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A father’s advice for dating in modern times

By Shun Smith

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

I don’t remember dating being this hard when I was 21. Thanks to modern technology, the redefining of acceptable social norms, and the sexual revolution, today’s men and women have been led by the nose into the twilight zone of relationships.

The need for human companionship and the biological drive for the passing on of genes is being bred out of millennials and Gen Z. Going forward, family and friends need to take more of a vested interest in their adult children’s ability to be competitive in the dating market and help them find a person with whom to form communal bonds of matrimony. I have created some simple rules based on firsthand experience and a broad range of topics that have dominated the dating landscape for decades.

Brookings Institute scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill coined the phrase “the success sequence” after writing the book “Creating an Opportunity Society.” The success sequence outlined three points: get at least a high school diploma, work full time, and marry before having children. If you followed these points in that order, you had an over 70% chance of avoiding poverty.

The most important factor among those three is getting married before attempting to raise children. Although teen birth rates have declined, as of 2019 minority (black, Hispanic) teen pregnancy rates surpassed 25 per 1,000 – five times higher than that of Asian American and Pacific Islanders (4 per 1,000). Avoiding teen pregnancy isn’t as hard as we are being led to believe. There is an overpromotion of contraception and abortion as solutions touted by health experts and others. 

They easily exclude personal responsibility for sexual behavior. In less well-to-do communities, abortion advertisements can be seen on billboards. I think this has more to do with elites thinking that poor people lack inhibition. Conversely, in 2018, AAPI, a group that has the lowest rates of teen pregnancy compared to all ethnic groups, was targeted by some media outlets as a community suffering from limited access to sexual and reproductive freedom. It’s dastardly for subversive agents to advocate for a lifestyle of sexual irresponsibility, i.e., hook-up culture. 

Culturally speaking, this is one of those times when if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. In 2020, just over 50% of single mothers had never been married. Their median income was less than half that of married couples and they comprised the majority of beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A great senior leader from my military days used to tell both men and women, before departing on a long weekend, “Don’t just let a man make a deposit in your safety box, and don’t be a random deposit in some woman’s deposit box.” 

Before the advent of dating apps, the dating scene had spiraled into the hook-up culture. But now it has become more pervasive. According to a 2017 Singles in America poll, 48% of millennials are more likely to have sex before a first date. Sex on the first date is customary given how many articles exist covering the topic. Further studies suggest that the majority of millennials and Gen Z have used dating apps to have casual sexual encounters.

The word situation-ship, introduced in the earlier part of this decade, is sometimes synonymous with hook-up. Although both words invoke the same meaning, casual sex with an associate, situation-ship attempts to provide context, as if there is a possibility of a lasting relationship. This pathology is indicative of the newest conversation making the rounds throughout social media: the body count. 

Does it matter how many sexual encounters your partner has had? Yes. This isn’t some gendered double-standard answer. Yes, ladies, men still value purity. No one wants to marry the town bicycle. Yes, gentlemen, ladies don’t want to worry about their significant other keeping their dating profile active while in a relationship. More importantly, with high-risk sexual behavior, there is an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Some sociologists even claim that having numerous sex partners before matrimony could negatively impact the quality and stability of marriage.

Another often-evoked data point in the body count and app dialogue is the claim that 80% of women on dating apps are choosing only the top 20% of attractive men. In a widely cited study, a 2015 Tinder user employed a sample size of 27 women to rate the attractiveness of men. For context, in 2016 Tinder had over 25 million registered users. Moreover, no information was provided on the attractiveness of the women. In my personal experience, women who rank in the “8 out of 10 and above” range tend to lean toward men on the more attractive side. There are exceptions to the rule, like Heidi Klum and Seal (no offense), or Beyonce and Jay-Z (again, no offense). This is when the hypergamous nature is on display. However, given the rate at which millennials and Gen Z report having sexual encounters, the numbers just don’t add up. But to say this Tinder study leaves much to be desired is an understatement.

Online dating has created a space for young adults to engage in no-strings-attached relationships that don’t end in worthwhile companionship. Recent studies suggest that marriages formed as a result of dating apps are more likely to end in divorce.

Sociology department members from the Universities of Stanford and New Mexico likely discovered the vacuum created by online dating. An article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – 2019 states, “The traditional system of dating, mediated by friends and family, has long been theorized to be optimal for mate selection. The family system is historically predicated, in part, on catalyzing and promoting the most socially acceptable mating outcomes for the younger generation. Meeting through friends and family provided guarantees that any potential partner had been personally vetted and vouched for by trusted alters.” 

The modern adult seldom dates with a purpose or seeks marriage as the end state. With the elimination of the previous social structure, i.e., family and friends as date finders, the cycle of serial dating will continue.

With that said, it’s no surprise the US marriage rate is declining. This may have something to do with the ease with which anyone can access sex, the erosion of religious beliefs, and over-reliance on government assistance. Marriage as we know it must be resuscitated and focused on the 25-and-under demographic.

There is more incentive for getting married at an earlier age. At the top of the list, it’s difficult to merge two very independent lives into one. If you have ever seen people in their 30s, well into careers, attempt to drag baggage (out-of-wedlock children fall into that category) into a relationship, you’ll know it often isn’t pretty. Forming a union earlier lets you grow together as a couple and become more flexible during major life decisions.

Another incentive is that women have safer pregnancies in their 20s. There isn’t the added urgency to have children as with couples marrying in their 30s either. Young parents also typically make more active parents. Added benefits for men are that they usually gain purpose through marriage. Women gain companionship and, hopefully, eliminate the need to freeze their eggs for a later time to be determined.

Deciding to marry early doesn’t remove the need to plan for the future. Every man should bring some semblance of financial security, commitment, and integrity to the table. Every woman should bring a nurturing heart and a supportive spirit to the relationship. Sometimes it calls for reevaluating your standards regarding what you expect of a mate. Get out of the deep end of the dating pool and try more shallow waters.

Humans were designed for companionship, and men and women function better together. Family and the right friends, those who are in committed relationships, should once again take a vested interest in seeing marriage become great again.

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Shun Smith

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