We live in a society where instant gratification is revered and everything seems to be one-click away. The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10 percent in 2013 to 27 percent today. Online dating use among 55- to 64-year-olds has also risen substantially: 12 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds today report ever using an online dating site or mobile dating app versus only 6 percent in 2013.
One factor behind the substantial growth among younger adults is their use of mobile dating apps. About one-in-five 18- to 24-year olds now report using mobile dating apps; in 2013, only 5 percent reported doing so. (Pew Research Center, 2017)
However, I have observed through my clinical practice that ease and accessibility represent a double-edged sword when it comes to dating and maintaining romantic relationships in the digital age.
27 percent of young adults and 12 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds use dating apps.
The Problem with Living in the “Swiping” Era
Endless, curated profiles may appear to display options and possibility for the perfect match - but cultivating depth and longevity in a romantic relationship requires more than scrolling, swiping, and snapping. Ultimately what most people are traditionally seeking is a long-term relationship, in essence, to love and love fully.
At the end of day, the work that goes into building a relationship has not changed, even in the midst of our ever-changing technological society. Below are a few of the roadblocks to finding a good relationship today.
There’s Always Someone Better
In addition, because we are presented with many compressed options, there is propensity to believe that we are missing out on something better. The “grass is greener” phenomena shortens our attention spans and decreases our motivation to whole-heartedly pursue.
We’re All Perfectionists
There is also an increased tendency for inflated expectations and perfection, which is indicative of wanting to sustain the honeymoon phase. But this often leads to disappointment. (I often tell clients who are newly dating to assess their relationship not only on the new butterflies they are feeling, but on their first disagreement. This provides awareness into communication and conflict resolution styles, and provides a clear lens to gauge relationship longevity).
How to Cultivate Depth and Longevity in a Romantic Relationship
You Need to Be in Both “Rational” and “Irrational” Love
An authentic relationship is cultivated through both rational and irrational love. Successful, sustainable relationships have both. Rational love consists of checking boxes that signify this person meets your values. Irrational love consists of the crazy, physical attraction often portrayed in Hollywood movies. The catch is one without the other hinders depth and longevity. Both are necessary.
My observations display that the digital age has caused polarity: Either there is too much emphasis on sex/lust, or too much emphasis on fulfilling every criteria on a never-ending list. We need to acknowledge both our rational mind and our emotional mind to make a wise, balanced decision in considering romantic relationships.
Building a sustainable relationship takes time. It is important to be intentional and pace yourself. Pacing is critical to building a strong foundation. It also helps to create space for vulnerability, authenticity, and respect, which are the cornerstones for depth and longevity. Dating in the digital era has given rise to the “hook up culture,” which is antithetical to creating depth and longevity in a relationship.
Be mindful of understanding your reasoning when using dating apps. Not all users on dating apps are looking for a traditional, long-term relationship. Be intentional about who you are messaging, and be honest about your responses. Oftentimes, clients report they inflate their responses to “secure a date”. This may be enticing initially, but maintaining integrity even on a digital medium is important.
You Need to Have Values in Common
Shared values are important. “Values” are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life. Understanding one’s personal values is essential to building a fulfilling relationship. Significant value differences have an erosive impact on relationships, often leading to relationship dissatisfaction and dissolution.
When using dating apps, I encourage clients to write about their values extensively. This helps others who are viewing their profiles to understand what is most important to them, and it also helps facilitate the potential for better match outcomes. It is important to emphasize that values are analogous to a compass; they help to guide and sustain a relationship.
Ultimately, the digital era has revolutionized the way we meet others, but the art of building a relationship requires real effort, and thus, remains timeless. The digital era offers many tools that can make meeting others easy, but these tools are only helpful when considering and implementing real time relationship building strategies, as outlined above.