Lately, I have been having a lot of conversations with friends revolving around dating and relationships and it has made me so much more aware of how ridiculous today’s dating culture is – if you can even call it dating. Everyone wonders why they can’t manage to have a solid, healthy relationship but truthfully, there isn’t much to wonder about. Our relationship culture today is unintentional, noncommittal, and based more on likes and streaks than spending actual time together.
My biggest and most frequent complaint is that no one makes their intentions clear. Rather than asking another person on a date and making it clear that we are romantically interested in them, we instead go through different stages of communication until we, eventually, fall into a relationship by default.
The process starts with liking Instagram posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, or swiping right. From there, at least a general interest in another person is established. Then there is the dreaded “talking” stage. This one drives me completely out of my mind. We talk to someone day after day, from morning until night. Only it isn’t really talking exactly. It’s texting, it’s snapchatting, it’s tagging each other in memes back and forth, and more than anything else, it is through our phone screens and never in person or even over a phone call.
Recently, my friend told me that she talks to the guy she’s interested in every single day “in one form or another”. When I asked what she meant, she told me that they had been consistently snapping each other. Is that talking? Is there any real conversation even happening there? How is that even considered communication between two people who care for each other? How is that meaningful in any way?
I suppose I can see how the talking stage is important and justified to a certain extent with the social media world we have no choice but to get sucked into but come on, there has got to be a line drawn somewhere, if even just in the sand.
From there, the talking stage more often than not becomes hanging out. Hanging out becomes hooking up. Hooking up becomes emotional. Emotional becomes romantic, and here we are, dating with no real intention established or known to either person.
This is the part that makes me absolutely crazy. Both people knew from the beginning that they wanted to be with the other or that they at least knew they wanted more than just friendship but, rather than simply state that and make it clear that they were romantically interested, they insisted on playing this long, drawn out game that has no clear beginning or end.
Now these two people are connected and are more than obviously into each other enough that their friends refer to them as “boyfriend and girlfriend” or “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” before the couple themselves has even had a discussion as to whether or not that is what they are. Which leads to even more confusion. The questions of “is it appropriate to assume this person will be my prom date?” “Can I safely assume I have a date for my cousin’s wedding next month?” “Should I consider myself ‘off the market’?” arise and then comes the inevitable talk.
Eventually it has to happen. One person gets overwhelmed with the anxiety associated with this kind of unofficial, unattached kind of dating and is forced to sit down with the other and ask the forbidden question, “what are we?” at which point the couple has to decide if they are actually a couple or if they are not. If things are going well, the answer is usually, “yes of course we’re dating. I definitely assumed we were,” which seems like a positive outcome, but here’s the thing – relationships and love shouldn’t just be an assumption. We should know that we are pursuing another person because we care for them and they also care for us.
When there is no clear commitment, it can also leave openings for cheating or foul play of any kind which isn’t actually cheating or wrong because of the perfect excuse, “we’re not together” right? It can all be so infuriating and incredibly hurtful when both people know that this situation is well past casual and involves real, deep feelings. The noncommittal nature of these relationships allows a loophole, a way out, a reason for an otherwise guilty party to get off without a stitch of culpability and to me, that seems absolutely ludicrous for something that is supposed to be loving, trusting, and more than anything, safe for two people. We should know that we are spending this time with another person with the intention of being in a relationship with them.
And that is what all of this boils down to- the intention. No one outright says, “this is a date”. No one outright asks “will you be my girlfriend?” anymore. No one says what they want. Everyone is so afraid of being vulnerable enough for these things that they skip them altogether. As a result, we end up with a lot of broken, unsuccessful relationships and unnecessary heartbreak.
We need to change this way of going about relationships. We need to ditch the phones and find our way back to each other. We need to return to the intentional dates and to the in person, face to face dating with social media intertwined instead of the other way around. Stop falling into relationships and instead intentionally walk into them, knowing what we want and making it known. Maybe then we won’t have to wonder so much.