Three Ways to Build Romance in the Early Stages of Dating
Dating in the digital age requires old-fashioned time and attention.
Posted December 23, 2017
What is the most successful way to build romance in the digital age? Surprise: It's by incorporating old-school concepts of attention, common interests, and patience. Moving slowly and smartly sparks satisfying relationships of trust and true love.
1. Attention Reveals Intention
You sit down with someone for dinner at a great table with a gorgeous view. You are both impressed and encouraged by what you consider to be the perfect setting for a perfect night — until your partner whips out their phone and places it on the table between the two of you. Boom. The ambiance is now tainted by the distraction of the device.
And there it sits, a prominently placed third wheel vying for attention, ready to vibrate, beep, or, worse, ring at any time. Some phones constantly remind you there are three of you at the table through intermittent buzzing or flashing as news alerts and emails pop up on the screen.
This creates one of the biggest turnoffs for the early stages of dating — the perception of distraction. A device on the table is a visible distraction waiting to happen that can detract from your ability to cultivate chemistry. Here's a better idea: Make a great first impression by ditching your device in order to keep the focus where it should be — on each other.
2. Born to Bond
Relational bonding occurs through exploring common interests and activities. The key is finding areas in which you authentically overlap, as opposed to temporarily faking interest. You lose credibility when you gush about how hockey has always been your favorite sport, yet you are clueless about the teams. Or you profess a passion for bird-watching, yet you don't own a pair of binoculars.
Avoid feigning knowledge in an area where you have none, but be open to new experiences, and be encouraged by your partner's invitation to participate in his or her world. If a man invites you hunting or fishing, or proudly shows you his comic book collection, take heart: This is a good sign; and women do the same thing when they desire a deeper connection. We want to share our lives with others who are important to us.
Once you have identified areas of shared interest, you can plan outings that incorporate common ground. Yet because your goal is to be paramours, not pals, remember to keep the focus on each other. That means that when scheduling a date geared towards enjoying a common interest, be sure to include face-to-face time on the front or back end of your evening, to create an opportunity for emotional bonding as well.
Incorporating this time on the front end allows you to re-connect emotionally sooner rather than later — particularly if it has been a while since your last date. On the other hand, post-event face time gives you a backup plan: If conversation stalls, you can default to discussing the experience you just shared.
Relational bonding through common interests develops over time. Speaking of the importance of time, when it comes to cultivating a successful and satisfying relationship, research reveals the value and wisdom of progressing slowly, both emotionally and physically.
3. Patience Is a Virtue, Emotionally and Physically
In a sample of 10,932 individuals in unmarried romantic relationships, Willoughby et al. (2014) found delaying the initiation of sexual activity to be positively related to relationship outcome.[i] Their results provide support for earlier research by Busby et al. (2010) demonstrating the sexual restraint theory, indicating that abstaining from sex until marriage (as compared to initiating sexual activity early in a relationship) resulted in better marriages in terms of marital satisfaction, sexual quality, and communication.
The study by Willoughby et al. went beyond Busby et al.'s findings in demonstrating the timing of the positive relational impact of delaying sexual activity. Busby's research examined couples that later married, where the current research found relational benefits of abstinence to be apparent earlier in relationship formation, not just after marriage.
Relationship development requires both time and attention. During the early stages of bonding, moving slowly, emotionally and physically, allows both parties to get to know each other at a comfortable pace, paving the way for a healthy future.
[i] Brian J. Willoughby, Jason S. Carroll, and Dean M. Busby, "Differing Relationship Outcomes When Sex Happens Before, On, or After First Dates," Journal Of Sex Research 51, no. 1 (2014): 52-61.