Bringing back dating!


As human beings we are designed for relationship. Each of us has a deep inner longing for an intimate, lasting relationship with one other person, and the most intimate relationship between a man and a woman includes sexual intercourse. But young people’s experience with the hook-up culture has proven that sex on its own doesn’t satisfy the need for intimacy. And young people involved in the hook-up culture don’t know the way to any other kind of intimacy. They know only the hook-up script.

Observers of youth culture are concerned. Laura Sessions Stepp, a journalist who researches and writes on adolescents and young adults, recognizes that “the need to be connected intimately to others is as central to our well-being as food and shelter. In my view, if we don’t get it right, we’re probably not going to get anything else in life right.” If young people are so used to intentionally avoiding intimacy, she wonders, will they be able to become intimate later in life? They will never have learned how to build a relationship. And most of the young women interviewed by Stepp said that they had never even had a conversation with an adult about love, or even about what true companionship is.

Enter the Love and Fidelity Network, whose mission is to equip college students to uphold the institution of marriage, the special role of the family, and sexual integrity and Kerry Cronin, philosophy professor at Boston College in Massachusetts.

Rediscovering the Social Script of Dating

This year’s Valentine’s Day campaign of the Love & Fidelity Network was “Bring Dating Back”. The purpose of the campaign was to provide a few “tools” and a “gentle push” so college students “can learn first-hand that there are viable (and fun) romantic alternatives to the world of hook-ups. “How to ask someone out” posters were plastered all over campus and a web site listed ideas for casual dates. Thirty-one American college campuses participated in the campaign.

Professor Cronin teaches a course in which she requires every member of the class to ask someone out on a date. Why? Nine years ago she was meeting with eight graduating seniors. When she tried to get them to talk about their relationships they were strangely silent. Finally one of the students said, “My life’s a mess. I’m incredibly lonely. I have hundreds of Facebook friends, but nobody knows me.” Another said, “Professor Cronin, please fix me!” All eight of these graduating students confessed that they had no idea what they wanted, or what to expect, in terms of love and romance. And they didn’t know what to do about it.

Requiring that her students date, and providing instructions on how to ask (in person, not a text!), where to go, and what to do (and who pays!) is Kerry Cronin’s attempt to reinstitute dating on college campuses in the United States. She has found she needs to be specific because without a “dating script” they have no idea how to go about asking someone for a date, or what to do on a date. They’re terrified at the very thought! Nor do they know how to move a relationship forward. They need to learn that the meaningful relationship everyone longs for is built on getting to know each other.

We fall in love with personalities, not profiles. Romance is a story, not a tweet.

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