Dating has drastically changed over the decades. How can you be sure your dating will lead to true love?
Imagine a simpler time: A well-dressed single gentleman pulls up to the front of a single lady’s home in the early evening, steps out of his car, and approaches her front door. The two of them were introduced to one another by a mutual friend at a social function some weeks prior.
It is their first date.
As she steps outside, he offers an umbrella to shield her from rain showers, walks with her to the passenger side of the car, and opens the door for her. She notices the interior of the car is spotless.
The pair takes a scenic route to a special destination: a reserved table at an elegant restaurant. Conversation flows naturally for a couple hours, with each beginning to learn about the background and interests of the other.
After dessert, the gentleman pays for the meal and then drives the lady home. Accompanying her to her door, he thanks her with a warm smile and departs.
This may be repeated on a regular basis, and could eventually lead to courtship and marriage as the two get to know one another through hours of conversation, spread over months.
To older readers, the scenario above may have at least a vague, distant familiarity. But to younger readers, it may be utterly foreign, antiquated and unrealistic—like viewing a scene from an old black-and-white film in a world accustomed to the rapid-fire images of a high-definition action movie.
Instead, in the 21st century, technology is the way to date. Ask any 20-something and he or she has probably signed up for any number of smartphone apps or online dating sites.
Older adults are also applying by the millions for online matchmaking sites or participating in speed-dating sessions. According to the Pew Research Center, one in every 10 American adults has used an online dating site or a mobile dating app.
“…the use of online dating sites has become steadily more prevalent in recent years. In 2008 just 3% of all Americans said that they had used an online dating site; by 2009 that figure had risen to 6% of all Americans, and today 9% of the adult population has used an online dating site.”
Being able to connect with so many possible matches at the touch of a button should have simplified the already difficult process and made it even easier to find a “soul mate.” Yet it has instead complicated it, resulting in less solid relationships than ever before.
“Traditional courtship—picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date—required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings),” The New York Times reported in the article “The End of Courtship?” “Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of ‘asynchronous communication,’ as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.”
The article further states: “Online dating services, which have gained mainstream acceptance, reinforce the hyper-casual approach by greatly expanding the number of potential dates. Faced with a never-ending stream of singles to choose from, many feel a sense of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out), so they opt for a speed-dating approach—cycle through lots of suitors quickly.
“That also means that suitors need to keep dates cheap and casual. A fancy dinner? You’re lucky to get a drink.
“‘It’s like online job applications, you can target many people simultaneously—it’s like darts on a dart board, eventually one will stick,” said [a 26-year-old] branding coordinator in Manhattan, describing the attitudes of many singles in their 20s. The mass-mailer approach necessitates ‘cost-cutting, going to bars, meeting for coffee the first time,’ he added, ‘because you only want to invest in a mate you’re going to get more out of.’”
Many genuinely want to find someone special and while they are using every means to meet someone—whether online or in person—they know something is wrong with the current dating landscape. That said, they are unsure of how to address the root of the problem.
Step back for a moment and ask: Is modern dating truly normal? Is it healthy? Is there a better way? Or must all single people settle for this path?
Dating has a long and varied history. Over the decades in the Western world, traditional dating was gradually overtaken by the high school “going steady/boyfriend-girlfriend” approach. Those who did not find a romantic counterpart in this way would then often be initiated into the bar/nightclub scene, where they could hope to find someone who may want to hook-up—meaning anything from kissing to having sex—which could eventually lead to the two parties becoming friends with benefits, boyfriend and girlfriend, or possibly even lead to marriage years down the road.
With the rise of the hook-up culture has come a change in the overall mentality behind dating. The focus in the 21st century is less about finding someone to date, court and marry than finding someone who can be fun “for the moment.”
“Raised in the age of so-called ‘hookup culture,’ millennials—who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down—are subverting the rules of courtship,” The New York Times reported.
“Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other ‘non-dates’ that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.
“‘The new date is “hanging out,”’ said [a 24-year-old] associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape. As one male friend recently told her: ‘I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing—going to an event, a concert.’”
For the average 20- or 30-year-old, a traditional date includes using a smartphone app to locate someone of the opposite sex whose physical appearance is appealing, texting him or her, meeting in a bar, mumbling through conversation with the person in between texting friends, and then possibly returning to the other’s apartment for a late-night tryst.
If there is any type of connection, the two may decide to text each other later to “hang out” or “hook up” again. This could lead to them getting to know each other better and potentially moving in together. After a few months or years pass, this could also lead to them getting married or (more likely) splitting up to find someone else with whom to start the whole process again.
Those in their mid-30s and up often fare little better. While many of them understand the concept of dating and most have been in serious, long-term relationships, the hook-up culture often plays a role in the expectations of the other party, even someone who had previously been married or is looking to remarry.
Ken Solin, who wrote The Boomer Guide to Finding True Love Online, detailed his experience in a self-authored column titled “Dating Over 50: Going Slow Instead of with the Flow”: “Online dating profiles
don’t really explain a person, and chemistry requires a face-to-face, so online dating has its limitations. Then there’s the issue of dating etiquette, which doesn’t appear to exist at all, and since there aren’t any rules, dating behavior ranges from polite to rude…But trying to go slow in a dating world that operates at supersonic speed is difficult, because it’s really easy to get caught up in the partnering race. There’s enormous pressure, both self-imposed and societal, to be in a relationship. But rushing to fall in love makes falling in love impossible for me, because the pressure to commit doesn’t allow my feelings to develop naturally. In truth, falling in love is hard to resist in midlife.”
Any thinking man or woman eventually reaches the conclusion that the practices above do not work. But how far must dating deteriorate before things change for the better? And what will be the lowest common denominator?
Many see recent changes as progress—but do the results support this view?
Unhappy and Unfulfilled
While some have met with success online, one of the problems with most relationships in the 21st century is that they often come without definition, as explained by Elite Daily staff writer Paul Hudson. In an article titled “8 Modern Dating Struggles That No Other Generation Has Had to Deal With,” he writes that years ago most people dated to develop long-lasting relationships.
“Because most of our relationships start with sex before they turn into something substantial, it can be rather difficult figuring out where exactly that line between the two is located. Are you dating? Or are you just having sex? Sure, you’re not just having sex, you’re hanging out as well. But are you sure you’re not friends with benefits?…Are you together or are you officially together? Apparently there is now a difference—exclusivity isn’t always promised. With all these different levels of togetherness that we’ve invented, it’s no surprise that many times we’ll find ourselves with a person and not know how to introduce him or her to friends or family.”
A lack of defining what is and is not happening has caused great confusion and emotional turmoil from singles in their 20s up to their 60s and 70s.
In her book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled and Confused About Intimacy, author Donna Freitas explained how those who participate in the hook-up culture see relationships as merely self-gratification and become apathetic to those with whom they are involved. This leads to them forming dysfunctional relationships later in their lives.
“The sheer amount of repression and suppression of emotion required for living in the context of hookup culture teaches young adults (or tries to teach them) not to feel at all,’’ she stated.
In addition, the constant searching, spending time with a person, becoming intimate with them, finding it does not work out, and then moving on to the next person, leaves a void in both men and women’s lives, and in many cases, makes them unable to be vulnerable with another person and trust him or her, which is key to a relationship.
“About a third of men (32%) and women (34%) say they are not sure whether they should marry when or if they find themselves in a committed, exclusive relationship,” an American Association of Retired Persons study on habits of singles between the ages of 40 and 69 stated. “Another third of men (34%) say they would cohabitate, compared to about a fifth (21%) of women. Almost a third of women (31%) say they would get married versus one in four (25%) men.”
Think. This means that only approximately one-fourth to one-third of singles are dating to find a spouse. And this number is even less among those in their 20s and 30s. It would make sense then that since older adults are unwilling to fully define why they are starting a relationship in the first place that those who are now their children would have even more difficulty.
But step back even further. The inability to develop a true relationship starts with the inability to define it. Instead of asking why modern dating has so many problems, it should start with the questions: What is a date in the first place? And what is the purpose for it?
In his book, Dating and Courtship – God’s Way, Real Truth editor-in-chief, David Pack writes, “The world is ignorant of almost every right value that produces the right results all people seek. While everyone wants to be happy—and assumes that following the established norm is the right way to achieve happiness—most remain miserable and never know why. This is especially true in the world of modern dating.
“Dating, followed by courtship, is supposed to lead to a happy marriage. But marriage cannot be happy if it is not built on the right foundation. Most couples have no idea that the foundation of a successful marriage begins long before the wedding day. In addition, a direct by-product of the wrong foundation is that most people have no idea how to select the right mate.
“Just what is dating? A sampling of opinions reveals a variety of definitions, with seemingly no two alike. In the simplest form, a date is merely a set time agreed upon by two people to engage in an activity. The most commonly recognized definition is ‘an appointment for a specified time; especially a social engagement between two persons of opposite sex’ (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary).
“What about courtship? Most know little or nothing of this lost art, and many no longer know—let alone use—the term. Those few who do, know virtually nothing about the principles of courtship—or its true purpose. As a result, if two people are ‘dating,’ this could mean they have dated only twice, yet have become interested in pursuing marriage. Even if both were serious, and technically courting from this point (this is often the case today after just two dates), most would still refer to this as dating.
“In fact, there is no common understanding of just what dating and courtship are, or the plain difference between the two—and there is a big difference!
“Also, because it sounds too ‘official’ and ‘old-fashioned,’ teenagers today rarely even use the term ‘dating.’ The idea of a date—when a man formally asks a woman, for instance, if she would accept an engagement for dinner—is nearly non-existent. Many simply slip or tumble into dating situations, seemingly not caring how this happens, or even what happens. Instead, they seem more concerned with ‘going with the flow.’
“Yet, you should care! Too much is at stake not to. There are many important principles behind dating that one must consider in order to successfully date—and be able to eventually move on to the more serious courtship and pursuit of marriage. You must have a means of knowing if or when you have found that special person. There are specific processes involved in proper dating that will help lead you down the right path.”
It has been observed that most people simply continue in the traditions, behaviors and mindsets learned from family, without question. They are content to be a product of their environment, with little desire or motivation to exercise judgment, examining why they do what they do.
For many younger people, weak family bonds, absent or otherwise preoccupied parents, and a lifestyle in which daily interaction with father and mother is far outstripped by time with others their own age (in person, by computer or by phone), has led to the same “follower” mentality—but with the examples set by peers. The result is the same: everyone goes along to get along, following the crowd into the next trend, unconcerned with the consequences.
Consider for a moment: Choosing a mate, the potential mother or father of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is one of life’s most important decisions. As recently as a few generations ago, dating was commonly viewed in the West as the first step toward a potential marriage. Dating and courtship once often involved families who were familiar with one another in a town or neighborhood.
Today, it can involve nothing more than two people and two computers. Standards have gradually lowered over the decades, but the speed down the slippery slope has accelerated.
What now passes for dating may be the most tragic example of the shallowness of the modern age. This unthinking approach to relationships allows almost no time for real human interaction, the shared experiences on which a commitment to another human being is built. And it speaks of a profound lack of commitment.
The rushed building process could be likened to spending mere minutes constructing the foundation of a house, when many hours or days are required.
Women are arguably the biggest losers in this situation. They have by and large been fooled into thinking that casual sex carries no consequences. (Most men seem to have accepted this assumption.) However, studies show that the release of oxytocin (sometimes called the “bonding hormone” or “cuddle chemical”) during sexual activity promotes emotional attachment within the female, regardless of whether she intends to become attached to anyone.
Unlike what is believed and practiced now, however, there is a better way!
If you are single, you do not have to fall into the pattern that society has set for you. You can go against the grain and date in a way that will lead to a happy, fulfilling and long-lasting relationship.