The landscape of love and relationships has changed drastically in the past decade.
For young people growing up today, it’s unimaginable to think of a dating scene that doesn’t involve dating apps or texting.
Striking up a conversation with an attractive stranger and asking them out for dinner sounds so 20th century!
The way we find love is a product of our historical moment. Dating itself, in the form of men asking women out, is not much more than a hundred years old.
But the desire to love is as old as the human heart.
If you feel confused or overwhelmed by the insanity of the dating scene today, remember that.
Times change, but the heart stays the same.
The Forces Changing Dating
Two of the most powerful forces shaping modern dating are dating apps and hookup culture.
Hookup culture, which originated on college campuses, flipped dating on its head.
Instead of going on a date, getting to know one another, and deciding whether to sleep together, hookup culture put physical intimacy first.
In hookup culture, you met someone cute, hooked up, and hoped that he might eventually ask you on a date.
Dating went from, “Let’s see if we like each other before we sleep together,” to, “Let’s see if we enjoy sleeping together before we see if we like each other.”
Dating apps brought hookup culture to the masses, by making it easy to find someone to hook up with wherever, whenever.
Hookup culture is the reason that some guys bypass the coffee date entirely and go straight to, “Wanna Netflix and chill?”
For the many young people who would rather get to know someone first, hookup culture leaves them out of luck. Dating is falling out of fashion. Hookups feel like the only way to find a partner.
And in some ways, they’re right.
More than half of college relationships begin with a hookup. However, the odds aren’t good. Most hookups don’t result in a relationship.
We are already seeing the effects of this changing culture on marriage.
More and more Americans are choosing to delay marriage or postpone it indefinitely. There are more single adults than married adults for the first time in history.
But what my clients want to know is…
What does all of this mean for me?
Don’t Believe the Hype
Hookup culture makes great headlines.
But under the radar are ordinary people just trying to find their way to love and happiness.
For about a third of young people, hookup culture is fun and exciting and fulfilling. The rest feel a sense of ambivalence. They don’t want to miss out, but something doesn’t feel quite right.
The majority of young people would prefer to have a traditional romantic relationship to casual liaisons. They’d rather go on dates than hook up.
And the statistics back this up. Young people today aren’t having tons of sex. In fact, their sexual activity is on a par with the Baby Boomer generation.
Which tells us something important…
No matter how much technology and culture change the rules of the game, we never lose our yearning for love and connection.
The growing issue of loneliness in industrialized countries suggests that this is the perfect time to reach out and take someone’s hand.
What we crave is emotional connection.
And we can’t get it without throwing away the hookup’s rulebook.
The Rules of Connection
Hookup culture would have you believe that “catching feelings” is a sign of weakness, sex shouldn’t mean anything, and the worst possible sin is to be “clingy.”
But it’s not “clingy” to care about someone and want to share life with them.
Getting intimate is emotional. Feelings like affection, attachment, and pleasure are a beautiful part of the human experience.
You can set the stage for genuine connection by recognizing that men also seek love, despite social pressure to settle for just the physical connection.
Some research even suggests that men are the more romantic gender and more willing to believe in love at first sight (not what I expected).
Next, know that you are in the majority. Set your sights on finding others like you.
It’s refreshing for good men to meet someone who’s honest about not wanting to play the “who cares less” game.
Finally, decide on your personal rules for dating—how YOU want to play the game—and communicate those expectations.
If you don’t want to sleep with him yet, simply tell him:
“I’m not going to lie, I find you SUPER attractive, but I’m also REALLY attracted to who you are as a person. I would love to get to know you better before taking that next step.”
Your boundaries may put off some guys, but they’re the ones who weren’t interested in love anyway.
Have you felt pressured by hookup culture? Let us know how dating has changed for you in the comments.