Love comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do relationship podcasts. But there’s one thing that all of these shows have in common: they’re damn funny. They say that we laugh so that we don’t cry, which might explain why every good relationship podcast uses humor in some capacity. Many employ confessional anecdotes to raise a laugh, while others simply bring on comedians. Even the serious “sexperts” deliver their advice with a nod and a wink. You can only imagine how much was cut in editing.
Audio is an intimate format, so it’s hardly surprising that love and relationship podcasts have flourished in the way they have. That said, sharing stories from the front line of your love life can be tricky to sustain, especially as hosts move past their awkward dating phase. Some of the best shows simply don’t last. While many maintain the status quo, the most promising formats cultivate an audience that grows with, rather than away, from their hosts. It’s sort of like dating someone — you never know what will stick. So regardless of whether you’re single, taken, or simply confused, these podcasts will offer advice that’s less biased than calling up your mom. And, as a bonus, there’s a pause button.
Anyone with experience of the New York City dating scene knows that it can be a wildly frustrating affair. But without it, we may never have had We Met at Acme. The “OG dating podcast,” which started in 2017, has a classic origin story. Host Lindsey Metselaar was dumped on her birthday — a surprisingly common experience in modern romance — and in her anguish, recorded a conversation with a close male friend about dating and heartache. Something clicked. You can guess what happened next.
Although We Met at Acme has evolved as its host has grown up and gotten married, the fundamental ethos of the show is the same: it’s a candid, uninhibited monologue on sex, relationships, and finding worth within yourself, no matter how many losers you end up dating. Years later, the show continues to introduce fun and interesting topics; like a good long-term relationship, intimacy and novelty are important, and Lindsey is consistent. Listeners regularly send in relationship questions as though she were their big sister. Just don’t expect this podcast host to let you off the hook.
Before pivoting to a show about finding female empowerment in extramarital affairs — which is, if you were wondering, rather good — Jo Piazza hosted Committed, a show about what it means to be utterly faithful to a partner. Sure, there are quite a few relationship podcasts that use the storytelling format, but the strength of Committed is Piazza herself; a seasoned writer and podcaster, her book How to Be Married and series Under the Influence have earned her critical acclaim. But rather than talking about “mommy influencers,” on Committed Piazza turns her eye to everlasting love, a choice that suits her earnest reporting style. Unlike other love story podcasts out there, Piazza stays in contact with some of her guests, often bringing them back years later to discover more about their long-term relationships. Not every couple was met with esteem from the show’s audience — whether some of their dynamics were “toxic” or just a bit unconventional is up to the listener’s discretion — but the best of Piazza’s interviews are audio gems.
While we’d never advocate replacing therapy with a relationship podcast, there are certain kinds of advice that can only be dished out by two opinionated friends with microphones. For fans of Binchtopia and Sounds Like a Cult, the friendship dynamic between Sam Blackwell and Sierra DeMulder of Just Break Up will feel familiar. This animated advice podcast celebrates queer love and sex by dishing out advice that, let’s be serious, most straight people need to hear too. It’s always a delight to find co-hosts that are completely at ease with each other, especially when the topic turns to bad dates and toxic relationships. (Even with the best editing, bad chemistry is hard to cover up). But Just Break Up channels “radical honesty” into an easy-listening podcast that finds the right balance between candid anecdotes and practical advice. Since Sierra had her first child, the show has taken on a new level of nuance, and both hosts admit that “just break up” isn’t always the answer.
With a recent Ambie award under her belt, comedian Nicole Byer has made the case for her relationship podcast being the best in the genre. Why Won’t You Date Me? is a vehicle for Byer’s talent, combining the two things she does best: making fun of her love life and interviewing people. Put simply, this is a comedy podcast that just so happens to discuss relationships — and it works. For those with no interest in the microcosm of the entertainment industry, you’re unlikely to recognize Byer’s guests, but it speaks to the strength of the shows that each interview feels fresh and compelling. The show succeeds in large part because it reveals something essential about the best love podcasts: they’re mostly about other things. Careers, self-esteem, and friendship. Byer will be the first to tell you that we have to cultivate ourselves before we can ever hope to build a meaningful relationship.
Like many great flings, Why Oh Why fizzled out before we were ready for it to end. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it for what it was: a show that gave a voice to our quirkier, sexier, more vulnerable sides. This sex and relationship podcast was named one of the best of 2016 by The New York Times, NPR, and Apple Podcasts thanks to its distinctive production style and narration. In Why Oh Why, Andrea Silenzi embodies both host and subject, a strategy that puts her guests at ease and opens the possibilities for conversation. The show offers a sincere, often surprising look at modern love — but mostly, it reminds us just how exhausting, weird, and wonderful dating has become. It’s interesting to realize now that this podcast was a snapshot of a particular period of recent history. Silenzi documented how people were living and loving post-Trump but pre-pandemic.
With plenty of relationship podcasts out there, it’s always exciting to stumble across a show that has a unique angle. Love’s a Pitch is a queer podcast where comedian Carolyn Bergier invites guests to “pitch” themselves as potential romantic partners. So far, so gimmicky. But before this show, Bergier was part of Dyking Out, a staple in the LGBTIQA+ relationship podcast genre. We have high hopes for Love’s a Pitch, which in a few episodes has shown that even a show with a silly premise can create space for open, honest connection. Starting with fellow comedians and creators, Bergier plans to expand the show to listeners, inviting them to find love on the show. Who said love was dead?
For 18 years, ‘Modern Love’ has been one of the New York Times‘ most popular columns. The weekly column is home to personal essays that explore relationships, loss, and redemption, delivered with a sensitivity and consistency that has earned many loyal readers. The format translated perfectly when the show was adapted for audio, thanks to its high production value and clear attention to detail. After being hosted by column editor Daniel Jones and writer Miya Lee since its relaunch in 2020, the show has recently been taken over by producer and host Anna Martin. Though we’ve previously criticized the show for being overly sentimental, for lessons of love and loss and as a showcase of the diversity of human feeling, there are few better podcasts. Will we ever get tired of these lovely, occasionally sappy stories? Unlikely. As the world becomes ever more automated, we’ll yearn more and more for these deeply personal glimpses into other people’s lives.
Alice Florence Orr is a staff writer for Podcast Review and is based in Edinburgh. Her work has appeared in Scottish Review, Like The Wind, and Nomad Journal. You can connect with her on Twitter or Instagram.