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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Dating, Like, Whatever


 

Last week, I returned from a trip whereby I visited with longtime friends who have six children. During the much-needed respite, I had an opportunity to speak with their eldest daughter (“Ariadne”), a junior in high school, and her mother about the girl’s dating prospects.

 

Ariadne informed me that many adolescents with who she attends school have a different perspective on dating than I did when in her grade. Reportedly, Ariadne’s peers are more concerned with hooking up (having sex) than forming committed intimate partner bonds.

 

Although her subjective experience isn’t indicative of a nationwide pattern, I was surprised to learn of how little focus Ariadne’s peers apparently devote to pair-bonding. For context, consider the following source:

 

In biology, a pair bond is the strong affinity that develops in some species between a mating pair, often leading to the production and rearing of young and potentially a lifelong bond. Pair-bonding is a term coined in the 1940s that is frequently used in sociobiology and evolutionary biology circles. The term often implies either a lifelong socially monogamous relationship or a stage of mating interaction in socially monogamous species. It is sometimes used in reference to human relationships.

 

Ariadne’s mother reinforced the report I was provided by her daughter. Seemingly, adolescents within their area have a “transactional” approach to dating, per the mom. In terms of courtship, a transactional method applies to treating the relationship as one would conduct business, especially in regards to buying or selling.

 

For instance, when I was a junior in high school it was customary to date with intention. I treated mate selection (dating) as a filtration process for acquiring a girlfriend. The girlfriend relationship then served the purpose of assessing likelihood for success in marriage.

 

This process generally related to monogamy—the practice or state of being intimately involved with only one person at a time. As such, dating with intention facilitated the function of hypergamy—marriage into an equal or higher caste or social group.

 

However, according to Ariadne and her mom, dating among adolescents in their area now serves a transactional function whereby resources are exchanged for romantic or sexual fulfilment. Although teens during the era of my high school days were also engaging in sexual activity, I recall that many people with whom I was familiar sought monogamous relationships.

 

Of course, my recollection is representative of a subjectively biased cohort of individuals. Also, a transactional element applies to relationships of various sorts. Likewise, I understand that ethical non-monogamy [ENM] is increasingly practiced by 15 to 30-something-year-old people in modernity, as indicated by many of my clients.

 

According to some people with whom I practice Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), both females and males within this age range prefer ENM, on average. Explanations about this phenomenon vary, though generally speaking, I’ve been informed that neither sex ultimately benefits from this dating strategy.

 

In fact, in a blogpost entitled A Patchwork Quilt, I remarked about this phenomenon by stating that “what I’m curious about is whether or not those who have inherited social norms of monogamy—and whom may know very little about what effects ENM may have—understand about their actions.”

 

Regarding this matter, I now turn to content I recently encountered from the Whatever podcast. On one episode, psychologist Orion Taraban stated of his expressed views on a YouTube episode of Soft White Underbelly (SWU), “there was some controversy” with his statements regarding “the transactional nature of relationships.”

 

For context, in the SWU episode Taraban stated:

 

Let’s be clear. When people say “romantic,” it’s really just, in most cases, a euphemism for sexual. So, are sexual relationships transactional? Yes. Are romantic relationships transactional? Not necessarily.

 

But then we have to get into what romantic love is, which is very different from, let’s say, anything else. It’s its own beast. And part of what makes romantic relationships work is that they are unrequited, that they are obstructive, and that they tend towards tragedy and failure. Romantic relationships have, as their unconscious destination, dissolution [separation].

 

So, in that sense, romantic relationships (i.e., relationships that are dominated with the ideal and the idea of romantic love) are not necessarily transactional. They can actually be very one-sided. But in anything that remotely approximates a healthy adult relationship, yes – those relationships are transactional.

 

I can understand how some people – “mostly women,” as expressed by Taraban on the Whatever podcast – may self-disturb with irrational beliefs about what they inflexibly assume shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to have been stated by Taraban. However, such sentiment violates the naturalistic fallacy—a conclusion that expresses what ought not to be, based on what is not.

 

As an example, woman X may unproductively believe, “Dr. Taraban ought not to describe sexual or romantic relationships as transactional, because they simply are not!” While it may be true that not all intimate relationships are transaction, surely some or even many are.

 

Forgive me a personal anecdote to illustrate at least one pragmatic, although subjective, example to support my claim. Since childhood, I was taught that males (boys and men) should woo (romance) females (girls and women) through use of transactional means.

 

In elementary school, I gave away my late grandmother’s broach that was given to me for safekeeping. The girl who received the amethyst jewelry was the object of my young desire, though she quickly shifted her attention elsewhere upon receipt of my gift.

 

In junior high school, I thought that I fell in love with a girl who was a resident at a children’s home at which I lived. Despite having written poems and drawn romantic pictures for which she expressed excitement, she wound up dumping me for a high school boy.

 

In high school, I purchased 1001 Ways to Be Romantic by Gregory Godek and used many of the ideas from his book with girls in whom I sought pair-boding relationships. For instance, I was on a first-name basis with three local florists, made mixtapes and handcrafted gifts, and spent what little money I had on inexpensive dates.

 

For one girl who served as the first person with whom I was truly in-love, I made a treasure map out of a recycled grocery bag, hid her birthday gift in a park, took her to the location, and we conducted a treasure hunt together. Alas, she and I never even made it to the dating phase of a relationship.

 

In adulthood, I continued the practice of romanticism. For instance, when in Rio de Janeiro, I decorated a quaint little hotel room with rose petals, ordered expensive room service, and celebrated my girlfriend who lived in a favela – as she expressed never before having been treated so favorably.

 

In relatively little time afterwards, she informed me that she’d been impregnated by a Brasilian man. Not one to be disillusioned by romantic hardship, later in adulthood I purchased 1001 Ways to Be Romantic: More Romantic Than Ever by Godek.

 

I then used new and improved methods of wooing for other intimate partner prospects, all which resulted in dissolved romantic relationships. Under the standards of modernity, my past behavior is now referred to as “love bombing.” One source describes this phenomenon thusly:

 

Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by demonstrations of attention and affection. It can be used in different ways and for either positive or negative purposes. Psychologists have identified love bombing as a possible part of a cycle of abuse and have warned against it. It has also been described as psychological manipulation in order to create a feeling of unity within a group against a society perceived as hostile.

 

I argue that none of my past actions regarding the hope of establishing a pair bond through transactional means was correlated with or caused by a cycle of abuse. I genuinely wanted to connect with females in a manner I ignorantly believed they actually desired.

 

Now, long since the days of what I joking refer to with my friend “Blanca” as “sucka shit,” I no longer romance women. Having gone my own way, I adaptively and unconditionally accept what is without nonsensically demanding that things ought to be any other way.

 

My decision to discontinue intimate partner relationships was based on a rational decision and not the result of self-disturbed beliefs. Because I’m not in the habit of giving advice, I don’t recommend the path I’ve chosen to others.

 

Nevertheless, I can understand the confusion Ariadne experiences, as she reportedly desires a monogamous relationship with a boy her age. Likewise, I can comprehend the challenges faced by Blanca’s daughter, also a junior in high school, as she apparently shuns monogamy.

 

Keeping in mind that females and males aren’t monolithic groups wherein all members think, believe, and behave alike, I don’t subscribe to the irrational belief of global evaluation of others (i.e., all men cheat, all women are greedy, etc.). Nonetheless, I do believe that perhaps many females and males employ characteristically similar dating strategies.

 

Regarding this supposition, Taraban proposes an absolute scenario by stating on the Whatever podcast episode, “All men pay to access a relationship with a woman – whether it’s for a night or for a lifetime – but the more she likes you, the greater this discount.” for the record, I question the proposition regarding “all” men and dating behavior.

 

Taraban continues, “In general, my approach to the sexual marketplace is – in a grossly simplified way – that men attempt to trade resources for sexual opportunity and women attempt to exchange their sexual opportunity for resources.” Here, Taraban refines his globally evaluative stance to one regarding generalization—that which is taken into consideration as a whole.

 

Taraban continues:

 

“Resources,” I’m defining in the broadest possible way. It means, like, anything that isn’t sex. So, it could be money. But it could also be time. It could also be attention. It could also be emotional validation. It can be instrumental support – somebody who’s going to help take the refrigerator up the stairs when it needs to. It could be somebody who’s exciting, who can provide emotional stimulation, or the alleviation of boredom. Like, “resource” can mean many different things to many different women and it will change for the same woman over time. That’s what makes it so difficult to maintain long-term relationships, is that what people want constantly changes.

 

In terms of strict generality – not attempting to irrationally propose that this stance applies to all women or men – I concur with Taraban’s assessment. This is one of the reasons I was surprised by my beliefs about intimate partner relationships when I once conducted couples psychotherapy.

 

Romantic partner X would reach out on behalf of a dyad (couple), with the interest of repairing the pair bond relationship, though partner Y had clearly decided that the relationship was beyond repair. The partner Y’s of the world generally experience desire shifts and cling to beliefs about how they must be fulfilled in every imaginable way; otherwise, they look elsewhere for romance.

 

Again, and to be exceedingly clear, my subjective experience and the proposal of Taraban doesn’t apply to all women or men. For that matter, it may not be true of most or even the majority of people.

 

Yet, I argue that these perspectives undeniably represent perhaps many females and males. For Blanca’s daughter and Ariadne – two girls who live in different parts of the United States (U.S.) and know nothing about one another – similar reports corroborate my and Taraban’s generalized suggestions.

 

Interestingly, on a more recent episode of the Whatever podcast, two women provided supportive information regarding this topic. Here’s a sample of the dialogue worth considering:

 

Female guest 1: I want to find…okay, I feel, like, it’s really, like, mean and, like, not fair to ask one person to give you everything you need. Like, you can’t ask someone to give you love, emotional support, financial support, all, like, this stuff. So, I feel like you need one person for each of the things you want.

 

So, I’m gonna get three. I’m looking for three, and this is not a joke. I’m looking for three husbands. One that’s gonna give me love, one that’s gonna give me financial support, and then one that’s gonna be there sexually. And that’s why relationships are so important. Human beings aren’t meant to be monogamous.

 

Female guest 2: I agree. I heard something where it was, like, when you’re with a partner who gives you 90% of what you want, you’ll go looking for that 10% in, like, another person no matter what. So, if you have three guys then it equals it out. They all give you what you want.

 

Just prior to going my own way, I spoke with a female friend (“Rhea”) about similar views she expressed. I told Rhea that I was generally considered a “nice guy” and I couldn’t understand why the women I chose seemed to desire “bad boys,” as they labeled them.

 

Rhea responded something to the effect of:

 

When we have nice guys, it’s boring. We know we’re gonna get flowers. We know we’re gonna be told how beautiful we are. We know we don’t have to worry about cheating or him beating our ass. We know he’s predictable. That’s boring.

 

But when we’re with a bad boy, it’s chaotic. We never really know if he’s gonna compliment us, so we have to work for it. If he says, “Damn, baby, you look good,” I know I earned that compliment. It feels better when it’s not predictable.

 

He rarely buys flowers or gifts, or notices our hair, or texts us back. It’s frustrating! But you know that chaos comes with energy. I can feel it when I’m with a bad boy. My heart pounds and my blood boils. When I’m with a nice guy, none of that.

 

I mean, I don’t want to have to check somebody’s phone. I don’t want him to cheat on me or hit me. But if any of that happens, it’s like he cares enough not to be mediocre. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s what I prefer a bad boy to a nice guy. I want passion!

 

Truly, Rhea’s subjective desire doesn’t align with the perspective of all females. Nevertheless, there are some girls and women who prefer chaotic relationships. Given the variation of viewpoints expressed thus far, it may be helpful to summarize this information.

 

To summarize the perspective of Ariadne and her mother, adolescents in modernity are more concerned with sexual encounters than they are with forming committed intimate partner bonds. Additionally, these types of encounters are predicated on transactional behavior.

 

To summarize the perceived worldview of Blanca’s daughter, committing to a single person isn’t a beneficial strategy to achieving fulfillment. Rather, malleable boundaries within the context of pair-bonding, even if the other relational participant prefers monogamy, are preferable to restraint.

 

To summarize reports from some of my clients, females and males between the ages of 15- to 30-years-old generally prefer ENM. Moreover, on average, this dating strategy appears to be non-beneficial to both sexes.

 

To summarize Rhea’s admission, women like her prefer the passion experienced with their beliefs about how “bad boys” treat them. Whereas a “nice guy” is predictable and beliefs about him elicit a mediocre response, women like Rhea prefer mistreatment or neglect from romantic partners.

 

To summarize my viewpoint prior to having gone my own way, showering females with attention in order to earn their affection was a losing strategy for me. Having rationally decided to abort pair-bonding altogether, I no longer concern myself with transactional romance, monogamy, or unrequited love.

 

To summarize Taraban’s proposal, sexual relationships are transactional, and romantic relationships are one-sided and destined for dissolution. Also, men attempt to trade resources for sexual opportunity and women attempt to exchange their sexual opportunity for resources.

 

To summarize the position of the Whatever podcast female guests, it’s unlikely that one romantic partner can simultaneously provide love or emotional and financial support. As well, at least one intimate partner in a pair bond will likely search for hypergamous advantage to achieve personal desire.

 

Admittedly, each of these expressed attitudes is unreliable when determining the overall state of dating within the U.S. Although these perspectives correlate with the views of some females and males – and perhaps they suggest observable trends for many people – analysis regarding these points of view isn’t scientifically rigorous.

 

Without valid and reliable answers to the inferred dating problem within the U.S., one may wonder why I chose to draft and post this blog entry. After all, the information contained herein likely doesn’t make many people feel better about intimate partner relationships.

 

As an REBT practitioner, I’m not as concerned with helping people feel better, as much as I aim to help people get better. Therefore, I value telling people what is (or at least what appears to be the case) more so than valuing what others irrationally believe ought to be.

 

For the sake of discussion, suppose that the summaries provided herein are true – that the state of dating is, like, whatever – that it could reasonably be described as an abysmal ordeal. Because of your limited control and influence, I wonder if you can tolerate and accept what simply is.

 

Dating is a dreadful endeavor? Can you allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of this matter even though you don’t necessarily like or agree with it, without interference in your day-to-day life?

 

Dating is, like, whatever (annoying, frustrating, or perplexing)? Can you endure it without illogical and unreasonable protest or self-disturbing reaction to your beliefs about the matter?

 

There very well may be some males who trade resources for sexual opportunity and some females who exchange sexual opportunity for resources. As well, you may not be the beneficiary of this dating strategy. Can you use high frustration tolerance if faced with this possibility?

 

While I don’t recommend that others follow the path I’ve chosen in regards to dating, I wonder what rational method of living you will pursue if faced with the perceivably appalling state of modern dating. If you would like to know how to keep from upsetting yourself with beliefs about this issue, I’m here to help. If not, then, like, whatever.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

 

References:

 

Godek, G. P. (2010, September 1) 1001 Ways to Be Romantic: More Romantic Than Ever paperback – September 1, 2010. Amazon. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/1001-Ways-Be-Romantic-More/dp/1402244088

Godek, G. P . (1995, January 1). 1001 Ways to Be Romantic paperback – January 1, 1995. Amazon. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/1001-Ways-Romantic-Gregory-Godek/dp/1883518059

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