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Dating Exploration

Are you really ready for romance?

Key points

  • It may be beneficial to take a different approach to finding intimate partnerships.
  • Reframing dating and intimacy starts with simple connections.
  • Meaningful partnerships can enhance your mental well-being.

Has romance changed since this COVID-19 pandemic began? The new series With Love explores dating during the holidays while Matters’ audio-first friendship-turned-dating app supports the concept of a more human connection.

Dating in the U.S. is a $5 billion industry. PRNewswire reports Bumble reached $1 billion in consumer spending. So it’s no surprise that moving through this pandemic is causing a dating revolution.

Watch any streaming service and you will find portrayals of romance engineered to maintain centuries of stereotypes. Even when the storylines seemingly change the narrative, they still serve up the classic formulas: love unrequited, love lost, or love realized after a series of challenges. Even violent blockbusters, thrillers, toxic (aka “dark”) stories, and horror films are compelled to weave in a thread of romance.

Reframing Dating

Now for the Applied Meaningful Living approach to dating.

We have been conditioned to look for relationships like we shop for products, choosing the most visually appealing product, that promises the impossible and unsatisfactorily delivers half of what is advertised.

When it comes to seeking meaningful companionship with another human, reframing romance allows you to create a whole new understanding around what it means to have a meaningful relationship.

A couple of things to think about before you even consider dating:

  1. Do you even want an intimate partnership with another person? These days, with less social stigma, more singles have the opportunity and right to decline.
  2. Are you ready for an intimate partnership? We need to fully understand what it means to be connected on multiple levels to another human.
  3. Are you feeling fulfilled within yourself? We lower our chances of a meaningful partnership when we seek someone to “complete” us or “be our other half.”
  4. Are you feeling pressure from family, friends, peers, colleagues, social media, or society in general to find somebody? This pressure may be more about adhering to what they did or their fears. And some jobs might inappropriately try to influence employees to date the “right” people in order to advance in the company.
  5. Are you hoping to meet someone so you can start a family? Our civilization has placed great importance on procreating, even to the extent of publicly and financially shaming those who choose not to reproduce. Consider the origin story behind why it seems so important for you to reproduce another human, especially if it does not align with how you live your life.

Your answers should help you begin to understand whether you are feeling obligated and pressured to find someone or whether you are genuinely feeling ready to meet someone. Honesty with yourself will guide you. We have to set standards that no longer shame people for being single and for not having children.

This single(ness) stigma forces an artificial, extrinsic motivation to choose someone to quiet the voices of those around you. However, the natural, intrinsic motivation to share your healthy whole life with another person feels like something totally different. That feeling comes with no external pressures, just a gentle interest or desire to allow the possibility of meeting another human and enjoying the connection.

Learning through the pandemic about the importance of health, and being eager to connect with other humans beyond virtual interactions, can help you understand the type of intimate partnership you want to experience. Being quarantined created a re-evaluation of external appearances, and a realization that the character of a person matters more.

So, using this knowledge, here are some things to think about once you answer the five questions above, and are clear you actually want to share your time with another person.

  • What about your life are you excited to share with someone else?
  • How are you most comfortable communicating and how would you most enjoy communicating in an intimate partnership? For example, do you communicate with words? With actions? Through your feelings?
  • Where are the spaces or settings where you feel most comfortable in meeting others? Do those spaces best represent who you are?

Most of us have never known the concept of dating and romance without the external impressions from movies, television, historical literature, and in-person demonstrations of how romance and dating should be. We can get stuck expecting dating and partnerships to look like what we have always known. We can feel forced to make choices based on decades of dating advice that says if you're not finding someone, you’re doing something wrong.

Our research reveals it is less about what you’re doing “wrong” and more about what you believe and do in real life.

Consider, if you knew nothing about dating, had no prior influences, how would you choose to be involved with another person? Maybe it’s simply connecting and spending time with them. Perhaps doing things that seem ordinary. Perhaps engaging in what you consider adventurous that others in your life would find boring or uninteresting. Perhaps it has nothing to do with long-term commitments, marriage, children, or even cohabitating. Maybe it is just connecting with another human without conditions.

Can you imagine narrating your own story about how dating, intimate partnerships, and reframed romance can be for you? Then being open to another person who appreciates your narrative and joins the journey?

Imagine the liberation of choosing a different way to connect with someone, inspired by a natural interest to meet another human with whom you enjoy talking, spending time, and exploring lived experiences. Imagine being open to the idea and the experience of meeting someone without the pressure, colonized social conditioning, fear of rejection, and/or neediness and desperation that accompanies the traditional search for a partner.

Considering this information, beginning to reframe romance, and exploring dating differently, can you imagine changing your thinking, choices, and actions on singleness, dating, and romantic partnerships?

References

Carswell, & Impett, E. A. (2021). What fuels passion? An integrative review of competing theories of romantic passion. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 15(8). https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12629

Cernik, L. (2021, September 16). ‘Now I know love is real!’ The Guardian. Gale Health and Wellness. link.gale.com/apps/doc/A676534709/HWRC?u=dall6191&sid=bookmark-HWRC&xid=6a5009f9.

IBISWorld. (2021, June 30). Dating services industry in the US: Market research report. IBISWorld.com. https://www.ibisworld.com/united-states/market-research-reports/dating-…

Klecker. (2020). Female “Lone Wolves”: The anti‐aocial heroine in recent television series. Journal of Popular Culture, 53(2), 431–453. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12901

Krüger, & Charlotte Spilde, A. (2020). Judging books by their covers - Tinder interface, usage and sociocultural implications. Information, Communication & Society, 23(10), 1395–1410. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2019.1572771

Moreira, Fernandes, M., Silva, A., Veríssimo, C., Leitão, M., Filipe, L., & Sá, M. (2021). Intimate relationships as perceived by adolescents: Concepts and meanings. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(5), 2256–. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18052256

OurStory Education. (2020). Origin stories and lived experiences. [Weekly virtual discussion]. Omnigi Research, Virtual. https://www.omnigi.com

Perkins, & Dyer, C. (2021). “Let’s fall in love…after I vet you”: Romance and vetting. College Student Journal, 55(1), 25-28.

Portolan, & McAlister, J. (2021). Jagged love: Narratives of romance on dating apps during COVID-19. Sexuality & Culture, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09896-9

Smith, R. A. (2021, Jul 08). Looking for a friend? try dating app --- people seek companionship, not romance. Wall Street Journal.

The Student Printz, University of Southern Misissippi. (2021, September 29). Online dating is ruining romance, here’s why. University Wire.

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