Dating: Why the meet-cute may not be as advertised

What happens after a meet-cute is more important

A couple enjoys a meet-cute date at a cafe.
Are meet-cutes overrated? What happens after a rom-com moment is more important. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you’re a romantic comedy junkie (like me), you’ve probably heard of a meet-cute and watched it happen countless times in various films and series.

In the 1999 film Notting Hill, British bookstore owner Will (played by Hugh Grant) was reintroduced to American actress Anna (played by Julia Roberts) when he bumps into her and accidentally spills orange juice down her top. Will then invites Anna back to his to wash up, allowing them to get to know each other better.

In the 2022 Netflix film You People, Ezra (played by Jonah Hill) gets into a Volkswagen Beetle thinking it is his Uber ride. The automobile in question, in fact, belonged to Amira (played by Lauren London), who had issues navigating traffic and needed a place to park and orientate. To make it up to Amira, Ezra offers to give her driving direction in exchange for dropping him off. The pair subsequently end up going on a date after that encounter.

Back in my days, when you met someone online, people would think that there’s something wrong with you.

A meet-cute is, as film critic Roger Ebert once described, a comic situation contrived entirely for the purpose of bringing a man and woman together.

Of course, in 2023, the meet-cute trope can apply to anyone, regardless of gender and sexual preferences. So popular is the trope that writers continue to include it in their stories.

“There’s something so romantic about meeting someone in a very unconventional way,” says *Lana, 28. “Meet-cutes give couples a great story to tell others. It’s more interesting than saying you met on a dating app,” she continues.

However, the desire for a fairytale-style love story might just lead to disappointment and incite feelings of insecurity about your relationship.

Having used dating apps in the past, I often saw love hopefuls writing “You can say we met at church” or “I’ll pretend we met through mutual friends” on their profiles as if implying that meeting through an app is shameful or unacceptable in some way.

Stigmas continue to exist

While people’s general attitudes toward dating apps have changed, certain stigmas will continue to exist. Despite the fact in 2021, one in four couples meet online in the US, many people continue to believe that Tinder and other dating apps are just meant for casual arrangements and nothing remotely serious.

“Back in my days, when you met someone online, people would think that there’s something wrong with you. It was quite taboo,” says Dian Handayani, a Singapore-based psychotherapist who focuses on sex therapy.

“However, I think these days, that attitude has sort of changed. It’s also worth realising that if a man or woman works in an industry dominated by one gender, it’s going to be harder for them to meet someone organically. This is why dating apps are so handy,” she explains.

In the past, I never quite understood why meeting someone through an app seemed shameful. However, as a newly engaged woman, I’m realising that the first few questions I often get asked (besides when the wedding will be) revolve around how I met my partner. As soon as I tell them I met him on Tinder, their face falls, as if they were expecting a more exciting story.

Looking at our friend group, I’ve also realised that we’re the only couple that met on an app, with the rest having met through school and mutual friends. These realisations have all led me to think about how nice it would be if we had a more exciting story. I’ve even asked my partner if we should perhaps embellish our story a little, and yet, it just doesn’t feel genuine.

To be able to get a relationship out of that [dating app] is an achievement in itself.

If like me, you occasionally experience feelings of inadequacy about your relationship, Dian recommends reframing your views and leaning into gratitude. “Think about how unique and special it is that after swiping on hundreds of people, you managed to meet someone and they’re the right fit for you,” she says.

“It takes a lot of courage to get on an app and put yourself out there so, to be able to get a relationship out of that is an achievement in itself,” she shares.

Sometimes, meet-cutes don’t live up to their hype.

“Once, I dated a guy that I met through work. I thought it was so cute how we met because we locked eyes on my first day and there was instant attraction,” shares *Anna, 30. “We progressed fairly quickly but I soon realised that there was nothing more to the relationship. We were just really sexually attracted to each other and there was nothing else holding the relationship together.”

Anna’s encounter brings to light how meet-cutes aren’t the be-all and end-all in relationships. Anyone who’s seen a romantic comedy will know that the story ends just when the couple begins their relationship. As such, viewers don’t actually get to see how the couple transitions into this new stage of their lives.

While meet-cutes are, well, cute, they’re not exactly all that important in the grand scheme of things. If anything, what happens after matters more.

(*Names have been changed and details have been modified upon request.)

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