Our dating culture bombards us with conflicting messages: ‘It’s about finding someone to commit to, but date several people at once’. Or ‘Dating shouldn’t be rushed, but it’s a step to something else’. Part 1 of this blog begins to unpack how we can stop our heads from spinning, and learn to date in a truly fulfilling way, by reducing this confusion. 

When I talk to people about dating, I’m struck by the wide-ranging assumptions and ideas that are out there. 

Society’s shift in understanding marriage/romantic relationships has totally changed in recent decades and had a big effect. Add to this technology and dating apps, which has totally altered the way people interact now. Some people use them to truly find someone, while others use them for less noble means.

All of this results in the fact that we’re carving out this thing called dating as we go along, with so much changing, conflicting norms, and a higher level of confusion (Read Why Our Distant Relatives Reduced Romance, In Their Non-Dating Cultures.)

Reduce The Confusion 

Deciding if the person in front of you is worth committing to for life, and vice versa, is hard enough. It’s made harder when the rules for dating seem to be shifting constantly, and when people’s expectations and assumptions vary too. 

This all leads to more and more confusion. 

So it’s worth thinking about five of these contradicting messages we hear, as well as coming up with responses that can reduce the confusion while raising the clarity and the enjoyment that good dating can offer us.  

#1 A Big Deal vs Not A Big Deal

We’re told that dating needs to be a big deal. It’s something we need to invest in, give a lot of time, thinking and resource to in order to do it well. Yet, we’re also told it’s not a big deal and just a bit of fun, so we don’t end up adding too much pressure. 

Respond by remembering to practice kindness

This conflicting message can cause a lot of damage. There are people dating and investing and hoping for a lot, and others are being (too) laid back. These two extreme approaches mean people are getting hurt.

This is confusing for us and those involved.

I would say we need to respond by remembering to practice kindness. It’s something that is forgotten too quickly in a dating culture which makes it all about ‘me’ and ‘my needs’. 

Some people are investing a lot, others are trying to not put too much pressure on themselves. Both approaches are valid to an extent, but we’re dating real people with real emotions. So we need to remember that no matter how we’re told to approach dating, it needs to be built on kindness, and treating people well.

This way, we will remember that being ‘too’ laid back cannot mean treating people badly because we just want to have fun, or not being honest and communicating with them about how we feel. If we’re investing a lot, it reminds us to be kind to ourselves and remember that people are in front of us and not ‘projects’. Our different perspectives need to be discussed and understood (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks)    

#2 Date Loads of People Vs Commit To One

Dating is a strange concept if you think about it. All the research shows that most people who are dating, say again and again, that ultimately they want to find one person to commit to for life. Yet we’re told to be non-committal and date as many people as possible. 

It’s strange because we’re aiming to find a faithful relationship, but told to practice non-faithful habits. 

I’ve written before about this (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?). Now, while I acknowledge dating isn’t marriage, the commitment level will naturally never be as high, and it is valid to date more than one person in our search for love, having no commitment means we’re practising something which won’t give us the result we want. 

I always say, the principle of ‘committing to the person in front of you’ is key. 

At least you’ve given it the best possible foundation

This doesn’t mean the first/next person you date is the one you need to marry at any cost! But what I’m saying is if you’ve arranged to meet someone, then focus on them. Don’t arrange several overlapping dates, or focus on the next potential ‘swipe’ or future date. Focus on the person that’s in front of you.  

By doing this, we can practice faithfulness from the start no matter what happens.

It might not work out with that person, but at least you’ve given it your full effort and the best possible foundation and chance of working. It also establishes habits that will give your future potential relationships the best chance to evolve into a faithful committed relationship.  

Imagine If…

Part 2 of this blog looks at the next 3 responses that can help us navigate the often confusing world of dating.

For now, imagine if we chose to practice kindness so that people feel valued no matter how we approach dating, and commit to the person in front of us so that we get into the habit of practising faithfulness. (Read How To Make Your New Dating Relationships Last)

What other dating culture contradictions can you think of? Comment welcomed below. 

Originally posted 8/4/2019