Dating aint what it used to be

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Like a lot of people out there, much of my time spent talking with friends includes lots of conversation about current relationships and dating status. What’s up with so and so? Are you still talking to what’s his name? When was the last time you hung out with the girl you met at the gym?

What I find interesting is that many of my friends have personal lives that exist in a large grey area. Whenever I hear my parents, their friends, and older relatives talk about their younger days when they were dating, they make it sound like there was a very logical and clearly defined sequence to things: you met, the he courted the she, he asked her to be his girlfriend and the committed, and then the monogamous relationship was established. A break-up may occur and the cycle would repeat, but between the ages of 18-24 this cycle may have repeated itself two or three times before the end result was a “proper” proposal, marriage, and then and only then was the relationship consummated.

As a single, never-married woman in my early thirties, that description of dating sounds foreign to me. The dating lives of my friends consists of “kickin it”, “hanging out”, “Boo’s”, “Side- Boo’s”, “Jumpoff’s”, “Baby mama’s and Baby daddy’s” and “It’s complicated” Facebook status updates. The seeming simplicity of the black and white lines of dating often appear long gone, and have been replaced by this world of vagueness. Are the young and dating these days fearful of commitment? Is this a result of the breakdown of the traditional family where people no longer grow up in nuclear households? Has the media and society made casual relationships socially acceptable? Did having a friend with benefits replace having a steady? One of the other things I have found really interesting is that when my friends actually find themselves with an actual boyfriend or girlfriend, it seems as though it is a result of the person being the only option, or as a result of someone having just been around for a while. The formation of the relationship appears very passive and circumstantial rather than intentional and resulting from a thoughtful and deliberate process.

While I suspect many people will claim to be ok with this level of dating ambiguity, research shows that it is not likely to result in positive outcomes for emotional health or physical health.

So why and where along the way did dating become so difficult and require so much explanation? Is it that one is no longer enough or is it that it’s too hard to find the one? Is it that people simply accept what’s given or that they just don’t know what to ask for?

A lot of my friends seem to be torn between the reality of their dating lives and their real underlying desire to find someone to settle down with. While we have these conversations often, we have not yet crafted a clear solution, but my girlfriends and I have made a commitment to start to change some of our dating practices and we are going to start thinking like highly effective daters by applying the habits of highly effective people to our personal lives. Here is a quick refresher of the habits:  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve heard insanity defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome, so before I let dating drive me insane, I hope the change in attitude and approach will get me out of the grey area and moving towards a healthy and effective relationship.

Jacqueline Y. Melton, MSA

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