Make America Date Again

Millennials are suffering from a lack of meaningful relationships — probably because they find them confusing and hard to obtain. Here's a idea.

By Liberty McArtor Published on February 28, 2017

Millennials are struggling in the relationship department. A good reason is that dating in the traditional sense (boy meets girl, asks her out) is dead for those born after 1980. 

Instead, Millennials are turning to “dating” apps like Tinder or Bumble where you can casually swipe through hundreds of profiles. If you find someone attractive, you might “talk” (text) for a while, then “hook-up” for sex. As two Huffington Post columnists explain, you can then either end things by “ghosting” (stop responding to messages) or “quick-jump” into a super-serious relationship — still having skipped the old-fashioned “dating” phase.

Either way, Millennials following the modern dating code are forced to be either totally casual in their encounters or jump into total commitment, with no way to bridge the gap. 

Millennials Don’t Like It

Just because this is the way things currently are doesn’t mean that Millennials like it. Many find it confusing and painful. As the Star Tribune reported last year, “After college, millennials who are finally ready for a serious relationship might be surprised to learn that they don’t know how to go about it.”

One writer on the publication Bolde pointed out 11 reasons Millennials struggle with dating today (warning: lots of profanity). Her reasons include “We ghost as a way to end things,” “we expect a perfection that doesn’t exist,” and “we’re overloaded with options.”

“These days, things are endlessly more complicated and frustrating,” she writes.

Three Consequences of Modern Dating

The problem isn’t just that Millennials aren’t happy with modern dating. The consequences themselves are harmful. Take these three: 

1. Millennials are having less sex than any generation since the 1920s, despite the hook-up culture catapulted into general acceptance by our parents’ sexual revolution. While Christians might initially celebrate that unwed sex is declining among young adults, it’s actually more worrisome than good, because it indicates that Millennials aren’t learning to value other people or develop real relationships. This is backed up by something the Bolde writer stated:

Sex is scarily available — we can have it simply with the swipe of a finger. There’s zero effort made into getting to know someone for who they truly are unless we’re willing to undress and show the most sacred parts of ourselves first. And most of the time, sex doesn’t lead to a relationship — it leads to heartache, confusion and another one-night stand with the next person.

2. Millennials are also delaying marriage later than any previous generation, becoming workaholics instead (despite the lazy Millennial caricature assumed true by older generations). While some of this is because many Millennials desire to get stable in their careers before settling down, much of it could be that the relationship minefield is just too difficult to navigate — it’s easier to focus on work.

3. Millennials who focus too much on work are suffering, as Forbes reported this week. “Research suggests having meaningful relationships helps manage stress and improve health,” the article states.

But how are Millennials supposed to develop these meaningful relationships if the modern dating game is so difficult, and if interactions with the opposite sex are limited to being super casual or assuming commitment? 

Bringing Traditional Dating Back

Here’s an idea: just start dating again! Old-fashioned dating could bridge the gap between casual and committed for many heartsick Millennials.

Yes, the rise of smart phones, apps, and our forbearers’ sexual revolution have created an atmosphere of casual hooking up. But it doesn’t mean Millennials have to keep it that way. After all, Millennials are now the largest living generation. So why can’t they be the ones to revive traditional dating?

Old-fashioned dating could bridge the gap between casual and committed for many heartsick Millennials.

Asking someone to join you in an event tells the other person they’re worth more than a one-time sexual encounter solicited via smart phone from the comfort of one’s couch. But there’s also no major pressure in a traditional date because there’s no major commitment. It’s only about getting to know the other person through an event that doesn’t involve the bedroom.

This HuffPo column noted that Millennials who don’t find love on dating apps most often find it through friendships. This is actually a great option and one that Millennials should favor over dating apps.

In fact, that’s how I got to know my husband. We met through mutual friends during college and got to know each other through group events, campus activities, and eventually a few formal dates after we talked about the fact that our feelings were evolving into something more. We were good friends for months before we became committed significant others.

The underlying concept of finding love through friendship is similar to that of traditional dating: there’s no pressure to make a commitment — just the desire to get to know the other person, and the implicit communication of being valued as a human being, and not an object. And there you go: the totally casual versus totally committed gap is bridged.

Bottom Line

There is no perfect formula for finding love and companionship. But the bottom line remains: Millennials need to get out and meet real people, because the consequences of modern “dating” are harmful.

So Millennials, how about turning off the dating app for a while? Start conversations with people at work, church, or other functions. Try a new activity. Invite some people over. And if you meet someone you want to know better, ask them on an actual date (and if you ask, pay). Treat them respectfully from beginning to end, and don’t get too discouraged if sparks don’t fly.

At least you’ll have a better chance of accomplishing what Forbes recommended and develop some meaningful friendships with real humans, not just with work. And you might just find love. 

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