Young singles are dating less and hooking up more for sex before they even go on one date.Whether the trend comes from the various opinions that young adults are not interested in commitment (after all many of their parents divorced), have more access to online porn, are too busy working and going to school to date, or want to delay relationships, the research is clear that dating patterns are changing, and confusion abounds. Even the word “hookup” means different things to different people. For some hooking up means casually hanging out. For others hooking up means having a sexual encounter. I hope that young adults reach a consensus that undefined relationships and casual encounters are not satisfying in the long run, and the ambiguity can cause more loneliness and heartache. These students will not be prepared to fall in love and stay in love, nor will they have developed important relationship skills when they are ready for committed relationships.

There is no getting around the reality that emotional attachments are developed in sexual relationships. In my book Make Up Don’t Break Up, I take a sensible and emotionally safe approach to teaching couples how to nurture friendships, and communicate feelings—which gives clarity and eliminates conflicting expectations. However, with this trend of college students hooking up without dating first, women are not only lowering their standards for what they might want or need from a relationship, they don’t even know the person well enough to determine whether they might want him to stick around.

In Make Up Don’t Break Up with accompanying videos Falling in Love and Staying in Love, I teach skills for nurturing and growing lasting relationships. The lack of dating before sex tells me that young adults are sleeping with virtual strangers, which is alarming. And, this casual hook up trend will not help people understand how to get a relationship started.

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