Since We’ve Forgotten…Here’s How to Date

A few easy steps to bring back effort and romance

image by Daniel Jerico from

Nowadays (COVID notwithstanding), there has become a general approach to dating that entails a sense of disconnection, less investment, and an idea of false abundance. As a result, many people aren’t especially happy with the dating landscape.

There are likely several reasons for this, which could include:

  • We use dating apps to scroll through prospective dates like we might turn the pages in a catalog. Assessing the products within based on their image and a couple of lines of text. This most certainly results in scrolling through and passing over several people with whom we would have a great romantic connection since one cannot tell based on an image and a few sentences, whether they’ll have chemistry and be a good fit.
  • With the arrival of Tinder and other apps like it, a lot of people feel something along the lines of, “why invest in dates anymore when I can find tons more options at the ready in my device?” This makes us less likely to spend more time with someone and to carefully, truly consider them. If it’s not a ten right off the bat? Moving on. This is faulty thinking though since, consider, of all the dates you have had via apps, how many were great matches? Likely not many, yes? This indicates there aren’t “tons of options” out there like the app wants us to think.
  • We’ve become a culture more inclined towards image…status…looks…“hotness”…brands…consumerism…popularity…look at me, look at me….vanity…and narcissism. This means we look for and pick partners and dates largely based on looks, how “cool” and “impressive” they appear to others, their Instagram profile, things like that. Check out The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Janet Twenge for a shocking dive into this topic.
  • Similar to the point above, we ditch people who don’t look like supermodels, feeling as though, with the internet, we can find someone with an outer shell that is “more impressive.” Hotness, of course, has nothing to do with whether someone is a great partner or not. Heck, plenty of super hot people are shallow, self-centered, empty, unkind, and lame. So, we pick people for the wrong reasons.
  • Hookup culture: people have sex fast and yet, have little understanding of what actual intimacy is or how to cultivate it (you know, having deep, heart-to-heart conversations and sharing your innermost feelings with another person? And even the shameful or not so nice ones). So they have sex and then scram, off to the next bedding, forgoing and losing out on building real intimacy with another person.
  • Our current culture is one that values the quick fix, something disposable, and whatever is easiest. Anything that takes effort? Time? Investment? Discipline? It’s “too much” and a lot of people are then not interested. Guess what? Building and maintaining a great relationship requires the opposite of what our culture currently values. It requires effort. Time. Investment. Thought. Care. Bravery. Attention to detail. Vulnerability.

So, a few steps on how to bring dating back again…

Ditch the dating apps and instead, actually approach and talk to people out in the world. Browsing a bookstore, or sitting at a cafe, or grocery shopping, or walking down the street? If you see someone who strikes your interest, do the difficult, scary thing and actually approach them. This is how, for decades, people have found prospective dates. It can still work. And frankly, it’s way more fun, as well as more flattering, than messaging someone over a screen through an app.

If you keep the dating apps, don’t do a ton of message volleying on the app. This is BO-RING and anti-climactic. Dating is meant to be done in person. That’s where the tension and excitement are. Not when staring at your screen and typing on its keyboard. So, send back and forth a few messages (as in, less than ten total) to get an initial vibe. Does it seem like a potential match? Set up a meeting somewhere public (for safety purposes), but then get off the app and go see how the chemistry is in person!

When on the actual date: cell phones away and turned off. Focus fully on the person in front of you. Engage. Put in the effort to listen carefully. This is how you connect with another person, as well as actually explore whether this could be a thing or not. It’s also just good manners. What are you interested to learn about this person? Ask them those questions! No need to stick to boring small talk since studies show people don’t really enjoy small talk anyway.

After the date, assuming you felt a spark of interest and enjoyed the date, go on another one. Explore the question a bit further, might this person be for you? Oftentimes, we cannot know based on just a first date if someone will be a good fit for us or not. We also sometimes do not even know if we are romantically into them, just based on a first date. This can take two or three dates to figure out. So, if someone isn’t an automatic “no” but a “maybe”? Go out again. It’s similar to making potential friends. Everyone is awkward and nervous during the first meeting and thus, not themselves. So if you still enjoyed it and they piqued your interest? Go out again to scope a bit further.

Go on dates with many different people. Yes, this is what dating is. And no, ladies, this doesn’t make you a liar and it isn’t “wrong.” Dating is meant to be exploring many different people and potential connections, to find the one that best fits. If you only go on dates with one person, that isn’t really exploring different types of people. And it doesn’t give you an especially varied idea of who you might go best with if you are only considering one. How do you really know they are a great match if you haven’t met with anyone else? You don’t have to sleep with all of them, but you should date multiple people for a few months as you get to know each of them.

Do not commit to monogamy until you’ve dated around for at least a few months. Monogamy is a huge decision. It’s not so far off from marriage, in the sense that you are saying, “I choose you to the exclusion of everyone else.” And though you might be feeling excited and lusty for this person, and be really enjoying spending time with them, realistically? You do not know someone at all after just three months. You need to really get to know someone over several months and tons of time spent together before you can know this.

While dating and getting to know someone you really like? Dare to invest in it. Spend a lot of time with them. Listen to them carefully. Treat them to things. Surprise them. Fall for them. Yes, you might get hurt. Guess what? Getting hurt is a given in all love. Even if you are with someone your entire life, one of you will die first and thus, immense heartbreak. In all relationships, either one person will leave the other, or one of you passes away first. So, avoiding getting hurt is impossible in love. So, if you meet someone you like? Go for it. Decide to put in the effort and to risk your heart since, in reality, no one escapes love without getting hurt.

After you’ve been dating someone for several months who you feel strongly for and sense is a healthy match? Have the talk. Ask them about making a stronger, more defined commitment to each other if that’s what you feel you want.

And then, once you’ve made this commitment, it doesn’t mean you no longer need “to try” because you’ve “locked it in.” On the contrary, when effort dies, that’s where relationships go to die. To keep a romance romantic, you need to regularly put in thought, kindness, effort, and love. Continue to surprise your partner. Never stop listening to them carefully and being curious about them. Be generous and thoughtful. Forgive often. Play and laugh together. Adventure with your love. Make the time, invest, and put in the effort to keep your relationship alive, healthy, and happy.

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author.

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