A Teen’s Perspective: Dating and the Generational Gap
A few years ago, my mom went through her entire dating history with me. Despite my utter disinterest in hearing the specifics, I must admit it was sort of interesting to hear about all the men my mother dated. I would not have expected that she, out of all people, dated so many men. Dating a lot of men was one thing, but then she went into how she dated several men at once. That is where I stopped her. I was so confused. I accused her of cheating. I saw it as some horrible thing. If you have ever spoken to your daughter about your dating history, I’m sure a similar situation occurred. Years later, I realize that my mom wasn’t out of line at all; it’s more of a generational difference. To be honest, I think her generation was doing it right.
My generation has lost the definition of “dating.” We don’t truly “date” anymore. We pair off as soon as we meet someone we think we like. You are either friends with someone, or you’re boyfriend and girlfriend. There is no “dating,” or in between. You know, that stage when you aren’t exclusive, but you are going out alone to get to know each other prior to making any sort of commitment?
I’m not saying it’s a good idea to lead people on, cheat on exclusive partners or have multiple partners. I’m just saying that you can date people without making a commitment. Go into a date with an open mind, and really use it as an opportunity to get to know your potential soul mate. This is why I would pretty much date anyone. Dating someone does not mean you have to marry that person. If you don’t like that person, you never have to go on another date with him or her again. It’s that simple.
I’m not exactly sure why this change in relationship practices occurred. My best guess is that my generation is in such a rush to grow up, settle down and find someone. We are that “right now” generation, and it doesn’t just apply to items: it applies to finding love, too. I’m impatient, too. I understand it. Having everything laid out for you makes your life easier. If I could find a man now, I wouldn’t have to worry about the future. That’s why we want it “right now.”
Pressure from moms and society don’t help the need to pair off, either. I didn’t have my first boyfriend until after high school, and after he broke up with me, my mom tried to force me to create a JDate account. I was 18.
Unfortunately, the pairing off because you’re in a rush to settle down is actually counterproductive. This practice actually makes finding someone that you really can settle down with take much longer. You waste all of your time with one person (who you may or may not be compatible with) instead of getting to know several people at once. You leave out having options.
Obviously there are the outliers who marry their high school sweethearts. That’s awesome, and I wish I had that. But let’s be real. Most people don’t date their soul mate the first time around.
The issues that dating solves have appeared in my generation because we don’t date. People in my generation aren’t sure what they want in a partner, because they haven’t dated enough people to really know. People get involved with others and make a commitment without knowing enough about that person to truly make a commitment. People feel like they have to make that commitment just to please someone else. If you like someone and that person likes you, then you have to be exclusively seeing each other. Right?
If I had a nickel for every guy who told me a sad story about how his girlfriend cheated on him, let’s just say I would have a good amount of nickels. Although I don’t talk to girls a lot in the same capacity, I’m sure many girls have been cheated on, as well.
Why all the cheating?
Well, you started an exclusive relationship before you really got to know each other. You didn’t date each other first. You jumped right into it. Cheating is still wrong because you made a promise to be exclusive, but let’s be real. If you are cheating on someone, you aren’t in an exclusive relationship because you wanted to be. You are in an exclusive relationship because you think that is the way dating is supposed to be.
So the next time my mom asks why I’m not dating anyone, I think I have an answer now. It’s because guys think it’s a commitment. That is what we have been programmed to think. This is why so many people I know in college have never been on a date. Just be sure to understand this generational difference exists before you pressure your daughter or son about dating, or become concerned that he or she has not found a boy or girl yet.
If each guy can only date one girl at once, then yes, it’s going to take a longer time to meet that guy. He’s probably out there in an exclusive relationship with a girl he met two weeks ago. He’s unavailable. He’s not looking for me. So I have to wait my turn.
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