There are more singles than ever in the dating pool. Most are in search of a meaningful connection that could lead to a long-term commitment. Landing a real catch in a traditional setting feels like fishing in the Dead Sea: impossible. But dating apps and websites have softened the blow and made it possible to scope out your options from the safety and comfort of your own home. With life online becoming an omnipresent reality, it’s one of the best ways to date. The best part? They actually work.
Now, this isn’t true of all dating sites, and there are plenty to comb through. While it’s nice to have options, digging around for the top dating sites can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Additionally, veteran daters know that modern dating culture has become murky at best.
Which apps will introduce you to singles who are serious about commitment and not just another hookup? Tinder might be the big dog of swipe-based dating apps, but you likely won’t find anything beyond a hot make-out session or a one-night stand. While most dating sites attract a mix of serious and casual daters, some options generate more success for long-term relationships.
Here’s an overview of the best dating sites that will give you the best chance at finding a real partner. When it comes to love, these apps do their best to find you the perfect match. Whether it’s a particularly advanced matching algorithm, personality analysis, or select group of users, these apps do more for you than your average hookup app ever could.
Do dating sites work?
Daters often hesitate to jump on the online dating bandwagon. They think it’s a fad, it’s all hype, or it won’t prove successful. However, there’s evidence suggesting that online dating will heighten your odds of finding love in an increasingly digital world. Professor Aaron Ben-Ze’ev states that “online technology, as well as SMS, enables having a connection that is faster and more direct.” In other words, people on a dating site know that they are there to make a connection. It’s not like bumping into an intriguing stranger in the grocery store and hoping they are single or interested in a date. On a dating app, the interest is implicit. Additionally, the entire process of meeting someone new is so much faster by comparison. You can also filter through folks who are really your type, which can’t be done offline (but that would make a great Black Mirror episode). Online dating provides a fast and curated approach that leads to more relationship success.
The pandemic has also pushed daters into the online space. Research shows a 700 percent increase in dates from OKCupid from March to May, 2020. With in-person casual hookups being such a huge risk, it’s no wonder why more people are looking for love online. And it is love that they are looking for because a casual hookup is not worth potential exposure. People have also started to see the value in having a long-term partner in scary, life-altering situations like a pandemic. For that reason, folks have become more up-front about their intentions to find love on dating apps, thus making it easier for singles to meet each other.
To answer the question, yes, dating sites do work. Especially in 2021!
How did we rate these dating sites?
All dating sites are different and attract different types of people. It’s no secret that an app like Tinder, though technically a dating app, is more often used for people to get laid than it is to create lasting bonds. It’s designed for the “Netflix and chill” and not the “let me add you to my Netflix account.” Of course, we’re trying to set you up with the latter. So, we take the following into account when judging each dating app:
- Does it foster long-lasting relationships?
- Does it have a smooth interface?
- Is it free or affordable?
- Are there good quality users?
- Is there an advanced matching algorithm?
- Is the sign-up process easy and effective?
We also want to make it easy for you to identify folks you’re attracted to, which is why a profile is a must. Here’s a tip: If your match doesn’t put a ton of effort into their online dating profile, they aren’t going to put a ton into the relationship. A one-liner bio and single photo of a sunglasses selfie isn’t going to cut it when you’re looking for “the one.” With that in mind, it’s also good advice to make your dating profile beefy and genuine. It will go a long way.
Here are the best dating sites for real relationships:
- Match – Best for lasting relationships (Rating: 5/5)
- Friend Finder – Best mix of casual and serious (5/5)
- Bumble – Best for women (4.5/5)
- Hinge – Best for quick, serious matches (5/5)
- OKCupid – Best for progressive dating (4.5/5)
- eHarmony – Best for marriage prospects (4/5)
- The League – Best for educated singles (4/5)
- Happn – Best for meeting someone in your social circle (5/5)
- HER – Best for femmes (4.5/5)
- Silver Singles – Best for older daters (4/5)
- CoffeeMeetsBagel – Best for dating site newbies (4/5)
- Zoosk – Best for those who love travel (4/5)
- AdultFriendFinder – Best for open-minded daters (4.5/5)
- Plenty Of Fish – Best for rural daters (4/5)
Match.com is a dating site that was launched in 1995, and it has been helping daters find long-term relationships ever since. Match is comforting to a lot of people because it’s so familiar and has pretty much provided the blueprint for other dating sites. Not to mention, it has worked hard to perfect its strategy over the years. There’s even a guarantee that you’ll be dating someone within six months, and if you’re not, they’ll give you six months free of charge! That’s how confident they are.
There are two factors that make Match best for long-term partnerships.
Number one is their matching algorithm. When you sign up, you will be put through a rigorous personality quiz. While it can feel a little cumbersome, know that Match is only doing its job. You’ll be asked about your basic preferences along with some gushy romantic stuff (which is important in a relationship).
Number two is that, though it’s technically a free dating site, most users end up paying $20 per month. Yeah, it’s a lot. But love is an investment you should be making for yourself, right?
Tip for using Match to find a long-term relationship: Match is known for their intense matching algorithm, so take your time with the questionnaire and try to make your profile as detailed as possible.
2.) Friend Finder
Friend Finder is one of the biggest dating communities on the Internet. It has the feel and ease of a social media platform but ultimately aims to set up romantic connections between singles. There’s a wide range of connections to be made on Friend Finder, from the flings to the wedding bells. You are more likely to meet someone who doesn’t want to commit right off the bat, but knows they want to meet someone special. Friend Finder also caters to all genders and sexualities, giving it a really warm and welcoming feel.
The users on Friend Finder tend to be in their 40s, but anyone who is 18+ is welcome to give it a shot. They also take your safety very seriously and run a tight ship as far as regulating profiles and banning fakes, catfish, and bots. You do feel like you’ve got a matchmaker on your side when you use Friend Finder to find a mate.
Because Friend Finder is more of a community than strictly a dating site, there are various ways to meet people and other ways to enjoy the site. For instance, you can take a look at their interest groups and forum pages to learn how users in the community are feeling about Friend Finder and dating in general.
Tip for using Friend Finder to find a long-term relationship: Treat this community like a social media platform rather than strictly a dating app. It will open up the possibilities for you by introducing you to more people!
There’s a lot we don’t love about Tinder. The platform allows ghosters and players to run rampant. That’s why Bumble is the perfect alternative for women seeking a serious relationship with a man.
Bumble is swipe-dating with a twist. It’s a free dating app that requires women to break the ice first. If the man doesn’t respond to the initial message within 24 hours, the match goes away. It’s one of the first dating apps to really hold daters accountable for their ability to follow through. Flakiness doesn’t survive on Bumble.
The women-message-first concept also combats those incessant creepy messages that ladies on dating apps are used to getting. While the profiles are limited and there’s no major questionnaire, the rules laid out by Bumble make it a great environment to start a long-term relationship. Oh, and there’s also an Astrology filter for the horoscope buffs.
Tip for using Bumble to find a long-term relationship: If you are a woman, reach out to all the men that you match with. Remember, they can’t get in touch with you. You need to make the first move before those matches disappear. You swiped right for a reason, right?
Many daters cite Hinge as their absolute favorite dating app. While Hinge has introduced a ton of successful couples to each other, the draw to Hinge has more to do with the fact that using the app is fun! The app was originally supposed to match you based on mutual friends you had through social media platforms. But it has evolved since then to be the ultimate icebreaker dating app.
Setting up a Hinge profile takes some time, but it’s entertaining. Once you pick your photos and basic preferences, you can choose through dozens of hilarious or serious prompts to add to the profile. One reads, “A life goal of mine is. . .” while another reads, “We’re the same type of weird if. . .” Hinge users can “heart” someone’s photo or their prompt answer. They can also comment on it, which makes initiating a conversation so much more interesting than on other dating apps.
With engaging profiles and an in-depth matching algorithm, Hinge is the cocktail party that sets the scene for long-term potential. The crowd is generally young, cool, and interested in dating. Its slogan is, “designed to be deleted,” which is kind of awesome!
Tip for using Hinge to find a long-term relationship: Add some humor to your profile by picking funny prompts. This will give your potential matches an icebreaker when they reach out to you.
OKCupid is the woke dating app geared towards socially conscious millennials. It’s been around for a while, but in 2017, OKCupid saw a massive redesign both in aesthetics and operations. Now, it’s incredibly modern and perfect for the liberal-minded dater who is seeking a likeminded partner. With 12 gender identities and 20 sexual orientations to choose from, it’s not hard to see why.
The questionnaire helps to weed out folks who you wouldn’t get along with by asking questions like, “Is contraception morally wrong?” They also get into your sexual preferences and dealbreakers. That’s when the algorithm takes over. At first, it feels a bit like Tinder. That would make sense as the two are owned by the same company, but it takes the more in-depth serious approach that goes beyond swiping based on appearances.
One critique that OKCupid gets is the feature that allows you to message someone who you haven’t matched with yet. They won’t see that message unless you match. While it keeps creepy messages at bay, it also lends itself to a bunch of unanswered messages and a strange feeling of rejection.
Tip for using OKCupid to find a long-term relationship: Don’t bother using this application if you are ultra-conservative. You likely won’t find anyone who meshes with your views. Also, show more than you tell. In other words, pick profile photos that communicate who you are as a person.
Ok, so eHarmony puts some cheesy ads out there that might deter you from trying it out, but if you’re tired of dating around and just want to put a ring on it, you’re going to want to give it a second chance. Why? Well, eHarmony is allegedly responsible for around 4 percent of all marriages in the U.S. today. Wild, right?
So what gives eHarmony its secret sauce? We guess it has to do with the revamp of their model. Back in the day, eHarmony would put you through the wringer with a lengthy sign-up process and lame alienating questions. Today, the questionnaire is around 30 questions long and very practical. It’ll ask you how you feel about moving in with someone or how you feel about arguments.
It should be noted though that eHarmony hasn’t always been the most welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community and some users believe that it’s truly a place for the heteronormative. They’ve been working on fixing this major issue, but it seems that it hasn’t yet been totally resolved.
Tip for using eHarmony to find a long-term relationship: Use eHarmony if you are genuinely ready for commitment. Don’t be afraid to set up dates quickly and emotionally open up earlier than you normally would.
7.) The League
If all the apps were personified, The League would be the most narcissistic. To get on the app in the first place, you must apply by submitting your LinkedIn profile, current job status, and what university you attended. So yeah, it’s a little full of itself. However, for people who think that education and job status is a dealbreaker, it’s a nice change of pace from the randomness that apps like Tinder supply.
The League allows you to be very picky with your preferences, even allowing you to select which races you prefer to see. That makes our stomachs turn a little. If you’re willing to ignore the cringeworthy-ness, The League is a pretty decent dating app. It has a high success rate, so we think it deserves a review.
Members span all age groups but tend to be on the younger side. There’s also no way for catfish to get onto this app. You must link both your Facebook and LinkedIn for approval. Unless a catfish is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to land someone, they aren’t going to slip through the cracks on these dating apps.
Tip for using The League to find a long-term relationship: The League tends to be a tough crowd and the app comes across as a little judgmental. You can ease the tension by sending a message to someone who you have something in common with. Perhaps you’ve been to their university, hometown, or have insight about their career choice.
Some people believe in fate and others believe in the “Proximity Effect.” There’s a strong correlation between proximity and attraction, which Happn takes into account. Rather than setting you up with people who live in a five-mile radius from you, Happn actually matches you with someone you’ve crossed paths with in the past. It’s a neat concept in that it shows you and your match have similar habits and interests. It’s also the most convenient way to date.
We’ll be honest though, there aren’t a ton of people who use Happn, so there might be slim pickings. There have also been reports that the daters you’ve apparently “crossed paths with” are hogwash. This is coming from users who never stepped foot outside of their homes and were told they had a handful of missed connections. However, there are also folks who say the exact opposite.
Regardless of whether or not the proximity feature is a placebo, it sure makes for a nice icebreaker when you finally do go on that first date!
Tip for using Happn to find a long-term relationship: Don’t rely too heavily on the proximity feature. Try to get to know the people who you match with and then decide if you want to meet up with them!
Nearly all dating sites claim to be inclusive of all sexualities and genders; however, many people in the queer community don’t completely agree. Some sites just don’t feel all that welcoming or provide enough options, especially to queer women. Grindr was there for queer men, but what about the ladies? That’s where the app HER comes in. It’s a tailored dating site and community for women in the LGBTQ+ community.
According to their members (currently 4 million and counting), HER is a really fun space. Profiles can get quite detailed with the ability to put your diet preferences (like vegan) on your profile, along with your astrological sign and pronouns. There’s also an entire element of HER that doesn’t really have to do with dating but rather operates as a social media platform and shows you what queer events are going on in your area.
HER is great, but it’s not perfect. In the past, users have reported some glitches that make the user experience a bit frustrating and annoying. However, they are actively working to evolve their functionality in a positive way.
Tip for using HER to find a long-term relationship: HER is all about empowering women and LGBTQ+ dating. Mimic that energy by always shining a positive light while you are chatting with new friends or matches.
10.) Silver Singles
Dating over 50 can be quite a challenge. Many of these online dating apps focus so much energy on catering to millennials that they don’t take time to consider the older daters. Silver Singles is a dating app that’s exclusively for daters who are age 50 and above. Knowing that you’re in the company of others who are your age and looking for love can be really comforting.
Silver Singles takes matching seriously and uses a personality test to break users up into the Big Five personality traits, and then matches you accordingly. There’s an expectation on Silver Singles that the dating is taken seriously, so it’s not for the person looking for something casual. The users who are old enough to be completely over dating games that tend to be consumed by them see this as a benefit.
Tip for using Silver Singles to find a long-term relationship: Make it clear that you are seeking a long-term relationship. You can do this by posting it in your profile or by opening each chat by explaining what you want out of the app. The mature daters will appreciate the transparency.
11.) Coffee Meets Bagel
The concept behind this dating app was to set up a casual online dating experience. It’s likened to grabbing a cup of coffee with someone, but online. The vibe is meant to feel low-key, so that pressure doesn’t get in the way of your dating experience. A Reddit review actually noted that “Coffee Meets Bagel helped me find someone, which I never thought would happen because I am cripplingly introverted.” So, we know it works!
Other dating sites will throw a bunch of options at you, leaving you swiping through tons of photos or scrolling through an indefinite amount of prospects. While this can be nice, it also can deter you from really investing in one person and might make you feel overwhelmed. It’s not exactly the easiest way to make a real connection. That’s why CMB sends you seven options a day that are carefully selected based on their matching algorithm. These matches are called “bagels,” which frankly is a little strange. But hey, we’re not here to judge CMB on anything but their success rate as a dating app. To encourage followthrough, the bagels only last for a week. If you really like someone, you need to reach out.
Another reason why CMB works so well is that the algorithm takes your previous swipes into account when curating the next batch of fresh bagels for you. It learns your trends and preferences based on actual activity rather than just a questionnaire.
Tip for using Coffee Meets Bagel to find a long-term relationship: Give each “bagel” a chance. You might be used to apps that give you tons of options; however, there’s a reason why these bagels were suggested to you. Don’t be afraid to do a deep dive into each of their profiles!
For some, travel is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. Zoosk takes the concept of online dating and allows users to connect internationally. But this isn’t one of those “fly me out to hookup” sites. Zoosk utilizes behavioral matching to facilitate genuine connections between folks who may live thousands of miles apart. If you want your first date to involve a plane, this app is for you.
Rather than dragging you through a tedious questionnaire, Zoosk synchs up your social media profiles to analyze your behavior. It’s a unique way to determine personality, but arguably more accurate given that it takes your actions into account.
Zoosk is a crowd favorite because it doesn’t try to distract you with any bells and whistles. It’s got a smooth, modern interface that makes international dating feel like a breeze.
Tip for using Zoosk to find a long-term relationship: Clean up your social media profile. Zoosk uses it to determine your matches. Your matches will likely be able to find your socials as well. If you come across as a player, you won’t land a serious relationship.
Ok, so AdultFriendFinder isn’t exactly great for finding your soulmate, but nothing is impossible! The reason it makes the list is that some people like to approach dating in a casual way before getting into anything super serious. Physical intimacy is an essential part of any relationship, and AdultFriendFinder has no problems in that department.
While millennials rely on Tinder to help them find friends-with-benefits, AdultFriendFinder caters to an online dating crowd that’s a tiny bit older. It’s sort of the Tinder for Gen X. Given that there are so many users on AdultFriendFinder, it’s nearly impossible to not find someone interested in talking to you. But be warned—AdultFriendFinder is not for the faint of heart. There’s no telling how raunchy your inbox will get.
AdultFriendFinder is an adult site, so that means explicit photos are welcome and encouraged. You won’t find that on other dating websites. In a time where isolation is more familiar than physical touch, it’s a nice change of pace.
Tip for using AdultFriendFinder to find a long-term relationship: Keep an open mind, sexually. AdultFriendFinder has a lot of raunchy undertones. By going in without judgment, you open yourself up to a world of dating potentials on this site.
14.) Plenty Of Fish
Plenty Of Fish is a popular free dating site, but they’ve been known to have just as many bots as they do genuine users, so that’s why it sits at the bottom. This doesn’t mean that POF doesn’t work. It has been known to foster a ton of successful relationships. There are even some celebs who have found love on POF. It simply might get annoying attempting to dodge the folks who aren’t real.
One of the best aspects of POF is the volume of users. They have so many. Bots aside, even if you live in a small town or rural area, you will find plenty of prospects. Most apps function best in urban cities, but POF does the job well anywhere. Another thing we love is that POF, and all features like unlimited messaging, is totally free.
Because there are so many daters on POF looking for all sorts of relationships, POF has implemented a pretty advanced search feature that allows you to whittle down the crowd. The quality of daters doesn’t seem to be as top-notch as some other apps on this list, but there are definitely some catches who make their way onto the site.
Tip for using Plenty Of Fish to find a long-term relationship: POF is known for having a ton of users. With that in mind, be selective with who you decide to reach out to. Too many options won’t help you land that soulmate you’re after.