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Lecturer promotes revised campus dating culture

| Thursday, February 13, 2014

For the second installment of the Theology on Tap series, Bree Haler, assistant director of evangelization for the Office of Campus Ministry, talked about the “lost art of dating” at Legends on Wednesday night.

Although she said she has only worked at Notre Dame for a semester, that time has allowed her to make some observations on the way people romantically relate to one another on campus. She said dating, or a lack thereof, tends to hold three separate forms: pseudo-marriage, hooking up and opting out.

The pseudo-married couples are the people who always seem to be together, she said. Their relationship seems to exist in a vacuum, or they lack meaningful relationships outside of the emotional intimacy they share together.

The hook-up culture, on the contrary, lacks any emotional intimacy, Haler said.

“It involves physical intimacy where emotional intimacy does not exist, and I think it’s a purposefully vague word,” she said.

Haler said some people “opt out” of dating by staying busy, pursuing academics, working and volunteering.

“Hooking up doesn’t really speak to our nature, for what we’re created for, for what our hearts really desire,” she said. “Pseudo-marriage in a vacuum is kind of just as isolating as hooking up and opting out. Opting out kind of just forfeits both kinds of intimacy and says, ‘I’m not really going to try because I don’t believe what I want and desire exist.’”

The reality is that we are created for more than these extreme styles of relationships, Haler said.

“Many people are just really confused about the meaning of love and the purpose of sex,” she said. “I think many of us are searching for the meaning of life and love, but we don’t realize that the answer is actually right in front of us.

“I think the key to finding that love is really hidden in God’s original design for our bodies and our souls. God is actually hidden in our design as males and females, a key and secret to love. The point in sharing it is that our desire to be in relationship with others is in our nature.”

Haler said hook-up culture distorts this and makes people feel bad for wanting more than a meaningless hook up. Today’s society even expects the Church to bend to the moral laxity of secular culture or to soften its moral doctrine, she said.

“The Church’s teaching on sexuality is not in place for enforcing rules or control over us, and I don’t think it’s meant to come from this place of rigidity or to keep us unhappy,” Haler said. “I think the Church’s teaching on sexuality is not meant to confine us but to really liberate us to love others and to give us the capacity to give of ourselves freely in the way that we were designed to do.”

Haler said utilitarianism is a key issue in society today, and relates to the dating scene as well. She said people pursue comfort, advantage and benefit because they want whatever maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain.

“Utilitarianism is so much a part of our modern world that many people today, even good meaning and well-intentioned Christians, may approach relationships in terms of how useful a person is in helping me achieve my goals,” she said.

This is neither a way of existing or loving, Haler said. To combat this problem, she proposed dating.

“Our hook-up culture makes it seem like it’s impossible to date and expressing interest in somebody and then asking them out is like a marriage proposal,” she said. “We take it so seriously and it’s so ripe with anxiety that we just avoid it.

“[But] the more we get to know people we’re interested in, the more we realize the type of person we want to be with in relationship exists. If we date more, the breadth of our experience alone allows us to discover what we’re really looking for and what it is that we need in a companion to be compatible.”

Her rule is to ask somebody out and to do it in person, Haler said.

“We are a Facebook, Snapchat, text message generation, so most of our communication is not in person,” she said. “But if we cannot risk vulnerability in asking somebody out and putting ourselves out there face to face, then we never lay the foundation for communication in a relationship.”

In addition to her rule, Haler recommended three phases to the dating process. She said phase one involves dates one through three, and date one must be a “phase one” date.

“No alcohol. You have to be able to speak soberly,” she said. “And no physical interaction. Also, if you ask, you pay. If the girls are asking, the girls are paying. It’s considerate, and it shows that you care to then pay for the date.’

Gathering information, revealing interesting traits and showing interest in the other all within the time cap of an hour and a half are incorporated in phase one, Haler said. Phase two involves dates four and onward.

“What you’re doing here is really getting to know this person better, revealing things about yourself,” she said. “Phase two dating is exclusive. In phase two dating, everyone is still responsible for their own feelings. No one is bearing the burden of anyone else’s heart yet.”

Finally, phase three dating involves the “define the relationship” (DTR) talk, she said, and finally, the relationship.

“The more we put ourselves out there, the more we realize that what we want and what we desire in relationship — it exists,” Haler said.

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About Carolyn Hutyra

Carolyn Hutyra serves as an Assistant News Editor for The Observer. She is a senior from Arlington Heights, Illinois studying Biology and Anthropology.

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