John Buri, Ph.D., professor in the University of St. Thomas’ Psychology Department, takes dating seriously, and he hopes others will follow suit. In fact, he wrote an entire book on the subject titled Intentional Dating, published this year by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, and is oft-called “the love doctor” by students who have taken his perennially popular course, The Psychology of Marriage and Family.
Buri, who has been married many years to his high school sweetheart, noted, “There’s this idea of falling in love. But how difficult is it to fall? Not very. So the goal here is to be more intentional at our efforts at love.”
Intentional Dating was born of the idea that every culture that has been studied has had some form of dating/courtship − a way in which people move from single to coupled.
“We are in a situation now where dating with a marriage focus has been significantly altered. It’s just been in the last couple of generations. The purpose of the book is to suggest that we can make the dating process more intentional,” Buri said. To enforce his point, he noted a recent study that found that the more one dates “just for fun,” the more likely one is to have negative experiences while dating, and these experiences then tend to undermine marital success.
By dating “intentionally” Buri is suggesting that both parties approach their time together “reflectively,” with the awareness of the other’s “key traits and behavior patterns” as well as of their own. The end goal IS not just marriage but a happy marriage rooted in authentic love.
He doesn’t want his readers to walk away from his book feeling too much pressure, however. Rather, his advice for those embarking on their first couple of dates with someone is simple and straightforward: Take it easy. Get to know the other person – ask a lot of questions and be a good listener.
“We move in such an entertainment-focused culture that people who are dating very often simply go and get entertained together. You can’t learn very much about someone by watching a movie, but once the movie’s done you can take the opportunity to ask questions about what your date thought about it, for example,” Buri said.
“I’m of the opinion that if we don’t change the way we date we’re not going to construct more healthy marriages,” he said. This is reason for further soul-searching, he believes, because “marriages aren’t doing very well in our culture. We’re hovering at around a 45 to 50 percent success rate as far as marriages go. It’s been that way for years, and of the marriages that remain intact, it looks like 25 to 35 percent are actually happy. So what we’re doing isn’t working very well. I’m fairly certain we’re going to have to change how we’re doing dating if we’re going to change the way in which marriage unfolds.”
Whether you’re looking to find love over the holidays (or beyond) or focusing on strengthening your marriage, Buri offers “15 keys to finding love for a lifetime.” Below are a few of those keys to dating with intention:
- Don’t be deceived by “in-loveness.” Buri differentiates between love and what he calls “in-loveness.” Love, by it’s nature, comes with more responsibilities. In-loveness carries with it almost no accountability and usually ends when one partners falls out of the experience.
- Fondness, admiration and appreciation are at the heart of every successful marriage. Find someone and be someone who nurtures these qualities.
- Friends bring out the best in us. Find such a friend to marry, and be such a friend to them.
- If you want to find a healthy, long-term love, go easy on your sexual involvement; it will interfere with your capacity to choose a partner wisely.
- For the first six months, take discerning stock of a new relationship. Ask yourself: How does my partner treat people? Does he/she have a life? Can I trust him/her? Are there blatant differences between us?
- A pre-marriage counselor in the Catholic Church, Buri also encourages love-seekers to find someone who wants to develop an ongoing relationship with love of God.