Navigating Relationships & Dating in the Real World

Flirting on dating apps is fun, but it can be unfulfilling if that is as far as it goes. Here’s our guide to real-life Gen Z relationships & dating.

Dating can be tough, especially in a world where most interactions start and finish on a phone screen. Sure, dating and social media apps make it easier to meet new people, but the transition from matching and flirting through an app to making an authentic, real-life connection can be challenging.

Knowing how to make this switch from online to in-person has never been more important, especially given that meeting online is now the most common way that Midwest couples connect.

I want to help you step up your dating game by learning how to navigate in-person relationships. This list of tips and strategies for Gen Z relationships will help you turn your digital matches and online dating adventures into IRL dating experiences.

Let’s get started!

Tips for Dating in the Real World

1. Don’t Spend Too Much Time Flirting Through Text

Flirty messages and suggestive emojis are great for sparking a connection, but things won’t go anywhere if it never moves beyond your phone screen. It is important that you don’t come across as desperate, but there’s nothing wrong with trying to move a text-based conversation to something a little bit more authentic.

If you feel a connection with a prospective partner and you have been messaging each other back and forth for about a week, I would recommend trying to move things to FaceTime or some other form of video chatting. This will help strengthen the emotional connection and make you feel more comfortable with each other. From there, it becomes much easier to put out an invite for an IRL date.

Suggest something casual but fun. It may sound a bit old-fashioned, but going to see a movie together is a great low-pressure way to take that first step toward the real-life dating scene.

2. Be Yourself 

It sounds cliché, but nothing beats authenticity when it comes to dating and modern relationships. Whether you’re chatting through text or getting to know each other face-to-face, being yourself will help create a solid foundation for a meaningful relationship.

Sure, you might want to put forward an exaggerated version of your best features during those first few nervous encounters, but showing the potential partner your true self will help ensure that you are bonding with someone who actually appreciates who you are rather than what you’re pretending to be.

Share your actual interests and personality rather than just saying what you think is trendy or interesting or in the realm of societal norms. Trust me, the relationships where you start out being honest always end up being more meaningful.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make it Official 

Once you actually feel a solid connection, there’s nothing wrong with making the committed relationship official. Far too many Gen Z’s have commitment issues. With dating apps and social media always in the background promising something better, it can be a little tough to have an honest conversation about commitment. This is particularly common if you’re unsure if they feel the same way about you and you are afraid to commit to one partner due to FOMO.

Once you feel the moment is right, just take a chance! It’s better to be on the same page about your relationship than risk someone getting hurt because they thought it was more meaningful than it was. If you feel strongly about someone, shoot your shot!

4. Don’t Ghost Anyone

Dropping all contact with someone you’re not feeling without any warning is easy, but that doesn’t make it right. ‘Ghosting’ has become all too common these days, and it’s completely toxic. Rather than leave someone confused and hurt, just be honest about your feelings. Be upfront and tell them you don’t see it going anywhere but do it politely and kindly.

If the vibes aren’t right, just say it has been nice chatting, but you’re just not feeling a connection. Be clear, but let them down easy; it’s the right thing to do. Not only is ghosting rude, but being on the receiving end can actually contribute to some pretty serious mental health issues. Be better than that!

5. Be Honest About What You Are Looking For

You don’t have to smother someone to let them know what you are looking for. During those early conversations, be clear about your intentions. If you’re just looking for a casual fling, let the person you’re connecting with know that from the beginning. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more meaningful and long-term, don’t be afraid to say that you’re looking to date.

You don’t want to stay in that murky middle ground between not knowing if you’re serious or you’re just going to stay casual and uncommitted. In dating, this confusing situation is called being in the “Gray Zone,” and it usually just ends up with someone getting hurt. Remember, it’s in the interest of both sides to have a clear picture of where things could go.

6. Once You’re Officially Dating, Prioritize Face-to-Face Interactions

You need to find a healthy balance between digital communication and actually seeing each other in real life. While our phones make it easy to just chat through text, you really need to spend quality time together if you want your relationship to turn into something meaningful.

I recommend planning phone-free activities, especially during those early stages of dating. You don’t have to turn into a complete Luddite; just avoid situations where you’re together but both buried in your phones. Going for a hike is a great way to enjoy each other’s company while detoxing from your phones. Plus, it’s not like the Midwest has any shortage of stunning hiking trails.

Final Words

Making the transition from text to in-person dating can seem intimidating, but it’s not that bad if you use the tips we went over. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and start pursuing a relationship with the person who has caught your interest. The get-to-know-you phase is one of the most exciting parts of dating, so embrace it!


  • Chris Kane

    Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.

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