The lost art of traditional dating

Dating is something that most college students will become familiar with one way or another. Whether such familiarity is achieved through firsthand experience or observational skills, the natural human desire for companionship does not go unnoticed.

When I first came to college, I had an overly romanticized view of what college relationships would be like. I assumed I might meet a few women, maybe fall in love and have a few heartbreaks, but I never looked beyond that. However, when the casual and more modern kind of dating failed me, I began growing fond of a more traditional outlook.

Now, when I say “traditional,” I don’t mean resorting back to the ways of ancient Greece where a wedding was a mere transaction and transfer of a woman from the father’s household to that of the groom’s. I simply mean a more morally conscious approach toward romantic engagements—one which reflects a person’s ultimate goals.

While this can take many shapes and forms, traditional dating sees marriage as the ultimate goal of a romantic relationship. It also usually includes such concepts as only having sex after marriage, a sense of respect toward each other and monogamy.

I myself was not brought up with a traditional outlook on dating. I was raised with a few traditional sentiments, but overall I was left to make such judgments on my own and was given the support and trust that I would make the right ones.

On campus, I was not really exposed to the traditional approach to dating until I began attending a church more regularly and started taking part in a faith community. Of course, I knew a few people who had been dating their significant others for a long period of time, but overall people seemed to approach dating in a fairly casual way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about one-night stands, open relationships or cheap flings. I’m merely talking about the ambiguous nature of college dating, especially when people become, for the most part, exclusive.

People seem to be in the frame of mind that dating is simply a fun, exciting thing to do which can be enjoyable and pleasurable. Outside of my faith community, I rarely hear people discuss dating as a form of future investment or a precursor to marriage.

I am often tempted to begin a relationship just for the sake of having some fun and enjoying a person’s company. I can see how appealing this noncommitted but sort of exclusive thing can be. However, I maintain that the traditional approach to dating is a lost art form which exists in small pockets around campus.

Today, people interact with the opposite sex as if dating were some sort of complicated mind game that must be won. Constantly, advice such as “be straightforward with them” or “make your intentions clear” is hardly given any notice or is often dismissed outright.

Quite frankly, texting someone to say, “Hey, wanna hang out sometime?” seems to be the only method used to engage with the opposite sex. However, there is no intention in that. Methods like Tinder, texting and casual hanging out only give unclear motives and mixed signals which lead people to overanalyze situations.

In traditional forms of dating, it’s necessary to make your intentions clear and concise. Maybe people are afraid of labels, but all too often I have seen people driven mad because they don’t understand how their relationship is defined.

Traditional dating holds you to a high standard and holds true to the notion that chivalry is not dead. Letting a woman know, “I think you are wonderful and enjoy your company, I would love to pursue a relationship with you,” is not a weak or bad thing. In fact, such comments could eliminate a lot of confusion in the dating world.

The concept of a “friend zone” seems to be absent in more traditional circles. The notion of the friend zone itself is maintained by this idea that every member of the opposite sex should be treated kindly and respectfully, but only for the sake of trying to have sex with them. In more traditional spheres, dating is done among those who are already familiar with each other, which allows for a relationship to grow and mature, instead of jumping into anything quickly.

People are often hesitant to date their friends for fear of ruining a friendship. This is not a fear that is without reason; I myself have hardly remained friends with any girl I’ve dated in the past. However, this is a reason traditional dating puts an emphasis on waiting until the relationship gets serious before engaging in sexual acts. This isn’t a restriction or a punishment, it’s a safeguard. I don’t know about most people, but I can remain someone’s friend after just a few dates. It’s hard to bounce back once a physical relationship has been established.

Traditional dating has a lot of benefits, but to some it may not seem favorable due to its perceived restrictions or expectations. However, I honestly believe people could learn a lot about dating from those who don’t approach it so nonchalantly.

Overall, if you asked me what a traditional relationship seeks, I would definitely say it’s not the temporary warm feelings associated with spending time with a good-looking person that you share common interests with. Rather, it’s about finding someone who challenges you every day to be a better person. It’s allowing the lessons you teach one other to help you grow and mature. It’s perfecting a friendship of selfless surrender, of oneself to the other which culminates in an outward promise that, for better or for worse, you will stick with each other. It’s seeking to love and appreciate the person in their entirety and helping them become the person they were meant to be, and to pass on the fruits of such love to children and family.

That’s what traditional dating is about. Not the forbidding of sex or some system of patriarchy, but an intentional love that is devoid of games, uncertainty and manipulation.

Personally, I’m really tired of people describing their interactions with another person as having a “thing.” If that’s something that doesn’t bug you, then by all means go forth. I myself don’t like settling for that.