Dating in the age of the Internet is so much easier. Or is it? How many emojis are too many emojis? Are exclamation points juvenile? How long do you wait to follow up on a date? While these days, you don't even have to leave your bed to set a date with a beautiful stranger, the dicey dynamics of virtual communication take a toll on us poor souls who just want to settle down without the drama. Well, for those that need a hand navigating this modern and scary world of modern dating, David Berry, the Miami-based dating aficionado and entrepreneur, is there for us. When Berry was 28 and single, he started a blog chronicling all of his adventures in dating. 4 years later, that project turned into a book: The Ten Phases of Dating. Check out what Berry has to say to us on the future of monogamy, how to sizzle up stale relationships, and hear the hilarious (and terrifying) story of his worst date ever.
Your book is geared towards dating for millennials. You cover topics such as texting and emoji etiquette and how social media influences dating. How do you think technology has changed dating nowadays compared to previous generations?
It's made our lives easier and faster. It's removed the barriers to communication and helped us increase our odds at finding love. But there's always an inverse impact with these things. It's caused communication between the sexes to become informal or passive at times. Take Tinder, or Bumble. You don't have to hear anyone's voice, or pick up on their non-verbal cues, or anything—you don't even have to text. You just swipe. And with texting, you can send a half dozen messages in a minute. I think people fall in love with the idea of having a lot of attention or a lot of suitors, and that becomes a hindrance to actually finding love.
You also touch upon hooking up on the first date. Even if it's not the first date, people seem to hook up faster than ever. Why do you think it is?
This is a phenomenon that I can't pinpoint, but I think it has grown on the heels of people treating dating more casually. There seems to be an unspoken understanding that even when you go on a date with someone, you're still seeing other people until it actually gets serious. So it's almost like a buffet line—people seem open to trying everything that's in front of them, like dating several people at once, and that includes sampling sexual chemistry. But it still doesn't make sense to me, even though I very much enjoyed it while I was still single, LOL. Maybe that's it —there don't seem to be any repercussions for it, or rather, there don't seem to be any expectations associated with sex. A girl will let you have sex with her and not try to immediately tie you down. That's real right now. So why wouldn't you go for it?
What's up with people bailing on dates?
Right?! It goes back to number one—people don't feel like they're dealing with an actual person. They feel like they're dealing with a virtual reality of a person. So if they don't ever have to turn you down in person, or over the phone, they can take the easy way out. They bail on dates just as easily as they flee commitment—and it's simply because they can, without having to actually own up to any wrongdoing.
Do you think long term monogamous relationships are still relevant and desired? By which kinds of people?
I do. Everything I've said so far seems to fly in the face of that, but I'd venture to say that monogamous relationships are as desired as they've ever been, by a large share of people in our generation (the blanket labeled 'millennials'). Our parents and grandparents had a social construct that almost required relationships; our grandparents often needed marriage/monogamy so that someone could take care of the kids. Our parents needed it because the alternative was mostly frowned upon. But our generation doesn't need relationships to meet societal obligations the way past generations did—or at least not to the same extreme. To me, that means people who are seeking monogamy are doing it because they really want that romantic, once-in-a-lifetime, fairytale type of love. And the optimist in me believes that's an upside to the rapid fire, high volume dating world we're in. Let's compare it to car shopping (bear with me). In the past, if someone came from a good family and good values, well, that was like buying a Buick. Reliable, reputable—good enough. But now, we're willing to work for a Ferrari. We know it'll take more time to find it or afford it, but we don't want 'good enough.' We want the best love we can possibly find. With that said, I do believe monogamy is less relevant as a social construct, because you don't really need it in order to establish social, family order. But I believe monogamy is as desired as it's ever been.
What are your thoughts on starter marriages?
Sad. That seven year itch is real. I'm 32 and I have friends who got married in their early to mid-twenties who are coming back on the market. I think our generation has a much longer phase of growing into adulthood. We get master's degrees and change careers once or twice before we're in our mid-twenties. So we might think we're in love with someone when we're 21 or 22, but we really don't know who we are yet. So when we discover ourselves more fully, we find that we aren't as compatible with the person we fell in love with in our early 20s. We probably don't even like the version of ourselves that we were at that same age. I think, if you believe you've found the right person in your early 20s, awesome—wait. Date them. Stick with them. And if you still feel that way when you're 26, 27, pull the trigger on your marriage then. And it'll probably last.
What's your perspective on women juggling dating, careers, and motherhood?
It's harder than ever for women. Feminism has been a boon for the modern human in general, but our country in particular hasn't kept up with what it means to meet the needs of the modern woman. Paid maternity leave never used to be an issue because less than 20 to 25 years ago, a woman could leave the workforce and a family could still be supported on one income. Now, these women are raising families on their own, or they are the breadwinners outright in their families. To not support them in motherhood is a crime. If men gave birth, this wouldn't even be a conversation—there'd be months and months of corporate-funded maternity leave, but that's a chat for another day. With regard to dating, I think it's a great time to be a woman. Sites like Bumble in particular have risen on the construct of giving women the keys to the car and letting them drive. I think that's great.
How can you prevent boredom in a relationship?
Ironically, it comes from something quite boring on the surface—you have to out-plan your boredom. Make lists of things you want to do together; things that interest each of you as individuals, as well as both of you as a couple. Force yourself to do it. Wednesday night is date night? Awesome. Get out of the house. Make it a rule. Put yourself in a situation where neither of you is totally familiar with the surroundings, and you'll find yourself constantly reinventing that first date excitement, with the unknowns and new experiences. Shared experiences are binding. And the more new experiences you share together, the harder it is to fall into monotony.
Women are traditionally the ones who dictate relationships. What advice would you give men about this?
Set ground rules. Not by being a hard ass, but by communicating openly and often. We're known for being awful at this, but if a guy is in a situation where the woman is controlling the pace and the terms, fine—if you're happy with that. But if it comes at the expense of things that you value, speak up. Not with anger, but with care and consideration. Never [with], 'you make me feel like...' but instead with, 'I feel like...' If you ever feel like you're being pushed in a direction you're not happy with, telling someone how that makes you feel is much harder to argue with than if you point the finger and blame them for putting you in that position. 'I feel like my free time is something I need in order to keep a balance' will get a much better response than 'you don't value my free time.'
Why do you think most relationships fail?
Bad habits, poor consistency. Anyone can have good sex. Anyone can have butterflies. But you simply don't go the distance in any relationship unless you're doing the right things over and over again. Period, end of story.
What's the worst date you've ever been on?
Oh! Took a girl home after dancing the night away at a high end bar one night, three or four years ago. We had a total blast there. She asked if we could go back to my place, and having good manners, I said yes. We got back to my place, she tore my shirt off, starts making out with me intensely, and digging her nails into my back. Like, hard. I can handle pain, but...this was testing my tolerance. So naturally, I thought she was really into it. Ultimately, it turns out she didn't want to have sex, which is fine, except for the fact that she kept making out with me and digging her nails in my back. We eventually stopped and passed out. I woke up the next morning, confused and still in pain. I took her home, returned back to my place to clean up, and discovered blood all over my sheets—her fingernails had ripped my back open, and it took almost two weeks for the scratches/gouges to heal. We never spoke again.