, so you don’t believe love can exist.

Inside the Relationships of Millennials

For many reasons, millennials tend to delay most aspects of adulthood longer than previous generations did. And the ability to connect with everyone 24/7 on the internet leads to a desire for instant gratification and a false sense of connection. Connecting on social media does not necessarily teach the skills needed to connect in real life.

Many online discussions of dating in NYC and of millennial relationships suggest that although millennials are getting plenty of sex, they’re not very happy with how they relate. Both women and men want good relationships—caring, connection, and permission to be themselves. They want depth and connectedness but fear turning a potential partner off if they say so.

Beyond the Apps

Recovering from the damage the dating apocalypse inflicts takes going beyond the apps, the texts, and the technology.

Some suggestions are:

  • Go offline. Meeting people in real life is the key. Online dating and dating apps can introduce you, but meeting through friends, saying hello to a neighbor, or joining a group that shares your interests are better ways to connect.
  • Know what you’re looking for. Decide on qualities you want in a partner, like trust, loyalty, humor, respect. Move on if your prospect doesn’t demonstrate them.
  • Demonstrate the qualities you’re looking for in a mate. Don’t ghost. Show respect for the other person. Be considerate.
  • Sex should be connected to love. Try not to put the cart before the horse—or the ride-share before the Uber driver. Only part of your life together will be spent in bed.

Sadly, more millennial singles report that they are lonely than any other group of singles. You can change that. Even when you feel burned out by dating, don’t give up. Genuine connection takes time. Love will come if you keep looking and allow yourself to connect on a deeper level.