Dating apps don’t work. You do.

If you have spent any time on dating apps, it’s easy to believe they just don’t work. This is understandable. There are many different types…


If you have spent any time on dating apps, it’s easy to believe they just don’t work. This is understandable. There are many different types of people on dating apps with lots of different goals.

Some people want casual sex. Others just want attention. Some want a serous relationship. Finally, many people dating apps don’t know what they want. This complicates things tremendously.

Related: Is casual sex healthy?

Dating apps often don’t work

There are countless examples of dating apps not working. These reasons include a lack of mutual interest for potential matches, lack luster communication, and quickly inappropriate messages.

Additionally, dating apps often don’t work because of the countless time wasters and one-uppers. This can make the whole process exhausting, disappointing and demoralizng.

Bad treatment isn’t personal even if it hurts

The one-uppers treat human beings as if they are an object. They act as if they are shopping for a new phone. These types of dating app users are always looking for something “better.”

While it may feel demoralizing to be on the receiving end of this treatment, it’s not truly personal. This type of treatment, rather, highlights the one-upper’s own limitations for a healthy relationship.

These one-uppers often have an avoidant attachment style. Even if they “pick” you, these types of people are emotionally unavailable. They may even be often literally unavailable and difficult to schedule dates with.

Some people on dating apps do not have healthy relationship skills

People who ghost others also tend to have an avoidant attachment style as well. These types of people do not have the ability to communicate openly and honestly. Instead, they will find “reasons” to cut off all contact with the other person.

This is to mask how deeply afraid they are of communicating openly. (Note: If someone ghosts you, it’s not your job to wait for them so you can help them heal their emotional wounds.)

If you are ever ghosted, please take your time to feel your hurt and disappointment. You may also need to cope with any trauma triggers if the ghosting reinforces a core negative belief that you are not good enough.

Yet, the people who ghost others from dating apps truly lack relationship skills. Ultimately, while emotionally cruel, they are doing you a favor.

Related: I got ghosted and it hurts.

Dating apps can be a waste of time

The time wasters can be one-uppers, at times. Other times, the people on dating apps who waste your time are not truly serious about meeting someone. They may be on the app simply to boost their ego.

Related: What is love bombing in dating?

These are the types who will spend lots of time communicating with you, yet they will often be “too busy” to meet up. These types can be super confusing because they may even give you major compliments. This process can lead you to keep waiting, wasting more of your time.

Related: Confused about mixed signals from a guy

There are lots of bad dates to be had

I intimately understand how disappointing and frustrating dating apps are often. I’ve also experienced the range of bad dating app users.

Like you probably have, I’ve gone on extremely weird dates. On one first date, 30 minutes into it, a guy told me he had a threesome once with a woman and her teddy bear. He emphasized it was at her request he emphasized but still, that’s a lot to put on a first date.

I’ve met the time wasters – one guy literally texted me 15 minutes before the date (I was already ready and leaving!) that he was cancelling. And my past core traumatic belief that I was unlovable was triggered by ghosting more times than I can count!

Related: Dating with trauma: What you need to know

You can still benefit from dating apps

Yet not all hope was lost.

Deep down, I knew my best chances to meet my person were on dating apps. After all, I was in the process of growing my own company. And my definition of a fun Saturday night often involves curling up with a good book and a cup of tea.

Therefore, I figured I needed to find a way to make dating apps work for me.

Then I realized the secret. Dating apps don’t work but the people who use them can be effective!

Dating apps don’t work – You do

The secret to finding a serious, healthy relationship on a dating app relies on your boundaries. (This is also the same secret if you happen to find your healthy, long-term relationship IRL.)

For dating apps to work for you, it’s important to become clear on what you are truly looking for on the app. If it’s a serious relationship, say, and the person you match with makes it clear they are not looking for one, you must move on for your mental health. Even if they’re really attractive or funny.

Getting clear on your non-negotiable needs is also tremendously helpful. If you want to discover your personal non-negotiables, you can get a free worksheet by signing up below.

Dating apps can be a great tool for dating mindfully

Using dating apps can be incredibly exhausting. To support you, and allow these apps to be an asset, it’s important to practice mindfulness. Mindful dating is when you focus on your needs and boundaries to find your right relationship. The truth is most people on these apps will not be a viable long-term match for you. And that’s ok. It’s part of the process.

Many potential matches will not meet your non-negotiables. Dating apps then can minimize some of the exhaustion of dating. In these cases, these apps are a great assessment tool.

Related: Hate dating but want a relationship?

Dating is an assessment process

When you are dating mindfully, you stay connected to your non-negotiables. To support your mental health, you end any potential romantic relationship if you discover even one of your non-negotiables isn’t met.

Otherwise, even if you end up together, you will be dissatisfied or resentful. This will also likely make you want to change the other person (or stuff your needs) both of which are signs of porous boundaries.

Related: How to set healthy boundaries in a relationship

One of my non-negotiables is that I don’t want children. When my now-husband messaged me for the first time on Hinge, I was super excited about his potential. But before replying, I double checked that he also said he didn’t want kids.

You can meet your future spouse (if that’s what you want) on dating apps

I spent 10 years, on and off, using dating apps ineffectively. During this time, of course, sometimes I made up that dating apps don’t work. This was despite the statistical fact many people meet their future spouses on these apps. (For some apps, almost 1 in 4 people meet their future spouse there!)

Eventually, I realized it was my approach that needed changing.

Changing your mind

You don’t need to believe in the law of attraction to notice that your beliefs impact your life. If you believe, for example, that you are not “athletic,” you will likely avoid situations that would develop this skill set. Thus, this will reinforce your belief that you are not athletic.

Your life is the byproduct of what you believe.

If you believe that dating apps don’t work, then you are right. This mindset will impact what you focus on: the matches you aren’t attracted to, the disappointments, the inappropriate messages.

Instead, to use dating apps mindfully and effectively, it’s important to adopt a new belief system.

I used to believe that there are no healthy, safe men due to my childhood trauma. Then, because of this, I only dated emotionally unavailable, sometimes abusive men. Also, I would cut off the kind men because they didn’t fit my belief system. (This is also social verification theory.)

To date effectively, I worked through my trauma based scarcity mindset that there were no healthy men available.

Also, to use dating apps effectively I reminded myself: It’s not the right one until it’s the right one. I also reminded myself that I’m only looking for one person on the dating app.

Create your dating success mantra

It’s natural that even when you change your mindset and approach, dating apps will frustrate you. In these moments, it’s valuable to come back to a mantra to help you cope. When you cope effectively with these frustrations and disappointments, you will stay on the apps. And the only way you can meet your right person on a dating app is if you stay on it.

For me, I kept reminding myself “It’s just one person.” I also reminded myself that every person will be wrong for me until I find my person. I set myself up to radically accept that most people I spoke to on these apps wouldn’t have long-term potential.

And this was ok because I was only looking for one person.

What’s a mantra you can develop to stay grounded when you face dating app disappointment?

To support you, identify any negative beliefs you have about apps and then work to reframe them. If you believe they don’t work, identify examples of apps leading to long-term success. If you don’t know anyone, look for examples online of people who met their spouse on an app.

Your mantra can then be “Dating apps can lead to happy, long-term marriages.” This mindset shift allows you to keep focusing on hope and potential rather than getting lost in the disappointments.

Staying empowered on dating apps

Saying dating apps don’t work is like saying therapy doesn’t work. These tools only work when you use them with intention. You are the magic ingredient here. I think remember this is empowering. If you are the magic ingredient, then you can use dating apps to your advantage.

You make dating apps work for you when you are mindful, intentional, and grounded. Rejection and disappointment are a part of the dating app process. But this is also true about life.

Also, remember, dating apps won’t work for you until they do. Every person you engage with will be the wrong person for you until you connect with the right one. It’s true: It’s always the last place you look that you find what is missing (because you stop looking!).

About The Author, Krystal

Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.

This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.

Her third book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend will be released late 2022. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.

Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”

Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM her or you may send an email to to submit your question.