Science of Poly

Is Dating Really As Bad As People Say?

Dating has a bad rap. It’s all over my Facebook feed. Clickbait for those who have yet to find their one true love. I’m sure because of the nature of my research Google goes out of its way to ensure I see everything anyone with an internet connection has to say about dating these days. I can’t help but feel suspicious about the motive of such writing because it is so entrenched in the monogamous, elevator ride to marriage and kids framework.

I talk endlessly about how many more choices adults have now when it comes to romantic relationships. Maybe most people do still want the picket fence and so having to go through a prolonged dating process is frustrating for them, but I have evidence to the contrary. The number of people marrying is dwindling. I have the graphs to prove it.

Twenty-five percent of young adults alive right now will never marry if current trends continue. Are they doomed to a life alone? I doubt it. The number of cohabiters is not increasing so what we have are people who probably have different kinds of relationships in mind. When marriage is not the end goal, the alternatives are endless and most of them require some sort of dating.

Reports of hook-up culture amongst college students has created an outright hysteria. They say things like, “Youth aren’t having relationships anymore, instead, they have meaningless drunken wild monkey sex at parties and don’t even go out dinner with each other. This will surely be the downfall of society.” The problem is, hookup culture is greatly exaggerated. Plenty of research shows no significant increase in sexual behavior among young adults. In fact, there is even research that suggests young people are having less sex than previous generations.

If hookup culture is exaggerated, we find ourselves full circle back to dating. Everyone is doing it but hating it, at least according to all those articles I keep seeing. I think the reason is that we are taught if a date doesn’t go well it was somehow a fail. We are on this quest to find someone and everything along the way is a trial or tribulation. The journey is fraught with peril but worth it to find the princess at the end.

Rejections, bad dates, and breakups are nothing more than the dragons and impassable rivers that stand in the way of you and your true love. Don’t get me wrong. It sucks when you put yourself out there and someone turns you down. The problem is everyone takes it so god damn personal. Do you like every person who has ever shown interest in you? Most of the time there wasn’t anything wrong with them as a person. However, when someone turns you down, it’s hard not to feel like a failure of a human being. If it sounds like I’m talking from personal experience it’s because I am.

I’ve been on so many dates where I had wonderful conversations and enjoyed myself but didn’t want the night to go further. There have been guys who I’ve had huge crushes on, and when I put myself out there, they didn’t feel the same way. Muddling through the matchmaking process without arranged marriages makes this a necessity.

Dating can start to feel like looking for a job, especially now that online dating is so popular. You carefully lay out your slightly embellished qualifications on your profile. Once you finally meet someone you’re grilled with questions. Then afterward you wait anxiously to see if you passed and made it to the next date.  All the while you have to wonder if this person will be a good fit for you or if you should look for something better.

Is this the only option? I don’t think it is. When dating is only about looking for a life partner, there is a lot of pressure. This is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with and possibly raise offspring with. You can never fuck anyone else again. If you get it wrong, lifelong misery and bad sex await. Like I said though, more people are dating now and not getting married. Maybe they’re just looking for someone whose compatible with a certain stage in their life journey.

Instead of dating being the journey that takes you to marriage, the final destination, it could be nothing more than finding people who happen to be on the same road on whatever particular adventure you find yourself in. When a family and kids are not part of your life plan, why is a mismatch such a big deal? You put yourself out there, it didn’t work out, but maybe you still had a fun conversation or discovered a new favorite brunch spot.

It’s harder when you’ve been with someone a while and developed quite a bit of emotional attachment. I’m not saying there is a way to avoid heartbreak. Most relationships end. It’s a cold hard fact you have to accept. However, just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean it was a failure in its entirety. It’s hard during the thralls of grief right after a breakup to see anything good about a relationship or an ex. We have a tendency to villainize exes. They are the evil queens or dark sorcerers keeping us from finding true love.

It took me awhile, but I can look back now and remember fond memories with all of my exes and not just the painful parts at the end. These relationships ended, but they were not failures. Each of the guys I dated brought meaning to a specific part of my life. Dating for me is not about some end game. Right now, my end game is getting my book published and having enough financial stability to travel more. For me, dating is about finding people who can keep me company along the way. If that company can also provide mind-blowing sex, all the better.


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