You may have heard your parents or grandparents talking about “courting” and other dating practices from the old days. Ask them about it and it may seem quaint or even like they lived on a different planet.
Do any of those quaint, antique dating practices still have a place in today’s modern, fast-paced, high-stress world?
The answer may surprise you.
How, you ask, can old fashioned courting ideas fit into a world with mobile phones and social media, where people are always on, always connected? We no longer arrive to pick up our dates in a horse and buggy, so why should we even consider the dating practices of the horse and buggy era?
The answer is that a great deal of the stress, anxiety, heartache and heartbreak of modern relationships is caused – or at least aggravated by – the relentless pace of our busy lives.
With a phone in our pocket or purse, or more likely clutched in our hands every moment of every day, we can’t let go and focus on a single thing, even if it’s our love life. We’re always tempted to check what’s trending on social media or sneak a peek at the news or sports scores. Why? Because we can. But all this crazy multitasking is what makes us feel so busy.
We send someone an email or text and immediately begin fuming that they haven’t replied within minutes or even seconds! How different for our grandparents, who waited for the mailman to arrive once a day with letters.
Technology Breeds Inattentiveness
Have you ever been on a date where the person you were with kept checking their phone every few minutes? How did it make you feel when they took selfies with their dinner or wrote online reviews of the restaurant even as you were both sitting at the table?
Our phones keep us from paying proper attention to the person we are on a date with, and that sends a strong message to them – you aren’t as interesting as the rest of my life. Even if that message isn’t true, that’s the message you send if you text or peek at your phone while on a date.
The smart thing to do is chuck your phone in the river and never look back, but maybe you think that’s a bit extreme. So just turn it off and pay attention to your date. Paying attention – that’s an old school dating practice that is fading out today.
Sure, maybe you’re nervous and looking at stuff on your smartphone helps you stay calm and not freak out. OK. But you should be nervous on a date – that’s a good sign. Pay attention to that nervousness, that excitement. Listen to the message your emotions are sending you. A date is an adventure, and it should make you feel a bit anxious or nervous.
Just Talk to Each Other
In the past, people learned about each other by talking to each other. Today, we do an extensive background check and research on our date, learning everything possible about them online, first. That often leaves us little to talk about.
People research their dates the way they research a car they want to buy. News flash – a romantic relationship isn’t like buying a car!
So resist the urge to peruse your upcoming date’s résumé online and just talk to them during the date. Enjoy learning about them a little bit at a time.
Slow food is a thing, right? Well so should slow dating be a thing. Enjoy a long meal together, and take a walk afterwards, without your phones in your hands.
Speaking of slow dating, put off getting into bed together, too. In the olden days, a man showed up at his date’s house or sorority and sat in a special parlour downstairs, waiting for her to appear. Chaperones may have been nearby while the couple sat and talked formally and got to know each other. The man never went up to the woman’s room – in fact, he may never have seen her bedroom or seen her undressed until marriage.
Goofy Ancestors Were onto Something
To us in our modern era where every romantic movie has a heavy sex scene in it, where unlimited pornography is available by phone, this all seems bizarre and alien. But our goofy ancestors were onto something. The old rituals of courting reminded both the man and woman that the woman was important, a treasure to be won by patient pursuit, not a quick itch to be scratched.
If a man was willing to come calling repeatedly, to actually take time to sit and talk to his date, learn about her, tell her about himself, she got some proof that his interest was genuine, that he had enough self control to put off his desire for sexual gratification.
Today we don’t get that, and so many people spend hours and hours agonizing over whether the people they date and casually sleep with are actually interested in them or just playing games. People exhaust themselves trying to play games in reverse, to figure out what the other person’s thinking.
Our ancestors, whom you may have dismissed as quaint and silly, didn’t have that same problem, though of course they were still human beings with plenty of things to worry about.
But by taking time to get to know each other, by going through a formal process of courting and dating, by delaying sexual gratification, they learned about each other – who was serious, who was a cad, who was a rake, who would work hard for something they wanted.
That knowledge, which can’t easily be transmitted by buzzing social media, was a great relief to them.
So give it a try. Take your dating skills back in time and see what happens. Turn off your phone (or chuck it in the river) and slow down. Don’t rush into bed with each other – let your anticipation and desire for each other build slowly, while you get to know each other and prove to each other that you’re worth waiting for.
Get a pen and paper and write an actual letter to your date. Unlike email or text, a letter takes a few days to arrive, and that, too, heightens the experience as you wait and wonder whether they’ve gotten it yet.
I’m not telling you all this because of some archaic idea of morality. I’m telling you to try it because it worked for our ancestors, and it might work for you.