Published on 28 Aug 2022

My kids will probably meet their partners via an app and that is fine

It is more important that my children play their part as good partners in their relationships, no matter how they meet their other halves

My wife and I met in university, where we were introduced by a mutual friend.


In quite the opposite fashion, I am quite sure my kids will meet their partners online via a dating app, and I am perfectly fine with that.

In the late 1990s when we married, most of our friends met their partners via school, work or friends. Others had met their partners at social events or night spots.

These days, many people meet their partners online. The 2016 data from the Marriage and Parenthood Survey showed that Singaporeans were now comfortable with meeting their partners through online dating apps. The figure more than doubled from 19 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent in 2016.

A survey was done in 2021, but while the data was not published, I am quite sure that the figure today is substantially higher than one out of every two couples.

Over the years, my younger colleagues, who have been engaged to be married, have become more and more open to disclosing that they used an app to look for their partners.

Back in the stone age when my wife and I met, meeting potential partners was dependent on class status, social networks and chance meetings at social events.

The onset of online dating has levelled the playing field by opening up the opportunity for like-minded people to encounter one another.

A recently published study, by Professor Marc Goni of the Norwegian School of Economics, researched how disruptions in the London courtship season in the 19th century resulted in a more level playing field for nobility and commoners to meet, leading to more intermarriages between class levels and social networks.

The "London Season" facilitated meetings between individuals of a similar social status, but also restricted those who would be able to meet one another. During the season, aristocratic bachelors were introduced to similarly aristocratic debutantes, and there was little chance for a commoner to break into the season.

Due to the death of her mother and husband, Queen Victoria withdrew from the proceedings between 1861 and 1863. This affected the number of events organised and disrupted the established norms for nobility to interact with one another and pair off. This led to an increase in marriages between aristocrats and commoners by a whopping 40 per cent.

Prof Goni says "every relationship not only reflects who we choose, but also depends on whom we meet".

In the same way the London Season was disrupted, I see online dating as the great disrupter in how people meet one another today to start a relationship.

Singles seeking a partner state the educational, occupational, religious and other attributes they are looking for, leaving the algorithm on the online dating apps to produce matches for them.

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The broader search pool provided by online dating apps allows singles to "meet" more people than what they might be able to do so within their social network. In addition, each app has an interface that allows interested users to test the waters with one another virtually first, before deciding if they want to meet.

Another benefit of using the app is that it allows people to "declare" the type of relationship they are looking for, be a committed relationship or a casual friendship. This takes much of the guesswork out of the ensuing bond and courtship phase of the relationship.

A downside of using an app is that individuals could overly focus on a certain preference, even though it might not be important in the long run, excluding potentially viable matches from consideration. There is also the inevitable gap between what people write in their profiles and how they really are in real life.

Despite the benefits and downsides of online apps, overall, the stigma of meeting someone online has changed substantially over the years, with online dating increasingly seen as a viable route to meeting a future life partner.

I am quite relaxed about how my kids will meet their partners, online or otherwise.

I don't see the apps as a substitution of personal interactions by a device. Ultimately, the apps are only introducing individuals that are seeking a relationship. Nothing much has changed once couples decide to meet and take their relationship further after the first meeting.


The 2021 Marriage and Parenthood Survey reports: "Young Singaporeans have consistently expressed a strong desire to get married and have children."

I have no doubt that my two boys will share similar aspirations.

Unlike some of our friends who tell their kids that they can enter into steady relationships only when they are in university or have started working, we try not to impose such constraints on them.

We are fine for them to enter into relationships once they feel ready, with one caveat: that each party should be enriched by the steady relationship in some way.

Our son R, now 20, had his first steady relationship when he was 15; while S, 17, does not feel he is ready for his first relationship yet.

While I am agnostic about how my kids will meet their partners, I feel strongly that my kids play their part as good partners in whatever relationships that they choose to start.

My wife and I talk frankly with the boys about where we go wrong in our own marriage. We also share where we think we are doing well. The hope is that our attempts to invest in our relationship, and to continuously improve how we partner each other, will rub off on them.

We do not shield the children from disagreements, but we choose not to fight in front of them, preferring to resolve our conflict directly with each other without an audience.

We believe that constructive conflict is part of any healthy relationship and want to model how we are able to disagree, yet engage, with a view of having a deeper understanding and resolution after the conflict is over.

We hope that our kids will not take their future partners for granted, but instead value, treasure and invest in their relationships for the long term.

Ultimately, relationships are not perfect, whether they start online or offline. They need to be worked on daily and nourished with time, love and communication.


Source: The Straits Times