Just one in 10 couples now meet at work – here's how people are meeting their partners instead

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor
The workplace romance is becoming a thing of the past. [Photo: Getty]

The workplace romance is becoming a thing of the past, with just one in 10 couples (11%) meeting this way.

This is down from almost one in five (19%) in 1990, according to a new report.

The research, published in the latest How Couples Meet and Stay Together Study from Stanford University, found there has been a shift in how romantic relationships are formed.

While we may be spending more and more time at work, striking up a relationship with a colleague is now “less sociably acceptable”, said Nichi Hodgson, author of The Curious History of Dating: From Jane Austen to Tinder, in an interview with Yahoo UK.

In the wake of #MeToo, a movement against sexual assault and violence (particularly in the workplace), we are more cautious than ever about a co-worker relationship turning into something more, argues Hodgson.

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“There's been a sea-change when it comes to meeting people there, mainly because it's now less socially acceptable to meet there and workplace relationships need to be conducted very carefully to ensure there's no breach of company behavioural guidelines,” she says.

And while some may still consider office a place to get to know a potential partner, Hodgson argues we shouldn’t necessarily bemoan the end of the workplace romance: “They don't necessarily show you someone's true colours - you won't see how tender or angry someone can be at work, for example, because the majority of people are on their best behaviour,” she says.

“Just because they're a good team player at work doesn't mean they necessarily will be in a relationship.”

In the wake of #MeToo, we are more cautious than ever about a co-worker relationship turning into something more. [Photo: Getty]

So, now fewer people are finding their long-term partners at work, how else are we meeting The One?

Most common ways to meet a romantic partner

Online dating or apps now take the lead in getting people together, with almost one in four (39%) of heterosexual couples meeting through these platforms – up from 22% in 2009, according to the Stanford University findings.

And while meeting through friends is still a popular means of meeting your future partner, it’s less common than it once was. While over a third (34%) of people met this way in 1990, it’s now just one in five (20%) according to the most recent findings.

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One outcome is couples have a considerably shorter “How we met” story.

Respondents surveyed by Stanford University in 2009 used, on average, 67 words to tell the story of how they met their significant others. By 2017, the average shrunk to just 37 words – assumedly because “We met on Tinder” takes considerably less time to explain.

So is this shift a positive one? It’s a mixed bag, Hodgson tells us.

“Dating apps may have only been around for a decade but they have a radical hold on our affections when it comes to meeting a partner, mainly because they are so convenient in our ever time-pressed lives,” she says.

“They're not necessarily leading to better connections though for multiple reasons - they create a paradox of choice, giving us too many people to choose between when social scientists tell us we get cognitive overload somewhere between five and nine options.

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It’s also a fact often bemoaned by online daters that people behave differently in the virtual world to how they might in person.

“[Dating apps] are encouraging us to be ruder with behaviours,” Hodgson adds, which is due to a “lack of accountability needed from users” (read Yahoo UK’s piece on 2019 dating trends to hear more about this).

However, on balance, she believes this process can lead to a stable, long-term match.

“When we do finally choose a serious partner from a dating app, we are likely to stick with them - we are taking longer to settle on someone but that is producing more stable long-term matches when we finally commit.”