Black couple kissing

Is romance really dead?

Traditional courting seems to have been replaced by a more casual and informal approach these days. I guess “vibing” is the new wave.  Has this shift in dating culture diminishing the prospect of finding genuine romance?

I don’t speak about my journey often because I was chillin’ in the shallow end of the “dating pool” until my Mr. emerged on the shores and carried me into our loving, committed union [Corny but you get it]. He saved me before the “pee” that everyone says is in the pool got to me. Before then, I was about my checks, degrees, and personal development.

These days in the “swipe left” era, meeting someone who was genuinely interested in a long-term commitment often feels like finding a needle in a haystack for many. Countless conversations with friends, both single and married, revealed a common sentiment among many Black women [and men too]—dating had become a complex maze to navigate. The issue wasn’t just about finding a partner; it was about discovering someone who was willing to invest time, energy, and emotion into building a solid foundation for a relationship.

One notable shift in this generation’s dating landscape is the reimagining of gender roles. Unlike the previous eras, where men typically took the lead in courtship and planning dates, the roles seem to have been leveled. While this might appear to be a sign of progress in terms of gender equality, it also introduced a sense of uncertainty and confusion. Who should initiate the first date? Who should make the move for exclusivity?

A recent viral skit of a woman named Alicia added some heat to this debate. In the video, she refused to leave her date’s car because he had taken her to The Cheesecake Factory, stating, “Who takes someone who looks like this to a chain restaurant? I cannot go into The Cheesecake Factory. I will die.” The video ignited a debate on social media about “places that women refuse to go on a first date.” Notably, popular restaurant chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, Denny’s, Olive Garden, Wingstop, and Red Lobster found their way onto this list. 

Moreover, the influence of digital personalities and dating experts like Kevin Samuels added a layer of complexity to dating dynamics. Samuels popularized the concept of a “high-value man,” promoting the idea that men with money, high social status, and physical attractiveness could set demanding standards for their partners. This perspective ignited debates about what Black women should expect in a partner and whether their expectations were reasonable. And this debate is still ongoing even after Samuels’ death.

The high-profile breakups of celebrity couples have also contributed to the ongoing debate about the relevance of courting for the purpose of marriage. Relationships like Tina Knowles and Richard Lawson, Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict, and Jeezy and Jeannie Mai, Eva Marcille and Michael Sterling, among others, ended in divorce despite appearing amazing on social media. They even had some members of the “God When” choir sangin’ in praise.

The societal pressure on Black women to settle or compromise their preferences is an issue that is often left unspoken. It’s as though any acknowledgment of one’s worth and standards is met with criticism or labeled as “being too picky.” This pressure to accept less than what we desire can lead to unfulfilling relationships and hinder our journey to finding true compatibility. As for Black men, the pressures of being a provider, and a leader of the family has its own share of responsibilities. Some rise to the occasion, while others struggle with an action plan and accountability like in this viral YouTube video with holistic health entrepreneur Minister Yahdan Yada, and his discussion with a fellow Black man the topic of a traditional man versus the 50/50 man.

There are a couple of things I’ve learned from others when talking about the shift in dating expectations: 

Patience is not just a virtue; it’s a necessary survival skill in modern dating. The right person might not come into your life immediately, but don’t be discouraged. Instead, use the time to understand yourself, develop your interests, and build your self-esteem. When you know who you are and what you want, you are better equipped to recognize a compatible partner.

Maintaining strong friendships is invaluable. Friends provide support, guidance, and a sounding board for your dating experiences. They can offer a fresh perspective, helping you navigate the ups and downs of the dating journey. 

Lastly, show up for yourself in the same way you would want your future boo to show up for you. Prioritize self-love and self-care. It’s easy to get caught up in the dating process and neglect your own well-being. Remember to take time for yourself, practice self-love, and engage in self-care activities that recharge you mentally and emotionally. When you love and care for yourself, you’re in a better position to attract a partner who appreciates and respects you for who you are.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...