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The Slow Lane on the J-Dating Highway

Dating is like microwaving a meal. Enter King Soopers grocery. Peruse the aisles for best looking and most healthy mac-n-cheese option. Quickly make purchase in self check-out line. Drive home. Pop meal into microwave. Shovel it in semi-attentively. Toss cardboard dish into recycle bin.

If you are more of a planner, you might have picked up a few meals while at King Soopers and stashed them in the freezer for a rainy day. But the consumption is the same—instant gratification and fleeting amusement.

Dating has not always been this way. Dating used to be called “courtship” and implied a search for long-term partnership and/or marriage. In the early 1900’s, middle class menschen called upon a shadchan to find their beshert. Then they would show up at a woman’s doorstep armed with flowers and pre-planned poetry. These were the days when romance signified heterocentric traditions of manly strength and womanly virtue. As gender became more fluid in the 1960s, women began to challenge cultural and social inequities and the sexist structure of power. By the 1970’s and 1980’s traditional gender roles lost universal acceptance. Everyone was getting an education, and marriage became more and more delayed, if done at all. Add in the evolution of our electronics, and now our social climate operates on the fast-forward button, as evidenced by how we instant message, instant email, instant shop, drive, eat and meet.

But how did we get here? How did the deliberate courtship dance decompensate into an expeditious dating game devoid of deeper intentions?

Sociologist Anthony Giddens credits society’s rising emphasis on individualism and globalization. The conundrum is that we crave intimate connections, endlessly look for love, yet we simultaneously struggle with a high-speed culture centered on self-satisfaction . Thus, intimacy and dating are simply a means to an end where the end goal becomes self-gratification.  The lack of commitment creates an easily dissolvable relationship. Hence, dating simulates the microwave meal, a transitory activity done for fun. Two people hooking up only long enough for their erotic needs to be met.

With globalization people can connect worldwide without being physically proximate with one another, as seen by online dating. However, people may feel easily disposable as web-relationships are easy to enter and exit and individuals can be traded in for seemingly superior profiles. As such, dating, particularly the online version, starts to feel like a casual commodity.

The silver lining is that while individualism may encourage people to act in a more self-focused fashion, intimacy cannot exist without the authentic development of the self. And though globalization may make dating feel like window-shopping for love, it does provide connections across oceans. When people only interact face-to-face, sexual intimacy tends to be the focus. Online exchanges, however, encourage other types of communication, such as emotional and intellectual intimacy. This can create a more meaningful and genuine connection, especially in a climate where dating can be an informal endeavor.

But whether you date online or off, whether you are single and searching, or whether you are tied together for the past four decades, developing deeper bonds and interacting with intention can still be accomplished in today’s climate. The challenge is making casual connections more intimate.

Our individualized human nature often creates a strong, solid shell that is intended to prevent others from wounding our core. But when we hold love at an arm’s distance, we never really love at all. If each of us is an artichoke, the goal becomes to allow ourselves and another to slowly peel back the layers of those prickly, protective leaves until we arrive at the soft, juicy interior. We do this by communicating and sharing pieces of ourselves.

Yes, we can easily pop in the microwavable mac-n-cheese meal, but it takes more time and courage to create a new cuisine from scratch. The end result may be a shakshouka with a broccoli kugel side. Yet when you grow your own ingredients and combine them in creative ways, the meal melts in your mouth and is more satisfying.

So go ahead and date. But if you are looking for deeper intimacy, be willing to shed some layers of your inner artichoke. “Slow down, you movin’ too fast, you gotta make the morning last, just kickin’ down the cobblestones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

Have a sexy Shabbos!

About Dr. Jenni Skyler

Jenni Skyler, PhD, MSEd is a sex therapist and board certified sexologist. She is the Director of The Intimacy Institute for sex and relationship therapy in Boulder, Colorado. She holds a doctorate in Clinical Sexology and a Master of Education in Counseling Psychology - Marriage and Family Therapy track. She has worked in the field of sexual health as a therapist, educator, and public health consultant since 2005. In addition, Jenni is a PAIRS® certified instructor and hosts workshops and retreats to help couples emotionally enrich their relationships.

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