It seems as if dating has become nonexistent among the 14 to 22 year old set. From my observation, it’s a rare occurrence when someone takes a date to the prom, goes out to the movies as a couple or gushes over a crush.
Somehow, dating has become this ambiguous, nebulous lost art that in which no one wants to engage. However, everyone seems to know what the HOOK UP is. The HOOK UP is superficial interaction where sex is exchanged, but emotional intimacy and communication is not. It seems to be, that it’s okay to share your body, but not your heart or MIND. Sadly, what is lost when young adults are not engaging in the dating ritual is the opportunity to develop the skills needed to create a healthy relationship.
I believe dating is a necessary interpersonal interaction designed to help young people develop the skills needed to take into their mature relationships. You might be asking, Really? Why is this so important? What are the skills that are needed to develop a long term committed relationship? Below are some I believe are needed and have found through my work with adults who are over the age of 28 are missing.
1) Communication: Simply put, communication is the imparting or exchanging of information between two parties. Contrary to popular belief, your partner cannot read your mind. If you don’t learn how to communicate effectively it will negatively impact your relationship(s) over time. It is the number one thing I see that breaks down a relationship… poor communication or lack there of.
2) Conflict Resolution: What the heck is conflict resolution? Well, It’s the ability to resolve a disagreement peacefully. Every relationship, no matter the participant, eventually experiences some sort of conflict. Avoiding or not experiencing conflict can create other unhealthy issues. Unless teens and adolescents have the opportunity to learn the skills to resolve conflict these issues can grow and wreak havoc on their intimate relationships.
3) Interpersonal Skills: There is a very long list of interpersonal skill that can be developed through dating. Let me name a few that I feel are the most important … Active Listening, Empathy, Flexibility, Humor, Negotiating, Patience, Respect, Responsibility, Sympathy and Tolerance are just a few of the skill people grow through dating.
4) Social Skills: Good social skills are essential to effectively function in life. Social skills enable us to know what to say, how to make good choices, and how to behave in various situations. Once again, there are several important skills, but I would like to list those I believe are most important to master that aid in growing healthy relationships… Anger Management, Recognizing/understanding others’ point of view, Social Problem Solving, and Peer Negotiation.
5) Self Confidence: This is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment. When one learns to navigate relationships successfully, it helps to build self-confidence, which in the long run can positively impact all areas of life. When you have self confidence, individuals are not only able to enjoy the benefits of interpersonal relationships, but easily develop other areas other their life.
6) Self Respect: I find self-respect to be one of the most important points of this article. What exactly is self-respect? It’s pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity. If you cultivate self respect in your relationships, you’ll be less likely to be disrespected in your intimate relationships or otherwise.
Today, there seems to be a lot of talk about empowering oneself in all areas of life, except when it comes to dating and relationships. We like to encourage individuals to express thoughts and desires in the educational arena and work force, but somehow have managed to say “don’t” when it comes to dating, relationships and intimacy.
If you don’t share your thoughts or expectations or don’t set limits and boundaries through the practice of dating, you will have less success in your future relationships.
I firmly believe like any skill, the dating skill needs to be honed and practiced, and hopefully, positively impact the ability to create healthy long lasting relationships in your future.