Relationships are a critical part of an individual’s life, and romantic relationships are usually a crucial defining aspect, at all stages of life. Young adulthood is often viewed as a transition period from adolescence to adulthood; a time period in life which is marked by key stages of development. The years from 18 to 25 is the time when young adults are trying to create their own identity by moving away from parents for academics or career prospects, thereby reducing the emotional and physical dependency on parents, and this is also a time when they start engaging in romantic relationships, thereby exploring their ability to create and sustain long term relationship commitments.
Research from the developmental psychology perspective suggests that, being able to form and maintain intimate romantic relationships during the young adulthood years, is a critical developmental task, which if accomplished successfully, lays the foundation for future intimate relationships. Dating, or the process through which two individuals connect romantically with each other is an essential aspect of forming these intimate relationships in young adulthood.
Here are a few reasons for why dating is important in the young adulthood years:
- It is a part of the socialization process. As humans we always learn through the unique socialization processes that we are subjected to right from start, be it from family, school, or friends. In the world of romantic alliances, dating serves as that agent of socialization. It helps individuals learn relationship skills, develop their own strengths and weaknesses as a partner, and inculcates the ability to communicate healthily.
- It serves as a platform for learning about intimacy. Intimacy is what a person feels in a close relationship, and refers to the ability to feel safe and heard, and be comfortable in a relationship. Intimacy in a friendship would imply that two people are comfortable enough with each other that they are able to share their feelings. Similarly, intimacy in a relationship would play out, when two partners can openly talk to each other, trust each other, and get physically intimate, without a fear of being judged. And therefore, by helping people learn to get intimate, dating helps individuals develop meaningful relationships, with those from the gender that one feels attracted to.
- It helps provide companionship. By facilitating better communication, fostering healthy dependency, having someone to share interests with, dating serves as a platform to provide companionship. Dating creates friendships which can also last a lifetime, even if that relationship may not succeed.
- It helps in learning to navigate through challenging situations. A major function of dating is learning to understand that challenges are going to be a part of any relationship, and thus, it familiarizes a person with their coping methods, and thereby, teaches young adults to learn to navigate through these challenges. Dating helps in creating greater awareness about how an individual and their partner, may react in difficult situations.
It would suffice to say that the purpose of dating in young adulthood is usually to explore and get familiar with the whole concept of relationships, and lay down the foundation for a future romantic relationship or marital alliance.