Is your husband on Tinder?
It's the mobile app that's become the hub of Ireland's dating scene. But just how many of Tinder's 'singles' are genuinely available? Tanya Sweeney investigates…
Long gone are the days when finding a date meant a meeting of eyes across a crowd, today Ireland's dating scene is largely conducted online.
And while many's a happy couple have met through sites such as Match.com and Plenty Of Fish, in the last year a smartphone app has made these online sites look positively quaint and old-fashioned. We are officially in the age of Tinder.
For the uninitiated, Tinder is a free application that can be downloaded onto a phone or tablet and can be used to scroll through pictures of "singles" in a locality. To make a Tinder profile, people choose up to six photos from their Facebook profile - you must have a Facebook page to use the app - to attract potential dates.
Once your own profile is set up, you can start checking out the profiles of the gender you're attracted to. Beyond the pictures, there's very little other information given on a profile - often just a name and age - forcing users to judge potential dates on appearance alone.
If you like the look of someone, you then endorse the person by "swiping right" on their profile (if you don't, they can be dismissed with a flick to the left). You can only chat with people who you have deemed attractive if they have swiped right for you too.
Over the past year, Tinder has become the must-have app for the young and single - but it's fast becoming clear that singles are not the only ones to be found on the dating app.
Having heard complaints from numerous friends that the app was populated with married men, I decide to investigate. Once my profile is set up, it surprises me just how easily, and quickly, other people's husbands pop up on Tinder.
Within seven minutes of being on the dating app, I have matched with three married users. Since a user's Tinder pictures have been taken from their Facebook account, there are an unsettling number of men in their wedding attire on Tinder. Ditto, pictures of men cutting cakes next to glowing brides.
While these are easy to avoid, other users have obviously set up new Facebook pages containing obscure images that don't identify them. As I scroll through eligible matches, I become convinced that the men on Tinder without a profile picture must have a serious reason for not wanting to be identified.
One such user (let's call him Ray) has set out his stall on his Tinder profile, writing: "Being honest here, only looking for hook-ups or a friend with benefits. Would also like to maybe just swap sexy pics." Sure enough, once we match, Ray is straight out the gate with his charm offensive.
"I think we could have fun," is his opening gambit. "I like your honesty. You married?" I reply, adding a smiley face. His answer is pretty revealing of the Tinder culture: "Yes, you? Yeah well most guys on here are or have girlfriends and don't say and wait till they meet up to say or just don't say at all. So in that respect I'm being brutally honest. Nothing wrong with liking sex and having a friend with benefits. Leading someone along making them think it's a relationship isn't so good."
Another user (let's call him Fiachra) is similarly forthright. "Just after fun to be honest," he writes. "Are you not afraid you'll get caught?" I ask him.
"Ah well, we all need some stress in our lives," he replies. "Well I'm only here for distraction and that's being upfront about it. Life can get boring and just standardised. Many other things take priority. To be honest, that is the way of things… but it's nice to try and escape too sometime I suppose." I can think of other, healthier ways to combat stress and boredom, but perhaps that's just me. All told, it's quite disheartening to see men looking to cheat on their wives on my screen in black and white… even if they are being "honest" about their intentions to me at least.
As I continue to scroll through the profiles of eligible males, I'm staggered to see some familiar faces. There, using their real names and photographs, are male friends of mine who are in relationships and other friends' boyfriends. The mind boggles: do these men really believe that in a country as small as Ireland, their Tinder presence won't go unnoticed?
When challenged, some invoke the "Tinder tourist" defence, saying that they log on not with the intention of dating, but just to see what it's all about.
So is it just men who use Tinder to cheat? Statistics suggest that in terms of infidelity, women are gaining ground on men (up 40pc in 20 years, according to a recent US survey). But are they using Tinder to do it? I ask a male friend based in Dublin about his experience of encountering married women on the app. "Not really, maybe one… and I've been on about four months," he says.
"The word 'fantasy' is construed differently by men and women," explains marriage and relationship therapist David Kavanagh, of Dublin's Avalon Relationship Counselling. "A fantasy is something that a man actively wants to happen, but for women, it can be a scenario that they don't necessarily want to act out."
Kavanagh says that although there is nothing new about infidelity, technological advances such as the Tinder app make it much easier for those unhappy in their relationships and marriages to seek out a new sexual partner.
"Anything that gives a man the opportunity to have access to hundreds of available women while they're stuck behind their desk will be a positive advancement for men who want to cheat on their wives," he says. "It's instantaneous, and based on looks. You know immediately if someone fancies you physically - no wonder it makes men feel good about themselves. And that dopamine hit soon starts to become addictive."
Kavanagh also offers a theory as to why men might look outside of their marriage for sex - one that may shock and offend many women.
"I think becoming a parent changes a man's perspective on their partner," he says. "They're the mother of his child, and they don't associate that with sex and passion, so they look outside the relationship for the excitement they felt when they met their partner originally."
Currently seeing a sizeable number of male clients in his professional practice, Kavanagh observes that the same topics regularly arise.
"When men do broach the subject with their partners and say 'You're wearing tracksuits all day and it's not doing anything for me', their partners are likely to say, 'Well I'm exhausted, so what do you expect?' The man's thinking is: 'Well, she won't change, so what will I do?'
"A lot of clients are saying that they're not happy in relationships simply because their partner simply is not being nice to them," he says. "It has nothing to do with romance. They talk about being dismissed out of hand, or a wife not taking his feelings on board, and so men are shutting down and not getting their needs met."
So what's a person to do if they find that their spouse is using Tinder? David Kavanagh says it's time to swipe right on better communication.
"Firstly you have to suss what this is all about, and after that the real chats have to happen. What got your partner there in the first place? Why is that person is bored or unhappy?" he says. "Most of the time, it's really about what happens outside of the bedroom."