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   ‘The Dating Project’ | Wiki­media Commons

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.”