Modern dating gives singles more options than ever before. Here’s what you need to know.
Dating has changed a lot since your grandparents began their romance. In the old days, we met people who were members of our social, athletic, or religious organizations. We were introduced by friends and family members who worked as informal matchmakers. An unspoken but widely respected trajectory led from first date to going steady to marriage.
Everything has changed since then. We are able to meet and date a great many more people. Old standards of behavior no longer apply. The Internet has changed dating dynamics in fundamental ways. And many people date for fun, with no interest in dating as an aid to finding a permanent life partner.
If you’re new to dating, or if you’re getting back into it, here are a few things you need to know.
IT’S NOT A COMPETITION
Much of what you read in books and online characterizes dating as a game. One partner is the predator and the other is prey. Dating is a kind of pursuit, and only one partner prevails.
According to this view of dating, men win the game when they have sex with the object of their attention. Women win when they achieve a long-term relationship without using sex as a quid pro quo.
This view of dating is widespread but it is inaccurate. Many people still date because they enjoy fun and romance. Many date because they are interested in meeting people and finding a long-term partner.
There are no rules for dating, and you needn’t adopt the “predator” or “prey” role. It’s perfectly acceptable to be yourself. Soon enough you will find partners who are as sceptical of the game as you are.
IT’S NOT (JUST) ABOUT MARRIAGE
Dating is traditionally a milestone on the way to matrimony – and it still is, for a great many people. Few couples marry without dating, and marriage remains a possibility at least in most couples’ thinking as they enjoy dating.
More and more people are enjoying dating for its own sake, however. They recognize a continuum stretching from acquaintances to soul-mates, with friendship smack in the middle. You can have dinner or go to a movie with a friend without a lot of romantic baggage. You can have sex with a friend without romantic entanglements.
Maybe you’re not ready to get married, or maybe you’ve decided marriage is not for you. That’s no reason to avoid dating. More and more people are enjoying the fun and romance of dating without considering it a precursor to a lifetime commitment. Why not?
IT’S NOT JUST DINNER & A MOVIE ANYMORE
Traditional dating included traditional dates. They took place on Friday or Saturday evening, typically including dinner and some kind of entertainment.
There’s nothing wrong with dating on Friday and Saturday nights, but the modern world offers a lot more options. You can attend poetry readings on weeknights or go hiking in the afternoon. You can have a long-distance date via Skype – even watch a movie “together” though you are miles apart. You can volunteer at your local recycling center or meet at the gym for bracing workouts. Anything you do with someone else can be considered a date.
That takes a lot of the pressure off. You don’t need to find the perfect outfit to impress a date at a fancy restaurant, nor to sit there stiffly as waiters fuss around you. You have more opportunities to be yourself and share your interests with partners.
At the same time, it blurs the distinction between friendship and dating. That’s usually a plus, but it can be trouble if you and your date aren’t on the same page. Are you hiking together primarily because you both love nature or because you want to spend time alone with each other? Now that every activity is potentially a date, you’ve got to communicate more to get your expectations and assumptions clear.
ONLINE DATING TO THE RESCUE
Life is much busier for us than for our grandparents, with a great many more distractions. Social clubs and churches don’t play central roles in our social lives anymore. That means it is much harder to find people we are compatible with.
That’s why online dating is a godsend. It’s easy to locate potential partners you have a lot in common with. You can communicate with them in a high-benefit, low-cost way. And if you click online, you can schedule a face-to-face date.
Much of dating has become more complicated since your grandparents began wooing each other, but the benefits of online dating are indisputable.
REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN
For our grandparents, dating was serious business. It was important to find someone and establish a household. Today, singles have more options. The pressure to marry is much lower. People settle down much later, or never. And dating is no longer simply a means to an end.
If you are entering or re-entering the dating world, take advantage of all the modern options. Meet interesting people and spend time with them. And above all, have fun. Dating is supposed to be fun.