Millennials were asked about dating in a film entitled, The Dating Project. Most were convinced that dating is a thing of the past. In the interviews, there is a sense of loss and nostalgia about a bygone era that had more clarity and modeling about healthy partnering. There is a consensus that it is all very confusing in the world of singleness and it is hard to meet others to find meaning, purpose and committed love.
For single young adults, the prevalent hook-up culture makes entering lasting, emotionally-connected relationships nearly impossible. The movie portrays a longing of this generation regarding the desire to develop authentic committed relationships. What is painfully clear in the interviews is that they do not know how to do this. This generation has been sexualized, but not socialized.
There are 50 percent of Americas who are single. Marriage is on the retreat and cohabitation and multiple partnering is trending upward. The trends of social media, hanging out, hooking up, sexting, texting, and a lack of social boundaries has created a deficit in dating, social bonding and authentic attachment.
The mission of the Center for Relationship Education is teaching dating skills and partnering strategies. Getting to know one another without drinking and drugging, touching and groping is a real skill. This is not about morality, but, rather, about clarity and skill building.
The most compelling information about pair bonding and relationship attachment comes from a science-aligned book entitled, How to Not Marry a Jerk or Jerkette, by John Van Epps Ph.D. In this book, Van Epps describes five bonding dynamics that build on each other and need to go in order. The first dynamic is getting to know someone. How does one get to know? Spend time together, talk, observe how this person treats others, deals with money, handles frustrations or disappointments, celebrates holidays, etc. If one is to observe with accuracy, one needs to stay alert and sober.
The second dynamic is building trust.
Van Epps outlines that we trust too quickly, giving passwords, credit card numbers, keys, etc. Developing trust is predicated on character and habits of integrity.
After trust is established, test the trust by the third dynamic, reliance. Is this person reliable? If you find that they are not reliable, are they worthy of trust?
The fourth dynamic is commitment. What are you to this person? A prom-date? A person who is alleviating loneliness? A friend? A roommate? Or, one who is committed to you in marriage?
Finally, in this relationship attachment model, Van Epps outlines touch, especially sexual intimacy which comes at the end of the process, not for morality reasons, but for clarity purposes. If touch defines the relationship, it clouds the observation process and can be confusing regarding authentic attachment.
Learning how to date and to partner well is a lost art. This generation needs a tool box full of skills. The Center for Relationship Education has a lot of work to do. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or myrelationship center.org.
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