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Bye, situationships; hello, mindful and intentional romance

By Ashlee Baritugo Published Feb 09, 2024 5:00 am

Experts say that getting a match on a dating app can be as thrilling as getting double the money back on a slot machine at a casino.

The same part of our brains is activated on both occasions: a “dopamine spike” goes haywire, making us crave more. A chemical messenger connected to motivation and pleasure, dopamine reactions are heightened each time we discover a match due to the potential “reward” that comes with it.

Dopamine swipes and endless choices – welcome to the modern love game.

The rush from dating apps can be addicting. This is how the dating app phenomenon has changed the game for Gen Z: if your social circles can’t grant you the connection you’re looking for, dating apps offer an abundance of people you otherwise would have never met.

How long are we going to endure “talking stages” until we realize that our approach to dating needs to change?

It’s in these seemingly endless possibilities, however, that we find ourselves at a crossroads. When one talking stage fails, we can easily replace it with another, then another, then another, until we’ve somehow perpetuated an endless loop of bad ghosting habits and frustrating, undefined situationships.

As a player of the dating app game five years ago, it took all but too many matches to keep count, a series of bad ghosting habits on my part, and a few regrettable dates for me to finally see how mindless participation in dating apps and the culture it enables can lead us to a downward spiral of somewhat compulsive behavior in how we view romantic relationships.

Talking stages and TikTok trends: where do we draw the line?

While hookups and ghosting culture precede dating apps, it’s only in more recent years that we’ve seen a steady rise in the use of terms like “situationships” and “talking stages.” This is a result of Gen Z finding the need to name widely shared experiences across our generation.

As years pass, our dating culture seems to be a growing Pandora’s box of trends and terms: TikTok trends dictate our “icks” or “Ins/Outs,” “softblocking” is the new ghosting, and one small slip-up can ruin your entire romantic potential.

Looking back on a year filled with dates, kisses, and unexpected moments, courtesy of the #DatingWrapped trend on TikTok.

Towards the end of 2023, for instance, marked year two of “Dating Wrapped” presentations, with thousands of TikTok users enumerating all their dates and talking stages of the year, some even going as far as counting all the kisses, hookups, and free car rides (or lack thereof) with each date.

While looking back on dating experiences offers an opportunity for reflection, the enormity of the “Dating Wrapped” trend begs the question: at what point can we recognize whether we’re dating with intention, or dating just to keep up with the rest of our generation?

There’s no doubt that sometimes these experiences can be all fun and games, and often in retrospect can also be learning experiences. But how many years are we going to keep tallying all of our bad, “mid” and decent dates until we realize that our approach to dating may need to be more mindful?

Dating with intention: The new “in” for 2024

While dating apps and embracing the gray area of relationships may work perfectly fine for some, it’s still worth considering that these types of approaches to dating shouldn’t be all we know. When we aren’t firm with what we want out of dating and can’t maintain our boundaries, it’s much easier to find ourselves in six-month-long talking stages or year-old situationships.

Pausing to ask ourselves questions like, “Why do I want to start dating? Am I looking for something short-term or long-term? What do I expect out of a romantic relationship? How can I handle a situation that turns out isn’t right for me?” can lay the perfect foundation for more mindful dating experiences both for you and the people you meet.

Navigating the dating journey with purpose and heart.

Dating with more mindfulness means staying truly connected with our needs and values, and seeing people not as easily replaceable but as people with their own needs and values, too.

From this, we create and allow space for meaningful connections, see dating as an opportunity to practice respect for ourselves and others, and even learn how to establish our boundaries.

Multiple factors come into play in our romantic relationships, but it’s always a good idea to consciously keep in mind what works for you, what doesn’t, and what you’re willing to work on. Even something as simple as ditching the “who texts first” game for a sweet and simple text expressing your boundaries can go a long way toward building the confidence to assert your needs and discovering someone’s capacity to meet them. 

When we date with intention and stay in tune with our needs, dating no longer becomes transactional but a multifaceted learning experience about yourself, how you treat people, and how others treat you.