Dating Scripts Have Evolved

Have you noticed that whenever your parents try to give advice on dating it’s not as applicable as they think it is? Or how whenever we discussed difficulties of modern dating, they’re unsure how to approach them because they’re not similar to what they’ve experienced? We usually shake our heads at their confusion and say it’s because their age and the invention of dating apps that they don’t know how to help, but it’s more than that. It’s because we have a different dating script than the ones that our parents and grandparents had.

What is a dating script?

The dating script is the set of expectations on how to behave in dating that can differ depending on your gender. In our parents’ generation it was expected for women to wait to be asked out and to eat lightly when in front of a date. Men were expected to ask the women out, plan the date and pay for the date. After a couple of dates, the guy would ask the girl to be official and then the relationship would continue to follow the dating script. Our generation doesn’t care who asked who out or how much a woman eats on the date. Instead the script focuses on the way we get to dating. We have the talking stage and then the hanging out stage before we even get to casually going out stage. It’s not until the pair has the discussion of defining the relationship that they are officially dating. This depends on the couple, but it usually takes a little over a month to create a relationship.

What does the difference mean?

The difference in our dating scripts show a couple of things. Dating for us isn’t seen as a need, but it is seen as a want. Thanks to our progress with women’s rights, women don’t need marriage to finically support themselves. Marriage and dating are centered around love and friendship, which gives us the freedom to date who we want. This could be why the route to being in an exclusive relationship has more steps than our parents’ script. The social pressure to date in our parents’ days was higher than ours, especially if you were a woman because it showed you were valuable. It’s why relationships were quicker to happen, and why getting in a relationship then seems easier than now. Now, dating isn’t a make it or break it thing. It happens when we want to, with who we want to and for however long we want.

Dating can feel hard, especially in college. It seems that a lot of work and effort goes into creating a connection that might not go anywhere. There’s always the possibility of the person you’re interested in wanting a casual hookup or a friend with benefit situation, and you might be unaware of that want until you go through all the steps and define the relationship. It can feel like it’s not worth dating because the road to get there is full of pit stops and detours. It’s important when feeling like this to remember that dating is different than friends with benefits or situationships. It’s an agreement between two people to support and care for each other. The process of getting to an exclusive relationship is just a bit longer because of all the options we have in forming relationships with others.   

A couple of months into college I decided I wanted to try dating. Dating in college seemed fun and easy with so many new people around and the freedom to explore what I want. I decided to try dating apps as everyone seemed to be doing it and found out quickly that dating was more complicated than I thought. Not everyone was open about what they wanted, and it seemed that everyone wanted something casual. This led me to conform to the idea that a causal relationship was the only option available for me. I had to have a head to heart conversation with myself about what I wanted and then hold myself accountable to that want by not settling for less. Currently, I’m in the casually dating stage with someone after a couple of weeks in the talking stage. Even though everything is in a gray area, I feel like I have control over my situation. I know that if I proceed with dating him, I’ll be okay. If I decide to end it, I’ll be okay as well. It’s a reassuring thing to know that dating doesn’t determine my worth and that I have the ability to shape my experience how I want to.

Our dating script is very flexible in comparison to our parents’ script. We can act how we want when dating and decide what kind of relationships we want to have. There’s of course pros and cons of having so much flexibility, but upon figuring out what you want, it can become a lot less stressful. It can be easy to reflect on how our parents dated and how simple it seemed and wish we had that, but our dating script accounts for the changing times and allows all of us have the kind of connection we want.