To date, over 20 billion people have matched on Tinder and 26 more million people will swipe right on one another tomorrow, according to a representative for the app. Some of these are late-night lust-not-love connections; others are the result of those robot fingers that swipe right on 6,000 people an hour in hopes of maximizing matches. But some swipes actually blossom into real-life relationships that now have to be announced to friends and relatives with, “We met…on Tinder.”

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Of course, Tinder isn’t even the only app out there: Bumble, Hinge, Raya, and Grindr are all hawking love, or some approximation of it. Some may say the apps are just for hooking up, but what happens when you really find The One—and how do you explain that to a mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa who still use the Internet primarily to share politically incorrect Facebook memes? How do you dispel the stigma that, to relatives and old-fashioned friends, still exists around digital meet-cutes?

“Um, we met…through friends.”

Tarlon, a 26-year-old Southern California resident, almost avoided this situation completely. Shaya, her current boyfriend of two years, approached her on Tinder with a GIF of a seal accompanied by the text “How You Doin’?” “I clearly did not respond,” Tarlon says. But Shaya apologized for the Joey Tribbiani seal the next day, and they texted constantly for a week before meeting IRL. Shaya and Tarlon developed chemistry right away and started dating, but even in those puppy love days the couple still felt that meeting on Tinder was a dark cloud hanging over them. “I was worried people would think we weren’t going to work out and that it was going to be one of those one-month-long Tinder relationships,” Tarlon says. “We were kind of inconsistent with our meeting story.”

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Like several of the couples I spoke with, Tarlon and Shaya kept their real origin story under wraps, at least initially. They eventually came clean with friends and parents—having the footing of an actual committed multi-month relationship made it easier to confess—but their grandparents still think they met through mutual friends. “Shaya and I are both Persian so explaining to Persian [relatives] that we swiped right on an app that’s notorious for hooking up was not gonna happen,” says Tarlon.

If they don’t know what it is, there’s no harm in telling them.

The what-mama-don’t-know-won’t-hurt-her strategy seemed to be the preferred tactic of a majority of the couples I spoke with. Matt and Dave, who also met on Tinder, don’t believe that honesty is the best policy—or, at least one of them doesn’t. “I still tell people that we met at a bar,” Matt says. But the stigma Tarlon spoke of—that Tinder is a hookup app—can be less pervasive among older parents, who often aren’t even familiar with the app. Dave recently told his mom that he met Matt on Tinder, and she didn’t know what it was. When he explained that it was an dating app, she took her ignorance as affirmation of its hipness, then immediately returned to her crossword. Quinn and James, who met on Hinge, similarly use others’ lack of familiarity with the app to gloss over what it’s most known for. James’ go-to party joke is to answer that they “met on Craigslist” to achieve some comparative normalcy.

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Tell the honest-to-God truth.

Creating a comparison that makes sense to people who may not be familiar with dating apps is one solution, but in some cases the naked truth doesn’t seem to hurt, either. Jean and Robert, who met on Tinder in 2014 and got married earlier this month, never felt ashamed of telling friends and family they met on Tinder. In fact, they wanted everyone to know. Robert proposed by commissioning an artwork of the two sitting at their favorite spot, featuring a phone lying nearby with—what else?—a Tinder logo on the screen, and at their wedding they even had Tinder flame–shaped cookies in goodie bags.

The best advice we can divine from that maybe-extreme example is that couples who met online should just embrace it. “If you’re confident that your relationship is legitimate, then your relationship is legitimate, period,” says Dave. “How you met has no bearing on how a relationship can grow or what it can become.”

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And it truly has done enough for happy couples to earn a totally different reputation. For couples like Jean and Robert, Tinder can be a godsend. The two had 150 mutual friends, and Robert was the son of Jean’s dentist, yet they still didn’t meet until fatefully swiping on each other. “Had Robert and I—two people with plenty of reasons to have met each other—not matched on Tinder, we wouldn’t be married today,” says Jean. “Our advice to other newly matched couples is to just own it.”

All those chances to meet—and Jean and Robert only needed one night to fall head over heels. “The next day,” Jean says, “I texted my friends: ‘I’m in love with a ginger.’” And isn’t that what it’s all about?



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