I remember the first time I noticed it. A few years ago, I was scrolling through Instagram stories when I came across a photo from a girl I knew in college. It was a slightly overhead shot of two cocktails and a charcuterie board. Pretty standard stuff, minus the inclusion of a guy’s hand reaching for the board. See, this friend had broken up with her longtime boyfriend about six months earlier and was very public about her single girl phase. So who, now, did this mystery hand belong to? Come that holiday season, the two were dating out in the open, sharing photos from their respective families’ Christmas celebrations. That first IG snap, I would come to learn, was a soft launch of their relationship. Borrowed from the business and tech worlds, where soft launching means previewing a product or service to a limited audience prior to the general public, soft launching a relationship basically means teasing that you’re in a relationship without sharing any details—or even, in many cases, your new partner’s face. We asked Tinder’s resident relationship expert, Devyn Simone, for more on this very 2023 way to introduce the social media world to your new S.O.
What Does It Mean to Soft Launch Your Relationship (& What If Your Partner Isn’t on Board)?
Meet the Expert
Devyn Simone is Tinder’s Resident Relationship Expert. As a matchmaker and dating coach, Simone has personally interviewed over two thousand singles as well as hundreds of happy couples to gain a deeper understanding of what unique challenges all of us face when we are dating. She’s analyzed that data and has developed a collection of best practices, tips and easy-to-use formulas that help those dating with purpose find meaningful relationships.
What Does It Mean to Soft Launch a Relationship?
A soft launch is a teaser on social media that you’re in a relationship, whether because you’re quite private about your personal life, you’re super happy but don’t want to get ahead of yourself or even you’re not sure the relationship is going to have legs and you don’t feel like having to delete posts once you break up. Your IRL friends will likely know your new partner, but for all of those peripheral social media acquaintances, it’s a way to pique interest without sharing everything right away. A soft launch can take a bunch of different forms. A viral tweet on the subject reads, “I’m obsessed with soft launch boyfriend reveal culture. Is that a [man’s] sleeve in [your] mirror selfie?? Who’s drinking that second beer in your photo dump?? Keep the people guessing!!!” Kourtney Kardashian, for example, soft launched her relationship with now-husband Travis Barker via a close-up Instagram snap of the two holding hands (no tags, of course). Other ways to soft launch include posting a photo of flowers your partner sent you without tagging their name, adding a photo of the two of you deep in an IG slideshow or reposting a meme that suggests you have a partner without adding your own commentary. There’s no one way to soft launch a relationship, so you can really get creative.
What Are the Benefits of Soft Launching Your Relationship?
Simone tells us, “I think soft launching your relationship is a healthy alternative to putting all of your relationship out there (on social media) before you’re ready or hiding the person you’re dating (who arguably is a big part of your life currently) completely. If you want to celebrate the fact that you’ve met someone you really like but you don’t want the world to know so much about them that they can practically figure out their credit score—then by all means—soft launch.”
Why Has Soft Launching Become So Popular?
In Simone’s opinion, the reason behind this trend is two-fold. First and foremost, more and more people are meeting via dating apps. One of the main benefits of this, she says, is that they introduce you to people outside of your social circle and allow you to experience someone you likely never would have met. But because they are new to your world, “Bringing that person into your social circle can seem like an awkwardly formal experience. You may be uncertain about how your friends or family may respond to your new love—since this person is new to them too.” By soft launching, you can more gradually ease your new partner into your unknown-to-them world. Simone also says that fear of rejection plays a role here too. “Soft launching can be a good way to slowly introduce your new partner to your circle, it also can provide a feeling of protection in case that new relationship doesn’t work out long-term. You have fewer photo reminders of the person (and possibly fewer photos to erase) off your social media.”
What Happens If You Want to Soft Launch Your Relationship but Your Partner Wants a More Formal ‘We’re Together Now’ Post?
As with so many relationship issues, the answer is communication. “Talk about it and do what’s comfortable for you both,” Simone suggests. “You get to write your own story at your own pace. The same is true for your partner. Have a chat about it and be honest with your feelings and concerns.” Any partner that’s worth having will listen and make space for your feelings. “Hear them out and their reasons why it’s so important for them to share your relationship openly. Overall, you deserve to be with someone who is proud to be with you (and proclaim it to the world) but if you’re not ready to share just yet that’s OK too. Pick a date to revisit the conversation together.”
After some time has passed, she says, you might find yourselves on the same page. Maybe that page is sharing a cute snap from your one-year anniversary, or maybe you’ll just wait until you can drop the surprise news that “We got married!”