The dating phase of a relationship is a very crucial aspect of relationship building. It is a time intended for learning, for sharing – thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears – and for bonding. If we skip this crucial phase, what then, are we bringing upon ourselves?
My 13-year-old son pretty much summed up what passes for the progression of relationships today like this:
“Two people hang out together for a while with a bunch of other people,” he said. “Then, they decide they wanna get married, have some kids, decide they don’t like each other and what they’ve gotten themselves into, get a divorce, and have to pay child support.”
His description, sadly, is almost dead-on. Is this truly what we aspire to? What is happening here? Are we truly “skipping” the dating phase completely, leaping from introduction to engagement without ever really taking the time to get to know each other? Without any true bonding or relationship building at all? Have we, as a society, completely eliminated the true “date” and opted for merely “hanging out” instead?
Today, we hear couples say they are going on a date, and then usually the couple attends some group function or outing in a public place where lots of their friends are gathered. They all just “hang out” together, at the mall or at the movies, making what was supposed to be a time of sharing and getting to know one another more of a group social event than anything.
Perhaps something vital is being left out of most relationships today, and that something is the dating phase.
It wasn’t always this way. Once there was a “pecking order” for all things relationship-py, and it went something like this: There was an introduction, which progressed to occasional meetings at adult-chaperoned events, and then came the dating phase.
The purpose of dating, then, could be described as a phase of time in two people’s lives spent together as a couple in order to get to know one another better as individual people, on a one-on-one basis.
Time spent together out of the shadow of their peers, during which they could be themselves … their real, true selves … and decide if who and what each of them were as individuals would be better, stronger, more beautiful and capable merged into one entity, which it would be, if they came together as a couple.
If and only if this dating phase of a relationship went well (meaning the couple involved decided, based on time spent together getting to know each other on a deeper, more personal level, that the ingredients necessary for a long-term, forever kind of relationship were present between them), there was usually an engagement announced, and finally, a marriage.
Consider this the next time you’re asked to go on a date. Are you truly dating? Or are you just hanging out? You’ll know.