Rebecca Hagelin

Fuzzy gender roles, combined with a flagging economy, complicate courtship rituals further. Both parties are more likely than ever to earn similar salaries. And high rent plus piles of student loans put a financial squeeze on dating plans. Some women take offense at any suggestion that they can’t pay their own way, which creates a strong disincentive for a man to ask a woman to dinner and take the check.

Gender, finances, and social media certainly affect relationships, but the Times’ analysis pinpoints the biggest factor in the demise of real courtship: the college hook-up culture. It sets the stage for the young adult hang-out culture. For four years, college students practice the hook-up culture’s non-committal, self-gratifying relationship “skills.” They perfect the “art” of giving as little as possible. So it’s no surprise that graduation yields little more than a grown-up version of the same thing. Twenty-somethings just out of college spend their energy trying to make their professional mark. They just aren’t up for the investment that a real courtship and long-term relationship demand. “Hanging-out” is “safe,” with low expectations for both parties.

And that’s the situation that our young adults are facing. The relationship bar has been lowered, and not for the better. Even the New York Times recognizes that.

How to Save your Family: Teach Respect as the First Relationship Skill

It’s no surprise that feminist bastions, like Slate and HuffPost Women, have slammed the New York Times article. Feminists celebrate the death of traditional dating rituals and abhor anything that smacks of gender roles. Never mind that women, who hope for relationships while they still have time left on the biological clock, suffer most from hang-out culture.

So what can we do? Parents raising teens and guiding their young adult children need to maintain an open and ongoing conversation about relationships—and laying the foundation for a successful marriage.

Whether invitations come by text or a phone call, and who pays for dinner or the movie really isn’t the issue. We all know dating is fun, but dating has serious purposes as well. It gives us a personal opportunity to discover more about the other person, learn about ourselves, build a friendship, and at some point decide whether the relationship partner is the right person to marry.

Dating, which should be a “giving” relationship, has become a “taking” relationship.

The hang-out culture’s implicit message is that dating is more like a hobby or diversion--a way to pass the time or find sexual gratification. If there really is an end of courtship, it’s because our younger generation has lost sight of courtesy and forgotten how to treat people with the respect they deserve.

Rather than mourn the end of courtship, let’s revive it.

Let’s encourage our kids to look not only at how they’re dating, but also at who they are dating; dating and courtship shouldn’t be taken lightly because they involve people. Healthy relationships begin by showing genuine interest in and respect for the other. Dating is not an opportunity to “score” or feed one’s vanity; it’s a relationship through which we learn to love another human being selflessly, and to discern whether a future together promises mutual self-giving.

And that’s a future that beats “hanging out,” any day.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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