Bring Back Traditional Dating

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Today’s dating scene has dramatically changed the scope of courtship with the use of technology and smartphones significantly impacting how people communicate. Going on a date doesn’t appear to be “as important” to develop a romantic relationship, especially among the younger generations.  Some would even say its taboo. Is technology a hindrance in the dating community, negatively impacting the formation of deep, romantic, committed relationships? While some argue this approach has its successes, traditional dating should still be the prime method to help form profound long-lasting quality, connections.

Millennials Method to Dating

Millennials have approached dating very differently than previous generations by using more online dating apps, texting rather than calling, and less of a need to put “titles” on relationships. The concern the role dating plays in developing more intimate relationships is declining, especially since there appears to be fewer rules or structure as to what dating should look like. What Millennials recognize (or don’t recognize) as “traditional dating” will go to the wayside, and Generation Z (those born from 1997 onward) are likely to follow this trend.

There’s a 50-50 split in attitudes about the role of relationships for both Millennials and Gen Z’s in regard to exclusivity. With technology apps and a polarization of the “me” era, these two generations have a hyper-focus of “self-centeredness” focusing on personal and career goals. According to Pews Research, there is a stronger focus of delaying marriage in pursuit of careers and education. Consequently, there doesn’t seem to be as strong of an interest in having serious relationships. The phrase, “I don’t date, I only do hook-ups” has become more commonplace and more regularly accepted. On the surface, it seems as though there are no rules about dating. Anything goes, and many are content without having one specific companion or avoiding personal relationships.

This lack of tradition hinders the role that dating plays in developing things such as friendships with a romantic interest, the ability to be vulnerable with another person, or the practice of conversing with others to get to know their likes and dislikes.  The Millennial age has also experienced a higher rate of depression and isolation as compared to previous generational types. While sex and hooking up has become a chief factor for those having any romantic connection,   the lack of developing personal connections leaves the experience empty. The goal of hookups is to leave feelings and emotions at the door but the reality is they are never truly left.

For the other 50% of Millennials interested in a seriously committed relationship, many are worried about the options out there in regard to who they might become romantically involved with. Since one half is more interested in platonic relationships, this makes it tricky for the other half looking for something deeper.  Another factor is Millennials acknowledged that the use of online dating has made it convenient for them to be “ultra-picky”;  Consumer Research noticed in their study that there is an abundance of choices. Singles experience dating as if it was an online-shopping experience hoping to find that “perfect match. ” Incidentally with an influx of “choices”, singles may overlook a compatible mate if not everything on their list has been met.   As a result, the process may leave them with the feeling of missing out on a “more perfect” companion, preventing them from developing deep connections. Sources show that a portion of online daters (specifically Millennials and Gen Z’s) feel more comfortable conversing through text rather than face-to-face or over the phone, limiting physical interaction. While these new techniques have been proven to be helpful for some to find relationships, it can also stifle the process of developing long-lasting relationships with less person-to-person interaction.  Hence the “practice of dating” has gone to the ways

Traditional Dating Methods Develop Relationships

One consideration may be that traditional dating allows people to grow together and develop a deeper, more intimate connection while acknowledging one another’s qualities without the distractions of technology.   Another argument in favor of traditional dating is the practice of verbal communication where singles can observe body language, facial expressions, and emotional tones in the voice, all of which are important qualities of communication that can’t be easily conveyed through texting or dating apps.  Dating allows practice for the reality of marriage, providing opportunities to find out each other’s interests. It allows couples to experience their vulnerabilities and feel comfortable sharing themselves without sexual intimacy while deepening and developing a stronger connection.

Church ministries across the country are utilizing new resources to reinforce the importance of dating. Mari Bobadilla, Communications Coordinator at the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Stockton, California has seen the benefits of using traditional dating when their church decided to implement dating techniques for their young adult program. She says the decision was made after their Young Adult Ministry group watched the documentary, The Dating Project by Kerry Cronin.  Bobadilla acknowledges that young singles struggle with communicating, and this isn’t reinforced in our mainstream culture. Using the tools from The Dating Project and various other sources the Youth Ministry will host a four-week session teaching singles “how to date.”

Cronin, a professor of philosophy from  Boston College, noticed a trend in her classes when most of her students admitted never being on traditional dates. She decided to document this development in 2018, called The Dating Project, challenging singles to return to traditional dating methods. In the documentary Cronin says that singles are intentional with everything in their life from the type of car they buy, to the career they want but aren’t intentional with how they date. She also comments about most singles are expecting others to adapt to them and in a relationship, it’s really about adapting to each other. “Stop looking for the right person and start being the right person.” Dating is not just about getting married and having kids, its about developing relationships and we all need relationships.

In addition to Cronin’s suggestions, there are some helpful tips and guidelines to use in practicing traditional dating. Below is a combination of tips to consider:

Pick up the phone and call or meet up: While most of the modern generation will think this is uncomfortable or weird, it will provide practice in communicating face-to-face.

There is no perfect person: Don’t discredit someone because of a flaw. While online dating apps can allow a person to calculate the “perfect person”  it’s amazing what a person may not know they want from a match.

Look for examples of dating from healthy married couples. Many married couples make it a goal to go on “date night.” Examples of opening the door for a woman, holding hands, eye-contact, and getting in tune with each other’s interests are some basic actions that can go along way.

When on a date stay off your phone: There is definitely an urge to go on social media and check what everyone is doing but this indicates to your date that they are not interesting or your attention is elsewhere.

Avoid sexual intimacy and focus on friendship. Today there is so much pressure for immediate physical intimacy by popular culture and celibacy is considered old-fashioned or distorted. Approaching dating from a friendship stance allows the relationship to grow into something deeper. If a relationship is only about physical intimacy there is no foundation to build upon.

Offer up Prayer: – The power of prayer is very valuable while navigating the dating scene.  God should be at the center of your relationship-seeking process. Ask Him to put the right person into your life and seek His guidance.

www.foryourmarriage.org has an entire section on articles and tips for dating, all with a Catholic Approach.

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/relationships

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/having-sex-wanting-intimacy/201803/5-ways-dating-makes-you-better-person

http://consumersresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Consumer-Survey-The-Best-Way-to-Swipe-a-Mate-Kyle-Milan-Bederu.pdf

https://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/2337/

https://www.thelist.com/62575/dating-changed-last-100-years/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/larryalton/2017/05/11/how-do-millennials-prefer-to-communicate/2/#10e96fc2a968

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED575460.pdf

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6 thoughts on “Bring Back Traditional Dating”

  1. While the article has some good points, I think it is unfair to characterize those who put off marriage in favor of school, career or meeting certain goals as “self-centered.” Perhaps they want to be secure in who they are, their personal goals, what they’re about, their finances and other considerations in order to provide the best foundation possible for a relationship and raising children. That sounds like a mature, reasoned analysis rather than self-centeredness.

  2. Pingback: VVEDNESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  3. Traditional dating was already going out of style when I was in that age group (1970’s). Except for a few cloistered subcultures I don’t think young people have done it in years.

    1. You’d be mistaken, CaptCrisis. It’s not so bad as that.

      Traditional dating was the norm for Christian kids who joined the various Christian-subculture groups when I was in college at UNC-Chapel Hill in the late 80’s-early 90’s. (Baptist Student Union, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Young Life, Campus Crusade for Christ). I wasn’t a Catholic at the time so I can’t say how many Catholics went that route; I only know of two because they happened to hang out in our mostly-Evangelical Protestant crowd. But in that crowd, I estimate there were a 1-2 dozen kids in the Baptist group, 2-3 dozen in CCC, YL I don’t know, and IVCF was far-and-away the largest with 3 or 4 different “chapters” in different parts of campus, each having over a hundred regular participants.

      All told, there were about 500 kids at UNC-CH who were regular and enthusiastic “church kids” attending theologically-conservative churches near campus: “Good Shepherd” Presbyterian, some “Bible Church” whose name I don’t recall, and Carrboro Baptist. And while I’ll guarantee you that not all the kids who pledged to avoid sexual activity until marriage did so, I personally knew six couples that did (including me and my wife), and I knew three couples where at least one person had prior sexual history but they’d had a conversion experience and refrained from sex out of obedience to God.

      That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind: One doesn’t discuss these things with everyone. The fact that I knew so many means there were more I didn’t know. I’d guess that the Christians who were obedient enough to try to be faithful in sexual matters represented about 40% – 50% of the visibly-Christian students (i.e., those seriously committed to the on-campus Bible study groups).

      It all very much depends who you hang out with, to be sure. Just one person bucking the trend and looking happy while doing it can bring along a whole crowd.

  4. “Traditional dating”? My idea of traditional dating is Dad picking out the boy who takes his daughter out on a date and he also arranges for the couple to be chaperoned by one of the daughter’s maiden aunts.

    Tradition costs effort. How traditional do you want to be?

    1. Hey Micha,

      I find it amusing how many of the same forums you and I post on. Your name and a few others’ make me grin when I see them: It’s like, “Ah, yes, there’s someone I recognize as being on my team, with whom I could have a beer.” (If I weren’t trying to go low-carb and lose weight right now, that is.)

      But, yes, I was amused to see the term “traditional dating” when dating is often construed as the non-traditional option, with “courtship” being the traditional one!

      Still, there’s a spectrum, and I think we know what the author’s going for:
      1. not an arranged marriage, but the guy asks the dad’s permission;
      2. no sex prior to marriage;
      3. keep an eye on the heavier expressions of affection, otherwise Item 2 isn’t happening;
      4. early dates are double-dates or groups;
      5. focused on looking for a marriage partner, not a hookup;
      6. date within the faith;
      7. talk seriously about values and how kids are raised and so forth;
      8. any wedding will be in a church with planning, not on a lark to Vegas.

      That may not be ALL there is to it, but the above ^^^ should be a pretty good set of markers for what the author’s describing, I’d guess.

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