Do not be afraid to invest in someone, said Associate Professor of Theology Jordan Wales at a panel discussion on dating that followed the screening of a documentary film on the subject.
The department of Philosophy and Religion and the Dow Journalism Program hosted a showing of “The Dating Project,” on Tuesday in Plaster Auditorium.
The 2017 film presents five adults on their journey toward discovering the truth about the world of dating. Growing up in a hook-up culture, each feels unable to meet the right person.
In the documentary, Kerry Cronin, professor of philosophy at Boston College, says the root of the problem is the lack of structure in today’s relationships. She presented the art of dating as a solution.
“You want to fall in love with a person with character,” Cronin said. “What really matters is that they have this goodness.”
Throughout the film, Cronin encouraged students to take the risk of going on a date.
“If we’re afraid to get hurt, we’re depriving ourselves to feel,” Cronin said.
She gave a brief outline of the dating relationship by breaking it into three different levels.
Level one establishes a mutual friendship. She suggested students go on several dates during this period without having too many expectations.
Level two establishes exclusivity and the understanding of an existent relationship between partners.
By level three, the couple is leaning into each other for emotional support and considering the possibility of marriage.
Cronin stressed the danger of jumping to level three too soon, preventing people from developing healthy relationships with each other.
“If you feel like you have to make it work, it’s not worth it,” Cronin said.
After the documentary, students could ask questions to a panel featuring Wales and his wife, Kathryn, and Hillsdale Academy Headmaster David Diener and his wife, Brooke.
“The most important thing is to have open, honest communication about dating,” David Diener said. “I think where we draw the line between the three levels isn’t really the point. The point is to be open and honest about where the relationship is at, so that you are progressing in a healthy way.”
In the discussion, Kathryn Wales stressed Cronin’s point of taking risks in dating and learning not to define the dating experience by past failure.
“Awkwardness is a part of life,” she said. “You have to get good at relating to people. You have to learn how to recover in many different contexts.”
Each of the couples also emphasized the importance for creating groups that encourage natural friendships with the opposite sex.
“What I’m envisioning is that you have healthy relationships within a social context where the boys and girls can mix and get to know each other as friends,” David Diener said.
The panel also gave advice from a specifically Christian perspective.
“It’s very important that you understand that you have to become whole as a child of God and then you offer that wholeness to your spouse,” Kathryn Wales said. “This reciprocity is what helps you to know and love God as well because God is love and the relationship is love.”
The couples also emphasized the importance of not placing too high of an expectation on the dating process.
“We had other relationships that didn’t culminate in marriage,” Brooke Diener said. “That didn’t mean they were failures. We learned things from them that helped us make a better choice when it came to finding our spouse.”
Attendee and junior Andrew Davidson said the documentary resonated with him.
“I think right now in our culture it is coming to a head where people admit that getting distracted by sexuality is an impediment to actually forming a beautiful relationship with someone,” Davidson said. “If I actually want to get to know someone, leave the sex out of it.”
Jordan Wales advised students to take the risk and to take advantage of the dating opportunities available.
“Don’t let the pressure to get married or the fear of not finding the right person or messing up a friendship get in the way of development,” he said. “People need to learn how to engage in potential romantic relationships with one another, so tonight is as good a time as any to get started.”