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Tori Miller has moved nine times, covering more than 1,000 miles. At 28 years old, online dating has helped her meet new people and create a social life in new cities. Even when traveling, she opens up a dating app and tries to meet someone new if she has a night free.
“Most of the time, it doesn’t go much past getting a pleasant drink with a stranger, but sometimes you keep in touch,” Miller says. “Now, I have a network of friends across the country, many of whom started as matches from a dating app.”
Miller, who currently lives in downtown Raleigh, is figuring out the local dating scene, which she calls frustrating.
“I’ve never lived anywhere that had expectations that varied more—it’s crazy!” Miller says. “Some people want to take things ultra slow and seem afraid to even flirt, while other people lose interest if you won’t agree to go over to their place after talking for five minutes online. It seems to just be all over the map. That’s compounded by people assuming that I was kidding or just saying what people wanted to hear when I wrote out my expectations on my profile.”
Miller, whose career and exercise regimen keep her extremely busy, considers herself a causal dater. While she admits that things could change if the right person came along, she doesn’t have the time or energy to devote to building a serious relationship.
Miller is a perfect example of the idea that, in relationships, one size doesn’t fit all. We all come together for different reasons. Some, like Miller, date to meet new people. Some only want sex. Some date as a means to build a family. And some just want companionship, to avoid going through life alone. Whatever the reason, the same basic blocks build the foundation of becoming and remaining a couple.
“Similar definitions of love, relationship, commitment and faithfulness lead to a successful relationship,” says Whitney Johnson, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), a marriage counselor based in Raleigh. “When those definitions line up, couples tend to succeed more in relationships. Self-awareness, humility and an ability to see another’s perspective contribute greatly to successful relationships as well.”
Johnson says, from her observations, that couples are less present with one another today. As a result, they don’t know, and aren’t motivated to hear, each other and adapt as needed. Couples are spending time relating to their phones, she says, and not doing the work of relating to their partners.
In an age when being constantly digitally connected is basically a requirement, we, as a society, are less connected in person than ever before. We’re up an additional half hour more per day spending time on technological devices, and we’re more single. According to the dating website eHarmony, 48 percent of Americans were single in 2011, while 50 percent of Americans were single by 2015.
“I think times have changed in ways that have made it more challenging for people to meet people,” says Dr. Kate Freiman-Fox, a Triangle matchmaker and owner of the matchmaking business Authentic Connections. “A lot of people work from home and aren’t getting out to meet people. As a society, I think we’re losing some social skills. The electronic box in front of us is more interesting than the person in front of us.”
While technology has played a part in the age of distraction and instant gratification, we have to acknowledge that, as a whole, we as a society are not the same as we were half a century ago.
“My view is that our self-focused, quick fix society, as well as the rise of technology, have impacted the trend of giving up on relationships too soon,” Johnson says. “We trade in or up on cars, houses, computers, phones and all sorts of other things, so why wouldn’t this line of thinking apply to our relationships? When it’s no longer serving me, when I’m no longer getting out of it what I once was, when I want something that looks better or does more for me, I trade in my relationship. If we were to focus instead on how we could love another, how we could serve one another, how we could grow and deepen and become better ourselves, then our relationships would stick and last, and our society would surely be kinder and stronger for it.”
One aspect of relationships that has grown better over time, however, is partner equality. Gone is the standard of specific, traditional spousal roles, creating the more desirable atmosphere and expectation of shared domestic duties.
In a recent study from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Texas at Austin, the majority of single men and women between the ages of 18 and 32 stated that they would like an equal home environment, sharing responsibilities with their partner.
“I think gender roles, specifically, and the modernization of domestication has really changed the way spousal roles are implicated and influenced in society,” says the Rev. Jenny Shultz-Thomas of Community United Church of Christ, a progressive church located in west Raleigh that focuses on nurturing spiritual growth and working for social justice. “There’s more neutrality. It’s an egalitarian value versus a traditional default. I think that will continue to change and evolve.”
Shultz-Thomas says that, today, we have a different language for what we see as marriage and what we determine as an ethos of being bound together. There is a larger understanding and shared language for relationships and the quality of relationships.
“Because we, as a society, are evolving in the ways we understand our own selves, we have opened up a larger ability within ourselves to be more authentic and more affirming of each individual,” Shultz-Thomas says. “There is more happiness and more joy when more authenticity becomes the definition of life and how we are to live.”
Being authentic to herself is what keeps Tori Miller happy and successful in today’s world of dating. She has had fun meeting new people, building friendships and just experiencing the craziness that can come along with going on a date with a stranger.
“I went on a date with a guy once where everything I said about my career or my interests he’d just respond with a gushing description of how attractive it was as a quality,” Miller says. “It was to the point that I struggled to get him to contribute anything else to the conversation, until he started going off about how his ex-wife was ‘the death of fun.’”
For Miller, casual dating will continue to work for her, as she swipes left and right and explores her many options. This is in line with her millennial peers, who are, on the whole, delaying marriage or putting it off altogether, choosing instead to cohabitate, remain single or wait until they’re financially stable to make a long-term commitment.
“If I find the right person, I might re-evaluate, but I’m very happy being single and just going on fun dates and meeting interesting people,” Miller says. “Even if it doesn’t go very far.”
Tori Miller’s Digital Dating Do’s and Don’ts
• Do put together an interesting dating profile that gives potential dates something to start a conversation! On the flip side, comment on something in a potential date’s profile instead of just asking something generic like “How’s it going?”
• Don’t tell your date how attractive you find them every five minutes! It can totally derail the conversation, and while once might be nice, it starts to get uncomfortable when it’s the only thing coming out of your mouth. I want to have a conversation like a human being.
• Obviously, don’t catfish people. Everyone uses photos of themselves that are flattering, but if you’ve gained or lost a lot of weight, made big changes to your style, or basically done anything that makes your photos not representative, you should probably let your date know before you meet up. Blatant lies are also frowned upon.
Making Marriage Work
Tips on building a successful marriage from wedding planner Megan Gillikan, owner and lead consultant at the wedding planning service, A Southern Soiree, and “Weddings for Real” podcast host:
• Marry the person that makes you feel special and puts you first. If you’re early into a relationship and this person is already disappointing you or not showing up for you in a way you deserve, for goodness sake, don’t assume they will get better.
• Don’t be too proud or stubborn to apologize when you screw up.
• When it comes to planning a wedding, sit down with your partner and talk about the two or three things that are most important to each of you, and then work together to make those things happen.
• Remember, you’re a team and it’s you two against the world, so any problems that pop up in your relationship or marriage, you need to work together to figure them out.
• Once you get married, still remember to try and date your partner and find little ways to make them feel special. Being married doesn’t mean you get to stop trying to woo your partner.
• Remember to look in the mirror, too, at ways that YOU can be a better spouse/partner instead of always thinking about what your partner is not doing for you.
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