Exhausted By Never-Ending Dates? The Vanilla Dating Trend Might Be For You

The "vanilla girl" aesthetic, one of many aesthetics on the TikTok trend merry-go-round, brought us minimalist clothing in light, neutral shades. Now, comfort and simplicity are making their way into romance with the vanilla dating trend.

Essentially, the vanilla dating trend cuts right to the chase: laid-back dinners, afternoons spent bonding over hobbies, and nights tucked away together at home instead of in fancy schmancy restaurants — the basic, vanilla pleasures you might share once you've established a deep connection with someone and settled into your relationship together. Except with vanilla dating, this phase happens early on, even as soon as the first date.

As Tina Wilson, founder of the dating app Wingman, explained to Stylist, dating "doesn't always have to be filled with grand gestures or extravagant experiences." Vanilla dating embraces this idea, encouraging lovers to skip perfectly planned dates and lavish displays of affection. "It's a relationship based on simplicity and finding happiness in ordinary daily things," Wilson added. Vanilla dating is an invitation to just chill, and no, that doesn't mean it has to be boring. No-frills love might be just the fix for those who feel tired of over-the-top dates and are craving something a little more subtly sweet.

Why vanilla dating makes sense

Before you write off vanilla dating as a lazy approach to courtship, know that there are multiple factors that might contribute to the rise of the trend. First, financial woes could be one reason why people are skipping luxurious dates in favor of something more low-key and cost-effective. In 2022, a whopping 90% of American daters told The Balance that inflation had impacted their love life, and 39% said they were trying to spend less money on dates. On top of that, over half of daters in a 2022 Bumble survey revealed that they were prioritizing rest and downtime, even as they were looking for love.

Then there's dating fatigue, a feeling of exhaustion and defeat from just thinking about the labor that goes into finding "the one." As relationship therapist Kimberly Moffit told USA Today, "Dating fatigue, dating burnout is totally normal, and I think it's something that is becoming more and more prevalent."

Combine all these factors, and vanilla dating looks like a pretty comfy option. At-home dates and simple park hangs can be affordable, low-stress ways to connect with bae. For couples who are on the same page about vanilla dating, it can be a more realistic alternative to going all out without giving up on romance altogether.

How to make the trend work for your love life

A quick disclaimer on vanilla dating before testing it out with your next dating app match: It still requires effort. But rather than directing your attention to securing a reservation at the hottest restaurant or wooing your date with a show-stopping first date dress, the focus is on emotional bonding and deep conversations. There also aren't as many distractions to hide behind when simply cooking dinner, running errands together, or sharing a casual picnic. Let your quirks shine, and don't be surprised if you and your partner connect deeply within just a few dates.

However, one downside of vanilla dating is that it can start to look kind of like a situationship. "Although there are several positives to enjoying each other's company in a vanilla dating scenario, there is a chance that one of you in the relationship is just going along with things because you don't want to be single," Tina Wilson pointed out to Stylist. "Whether this is deliberate or unintentional, you're doing it because you're in a safe territory with vanilla dating." Wilson also noted that vanilla dating can be a precursor to short-term cuffing season relationships.

Whether you try vanilla dating or prefer an exciting, rainbow sorbet-style approach to courtship, relationships take work. Vanilla couples may need to be intentional and communicate their dating goals to make their laid-back style work in the long run.