UD’s dating culture and emotional maturity

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Seniors Gianna Gallo and Peter Coble. Photo by Emily Ashman

Between a lack of societal customs, the sexual revolution of the ‘60s and the emergence of technology, dating nowadays is confusing. In some ways, UD’s dating culture is luckily quite different from that of America at large. 

Compare “Stereotypical UD Romance” to any pop song, a Capp Bar date to a one-night stand, or ring-by-spring to the high divorce rates. UD is a small school with a focus on friendships and marriage. But these beautiful priorities can also present challenges to dating simply and healthily.

Our strong male-female friendships at UD are beneficial. However, the fear of losing a friendship to a failed relationship causes hesitancy in the beginning stages of a relationship. Additionally, friends’ loving interference in relationships, whether of their own volition or as requested, creates drama and the breakdown of friendships.

Marriage as the goal of dating is a good that we must continue to nurture. Yet making marriage the sole focus draws a couple away from actually getting to know each other. 

Because marriage is meaningful, every interaction becomes fraught with meaning and can lead to over analyzing and overthinking. This creates hesitancy, inaction or a tendency for people to rush into a relationship that they have long idealized.

Although our  school is small, and strong male-female friendships and Catholic focus on marriage create a weird dating atmosphere at UD, the real issue is our mindset towards dating — characterized by emotional immaturity and a lack of emotional chastity.

Emotional maturity describes a broad attitude needed before, during and after dating. It entails prudence before action. Be patient! 

Consider if you are actually interested in someone and don’t rush into relationships — be intentional. Emotional maturity is confidence and clarity in action. 

Once you are interested in someone, ask that person out. Be an adult who refuses to play games. Make your intentions clear to prevent confusion and drama, and foster good communication. Accept rejection with grace or be able to say no to a date — let your “no” mean “no” and your “yes” mean “yes.” 

After all, a “no” is a positive step in discernment — finding out what, or who, is not your vocation narrows down your options and pushes you closer toward the right person. 

Choosing to be upfront with your thoughts and emotions requires vulnerability. When that vulnerability is difficult, remember that it is out of charity for the other. Emotional maturity is emotional vulnerability that enables charitable prudence before action, and confidence and clarity in action.

After you decide not to date someone, let them go. Allow them to date others (our school is too small for a strict bro/girl code!). 

Emotional chastity is a term that encapsulates the concept of being rooted in reality. It entails not overthinking or overanalyzing the past. Don’t try to read a person’s mind; read their actions and don’t try to make their actions fit your narrative. 

Don’t let your emotions get ahead of reality. Emotional chastity is not imagining a future, even if it’s possible, including future conversations, dates, interactions, and married life.

Live in the present. Let relationships happen naturally. Get to know people in-person, not over text or social media. Get to know people where they are at and for who they actually are, rather than projecting unrealistic standards on them. 

When you look to date someone, find someone who will help you grow in virtue towards God. But do not rely on them for growth or only grow for them. You need to be able to maintain that growth without them and it will provide a strong foundation to fall back on in cases of breakup or difficulty. 

Therefore, focus more on growth in virtue, independence and faith rather than on who your next girlfriend or boyfriend might be. Simultaneously, marriage is a good and beautiful long-term goal that we ought to continue to nurture. 

But when you go out with someone, don’t let the dating culture’s focus on marriage overwhelm you, just remember that the short-term goal of dating is to get to know someone. Challenge yourself to grow in virtue, to be clear in communicating with others, and to be grounded in reality.

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