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.