Life Stages in Dating

In her book Hooking Up, Kathleen Bogle discusses the transition from college to post-collegiate life and the changes in the dating scene that take place. According to Bogle, young adults’ expectations for physical and emotional intimacy change; casual relationships become more formal as social norms dictate longer-term relationships. The idea of needing to adjust one’s outlook to fit with the “rules of the game” for dating at a specific stage of life (e.g., high school, college, young adulthood, middle age) is an important thing to keep in mind at any age.

One question this raises is how a recently-single man or woman can cope with starting to date again. A person who has been in a long-term relationship may all of a sudden find them self in unfamiliar territory. This could be the plight of the middle-aged recent divorcee (as in Tom Hanks’ character in Sleepless in Seattle; now there’s an old movie reference), or a younger person at the end of a relationship that bridged their transition from high school to college, or from college to “real life.” This sort of “dating culture shock” involves the need to rapidly learn the new, unspoken rules of a process that was once very familiar. Although this may seem daunting, our brains are designed to learn and adapt to a changing social world. Like anything else, it just takes time.