Arts

6 Podcasts About the Perils (and Joys) of Çağdaş Dating

Last year marked the 10th anniversary of Tinder, the swipe-based dating app whose mainstream success completely redefined the rules of romance. The search for a soul mate is always bound to be emotionally fraught, but the digital age has intensified its most brutal aspects, and created an overabundance of options which can lead to more burnout than romantic sparks.

If you’re navigating the bends of the dating roller coaster, these six podcasts will help you to feel less alone, delivering useful advice from both experts and fellow daters, and true stories about the highs and lows of our search for love.

‘Couples Therapy’

Spending time with a happy couple may not sound like much fun if you’re less fortunate, but the standup comedian Naomi Ekperigin and the writer Andy Beckerman are such a delight that they’ll make you forget your dating woes. “Couples Therapy” (no relation to the TV show of the same name) started out several years ago as a live show in New York, during which Ekperigin and Beckerman shared anecdotes from their relationship onstage alongside a revolving cast of fellow comedians. While early episodes of the podcast featured recorded sets from those live shows, it’s since evolved into a more intimate format. In each episode, they hilariously riff on minutiae from their daily lives together, answer questions from listeners in need of romantic advice and welcome guests like Michelle Buteau, Rachel Bloom and Bowen Yang for candid conversations about relationships, heartbreak and everything in between.

Starter episode: “Gearóid Farrelly”

‘Why Oh Why’

Although it lasted less than two years, this soulful, searching series about digital courtship feels as if it was around much longer. That’s in large part because it shape-shifted midway through its run when its host, Andrea Silenzi, went through a breakup. Opting to use her own situation as “a storytelling device,” Silenzi shares her confusion and heartbreak as she chronicles the indignities (and occasional joys) of app-based dating. Though it sometimes blurs the lines between fact and fiction, “Why Oh Why” is full of on-the-ground dispatches that give it a compelling sense of both time and place — there are focus groups with single Brooklynites in bars, live recordings of first dates and an “end of the world sex” story from the night of Donald Trump’s election.

Starter episode: “Can You Fall In Love With Anyone?”

‘The Heart’

The Radiotopia podcast network has long been a haven for innovative and highly personal stories, and “The Heart” represents its apogee. Over the course of more than a decade, Kaitlin Prest has used the intimacy of audio to explore and deconstruct love in all its forms, delving into (in the show’s own words) “all of the invisible things in the air between humans.” In addition to the self-contained stories of single episodes, the show contains several multi-episode arcs, like the award-winning “No” series, which dug into the issues of consent and power dynamics. Prest skillfully layers sound upon sound to construct layered sonic landscapes that feel fully immersive.

Starter episode: “Hurricane Boyfriend”

‘Seeing Other People’

There’s a plethora of shows hosted by self-proclaimed “dating experts,” enough that the title should be regarded with some caution. But Ilana Dunn, the host of “Seeing Other People” who used to work for the dating app Hinge, doesn’t present herself as an authority. Instead, she approaches the subject with a “we’re all in this together” vibe reminiscent of a wise older sister. New episodes are released twice each week. The Tuesday installments carry interviews with coaches, therapists and other experts. But the Thursday episodes are the heart of the show, featuring candid (and often anonymous) stories from real daters, some of them wild (“He Wasn’t Ghosting Me, He Was in a Coma”) and others touchingly vulnerable.

Starter episode: “Why Modern Dating Is So Annoying”

‘Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel’

The Belgian-born psychotherapist Esther Perel has become one of the most famous therapists in the world, celebrated for her influential work on sexuality and relationships. Perel’s rise to prominence is thanks in part to her early move into the podcast space; she started “Where Should We Begin?” in 2017, giving listeners an irresistible fly-on-the-wall perspective into what happens in a real couples-therapy session. Infidelity, one of Perel’s main areas of focus, is a common theme, but her clients’ issues include trauma, sexual incompatibility and opposing communication styles. If listening to an entire session proves too intense, there are also shorter “Esther Calling” episodes, in which Perel makes an unexpected phone call to a listener who’s seeking relationship guidance.

Starter episode: “I’ve Had 100 Conversations With You In My Head”

‘Excuse My Grandma’

There are plenty of reasons to feel discouraged by the app-based modern dating scene, but were things really so much better in the analog days? That’s one of the many debates explored in this series, which started life when Kim Murstein moved in with her family during quarantine and soon discovered that her grandmother Gail had many opinions about her approach to romance. Brutally honest wisdom is at the core of “Excuse My Grandma,” in which the pair dig into dating topics old and new (from evergreen woes like how to make a long-distance relationship work to more modern phenomena like ghosting and sexting). They also answer questions from listeners and try to find a middle ground between their twentysomething and eightysomething approaches.

Starter episode: “Excuse My Grandma’s Knowledge of Dating Apps, Ghosting and Sex Before Marriage”

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