Is Gen Z "Uniquely Bad" at Dating?
Churches often stress that marriage is important and ideally the lifelong covenant union between two people who pledge to be faithful, loving, caring, and committed. But prior to the exchanging of vows, there is often an engagement phase, and a dating period before that.
Long before the wedding day, there is a first date, and hopefully a second, and so on. As Generation Z grows and matures, they are learning how to date. How are they doing?
According to Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal, not well. Abysmal. Terrible. Not good. Bernstein writes, “Educators say the current generation in college is uniquely bad at romance. Online dating has created a (false) feeling of an endless buffet of romantic choices. And mobile technology—which this generation has never lived without—has been a security blanket of sorts that has kept them from developing solid in-person communication skills.”
Gen Zers are in need of an education in dating, courtship, and commitment. According to Bernstein’s reporting, it doesn’t help that studies also show Gen Zers “show a striking lack of resiliency.” When they try a relationship and it doesn’t go well, they’re reluctant to try again.
Bernstein reports on one college professor named Kerry Cronin, an adjunct instructor in the philosophy department of Boston College, who is trying to help. During the spring semester, Cronin asks her students to “Ask a romantic interest out on a date. . . ask for the date in person, not via text message, Facebook, Instagram or any other mobile app. The person being asked must know it’s a date. And the date must take place within three days.”
There are other rules as well, including the duration of the date, the kind of activity, and some guidance on how to get to know the other person. But this kind of guidance doesn’t have to wait. It can be given before a college course.
Bernstein asked Cronin to offer parents guidance in teaching their kids how to date. Cronin said:
“Support them with humor. Let them laugh with you about the stupid stuff about dating and the fear of it. Don’t interrogate them or put pressure on them and make the whole project seem like a weighty, serious issue. Don’t make it a serious issue. Then they will be afraid of failing because it will seem like a milestone they can’t achieve.”
“And tell them about your dating failures. We all tell the stories of our dating successes and how I met your mom. Tell them about the one who got away or the relationship that was doomed from the start or a waste of your time. Because then they will understand that you can survive the bad dates and the stupid detours on your way to finding love.”
How does your congregation offer wisdom to Generation Z in learning how to date? How to listen? How to plan an outing that is fun and enjoyable for two people? How does your congregation teach healthy boundaries regarding sex and sexuality?
Gen Zers do need guidance in dating. The church is a wonderful place to learn. But you have to start the conversation, create the space, and share your collective wisdom in a healthy and life-giving way.
In other words, you need to make it a date.