While recently scrolling through headlines, I came across one proclaiming, “How to be charming on a date.” Clicking on it, I found five tips, complete with detailed explanations of how to carry out this charm. These are summarized below:

  1. Be well-dressed – Be stylish, but simple. Avoid trends, choosing instead clothing items which put you in your best light.
  2. Be confident – Using body language such as correct posture can go a long way toward projecting an attitude of self-confidence, even if that confidence doesn’t naturally exist.
  3. Be interested – Focusing on the other person, listening, and asking care-filled, but not prying, questions is a great way to show interest and concern for the other individual.
  4. Be vulnerable – Confiding in others by sharing embarrassing moments or more private feelings goes a long way toward appearing not only personable, but trustworthy and likeable.
  5. Be polite and respectful – Manners matter, not only toward the individual you’re sharing the date with, but also toward those around you, including the wait staff serving you.

Glancing through these insights, I couldn’t help but recognize the straightforward, common sense nature of them. They don’t seem like major things to write home about. But judging from today’s dating culture, they are in fact very revolutionary and eye-opening tips simply because young people don’t know how to date in a way that marches toward marriage.

This problem is one which Boston College professor Kerry Cronin has brought attention to in recent years. In the recent documentary, The Dating Project, Cronin explains:

“I started asking students to go on what I referred to as ‘traditional dates.’ By the end of the semester they really hadn’t been able to accomplish that, even though they all said they wanted to, but they just had no idea what a date was, how you would ask, what to talk about on a date. They were so stressed, not only about who this would be and the possibility of getting rejected, but the whole model of dating was… gone. And so that was when I realized that dating is a social script that’s no longer being supported by our culture.”  

Why is this? Could it be that many are so self-absorbed that they no longer know how to put themselves out there to vulnerably get to know another person? Or could it instead be related to cultural obsession with love – a love that is simply fixated on emotional feelings rather than lasting commitment?

It was this latter type of love which the demons Screwtape and Wormwood sought to foster in C.S. Lewis’ infamous Screwtape Letters. As Screwtape explains in the following passage, the best way to trip up humanity is to convince them that the emotional highs of “love” are what make a marriage relationship work, when in reality, the opposite is true:

“[H]umans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy. The error is easy to produce because ‘being in love’ does very often, in Western Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion very often, but not always, attends conversion. In other words, the humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result. Two advantages follow. In the first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves ‘in love’, and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. Yes, they think that. They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion.”

Could it be that this quest for only the emotional forms of love is what is making even the most basic aspects of dating difficult for many young people to fathom? Is it time we recognized that true love isn’t just hearts, flowers, and feelings, but basic, common sense commitment to endure the struggles of life with a mutually-flawed human being?